It is now common knowledge that Royston Maurice Keane stepped down from his position as Sunderland manager. Having been in the club for over two seasons, he has given the fans a whole lot of glory than they can have imagined. (Glory, here, is a relative term. So I hope you get my drift.)
When he arrived first at Sunderland, he did the unthinkable by bringing them from rock bottom to promotion as champions — no mean feat for a rookie. In his second season he managed to keep his calm whilst confronted with defeats, poor refereeing decisions, long term injuries — stuff he’d rarely have experienced during his United career, where things came fairly easily.
His temperament as a manager, and his ability to motivate the players around him were very impressive. However, to see him step down as Sunderland manager when things continued to pan out in an unfavourable way, was disappointing to see. The press will go on about his reputation of being a quitter — and I don’t think one could quite equate walking away from the Ireland World Cup squad with this. I thought his walkout on that occasion was justified, although I’m sure it’s still a topic that fiercely divides people. But walking out of Sunderland, a team despite being in the relegation zone is still about 6 odd points off a UEFA place struck me as odd. He’s had money to spend. The board has backed him as much as a bottom of the table club board could. But he still felt the need to walk out. I need to know why. Because such behaviour may not necessarily help him get the United job.
United are among the better run clubs. And much of our success is built around stability of the men in key positions. We would ideally like managers who are in it for the long haul, and our board usually has a history of affording our manager that. Even during the peak “Fergie out!” times of 05/06, the board showed full faith in Fergie. Of course, managers like Fergie are a one-off.
But the question arises now: is Keane a good choice for a number 2 to Fergie? Could this be an opportunity for him to be groomed into the main job? Had I been asked this question a year ago, I might have thought Keane and Hughes getting a few more seasons under their belt before offering them the manager’s job. But I do see things we’d need in a number 2 that Keano falls short of.
Keane seems to like keeping a good distance from the players whilst leaving the training to his assistant. It’s something Fergie would ask the likes of Queiroz and Phelan to do. Handling training sessions and man management/motivations can be entirely different things — as Queiroz is now coming to terms with at Portugal. I don’t see a dog-walking Keane overseeing early morning drills with the players.
He’s also never struck me as a tactical genius. He’s intelligent, but I haven’t seen any brilliant substitutions that out manoeuvred teams. His players will run through walls, but they’ll do that for Fergie too. He speaks his mind, but I’d want a calm, tactician who can be the good cop to Fergie’s bad.
So I really am not sure of Keano’s United prospects.
Fan favourite Carlos Tevez who had a barnstorming display against Blackburn the other day has given a good headache for Ferguson. Yes, it was only the Carling Cup — many would say. But it wasn’t against league two opposition either. We played a midfield three of under 21s against a full strength Blackburn side that has historically been a thorn in our Premier League flesh. It’s still pretty much Mark Hughes’ side, and scoring 5 goals against them is something and Tevez’s performance was something to behold. He still makes few touches too many in the box. He still can over complicate things, but when on song, he can mix it up with the best. He, like most strikers in the world, is a confidence player. And the demons are not in the player’s ability; rather in Fergie’s handling of him. For a player who was dragged through court hearings to come to Old Trafford, to become an important component of our double winning side, only to end up ignored in favour of another record signing — it cannot get worse than this.
Tevez may have had his best game of the season, and while arguments calling this only a league cup game may have value, his selection in our first XI in subsequent weeks will be a point of contention for fans and manager alike.
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