The Last Word: Beware the presence of ex-managers

Dalglish has joined Ferguson in the directors' box, where their influence cannot be ignored

Like all enduring rivals, Sir Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish have more in common than they care to admit. They share a Glaswegian heritage, a faith in family and fealty. Each is a polarising personality capable of sustained warmth and sudden, shuddering coldness.

Fate has thrown them together again as directors of clubs they shaped and imbued with their spirit. Their roles at Manchester United and Liverpool respectively may be largely ceremonial, and their avowed lack of ambition must be acknowledged, but they remain too close to the seat of power for their presence to be uncomplicated.

Each has the capacity to continue to dominate by proxy. They are not distant figures enveloped by the mists of legend. They are part of the fixtures and fittings. As board members, albeit with an ambas-sadorial brief, their influence remains tangible.

Though their managerial successors, David Moyes and Brendan Rodgers, are apparently comfortable with the dynamics of the situation, they will naturally be judged against men deemed to embody their club's eminence. Any public utterance by Ferguson and Dalglish will be finessed to suit the prejudices of their critics.

Ferguson is still The Man at Man U. The emotions generated by Dalglish's return to Liverpool, announced on Friday night, 17 months after he was sacked from his second stint as manager, proved his status as a cultural icon has not been neutralised by nostalgia.

Moyes has the most immediate problem. It is one thing to live with reminders of Ferguson's splendour, the statue and the stand which bears his name. It is entirely another to have to deal with the contemporary consequences of his actions.

The intricacies of regime change at Old Trafford are already being ignored because of the infantilism of a football culture which relishes scorn and rancour. The difficulties of transition, daunting because of United's size and complexity, have been compounded by constant comparisons.

Ferguson's midweek interview on US television, mesmerising in its tone and detail, presages the media blitz which will accompany the publication of his second autobiography later this month. No one can doubt Ferguson's work ethic, despite his eye-watering £2 million advance.

Promotional appearances in Manchester, Glasgow, London, Aberdeen and Dublin will doubtless be nuanced and offer a fascinating insight into the principles of leadership. Yet the headlines will inevitably be dominated by such scraps as perceived side-swipes at Wayne Rooney.

There is no malice in Ferguson's exploitation of a stellar profile, and he has the right to be true to himself, yet he has failed Moyes because he has inadequately protected him from becoming a prisoner of his own reputation. Moyes is not a Wilf McGuinness, nor a Frank O'Farrell, but he cannot compete with 49 trophies. No manager can. His inheritance is an unbalanced, ageing squad which has lost the momentum supplied by hunger and fear.

Ferguson is not solely liable for the paucity of the legacy, though his sustained support of the Glazers, whose takeover has cost United £680m in interest, fees, bank charges and debt repayments, is a puzzling challenge to his principles.

Moyes is still adapting to the fiscal and political intricacies of United as a plc registered in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands and floated on the New York Stock Exchange. Rodgers bears responsibility for the investment strategy of the Boston-based Fenway Sports Group.

Many suspect platitudes disguise commercial intent. Liverpool's owners surely know Dalglish's character is unsuited to a sinecure. His voice will be heard. Opposition will coalesce around him if Rodgers regresses, whether he likes it or not.

Football is a people business. Dalglish's reacceptance draws a line under an unpleasant case of fratricide and suggests Liverpool have learned the lessons of the isolation endured by Bill Shankly before his death. Ferguson is in danger of emulating the destabilisation wrought by Sir Matt Busby.

Whoever said "Never go back" might have been on to something.

Arrest the real agents of prejudice

Anti-Semitism is a complex, sensitive and socially significant issue. It is not a subject for soundbites and grandstanding, but such superficialities are shaping the debate.

The Met Police have chosen to announce that Tottenham and West Ham fans face arrest if they use the "Y" word during today's derby at White Hart Lane.

Taken at face value, they will struggle to match perceptions of their duty. The FA's well-intentioned efforts have backfired in encouraging Spurs fans to chant the word with increased intensity as an expression of identity.

What are the police to do? Haul out token offenders, or arrest 5,000 fans at a time? Far better, surely, to concentrate on the real threat to public order represented by the abuse from a minority of West Ham fans in last season's fixture.

Anyone who hisses to imitate Holocaust gas chambers and chants about Adolf Hitler has no place in a civilised society. Should they ignore the entreaties of West Ham's manager, Sam Allardyce, to desist, they are a legitimate target.

Those of us not of the Jewish faith should tread carefully here, but a sense of proportion is needed, now.

Under ware

David Beckham, bless him, has started something. His posing pouch, projected on to the side of big buildings, has spawned a series of imitators. Cristiano Ronaldo is threatening to launch a CR7 Boys underwear collection. Didier Drogba has designed a range of undergarments with "a positive social impact". Pants by name, and nature.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum