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What if Fergie walks away? (Part II)

Thanks for all the comments on the first part of this topic. Very interesting and, in a couple of instances, really informative.

As you know, Fergie has made it quite clear that he won’t be retiring at the end of this season, come what may. I’m therefore going to curtail this slightly – I’ll give you my order of preference as it stands today, but my main focus is going to be why CQ shouldn’t get the job, now or any other time.

Cutting to the chase, here’s my list in order of priority:

1. Martin O’Neill
2. Mark Hughes
3. Jose Mourinho
4. Carlos Quieroz

Given the overwhelming view in the comments on part I, the main thing I’m going to do is make the case against Queiroz. I take all your points about him inspiring the loyalty of the Portuguese contingent, having been Ferguson’s mentee for years, ensuring continuity and so forth. But I believe they are outweighed by the following factors:

1. Good assistants don’t make necessarily good managers — I don’t have all day, so I won’t quote you all the examples I can think of. But let’s try Brian Kidd, Steve McClaren, Graeme Souness/Roy Evans and Sammy Lee to start with. And include CQ himself in that list, whose season at Real was a disaster.

Suddenly you’re not the good cop who puts your arm round a young player who has just been screamed at by the boss — you need to do the screaming. You’re not the guy who works with the raw materials on the training ground, you’re the guy watching dispassionately and writing 11 names on the teamsheet. You’re not the guy who reads the papers and thinks “I wish they’d leave the gaffer alone”, you’re the one who the rabid pack of journalists doubting and probing and insulting and mocking every day. You’re the one going to the board meetings, the charity lunches, the mandatory press conferences and the photo ops. You’re the face of Manchester United.

That’s tough. It’s a different job, and he might not be good at it. Indeed, in my view, probably won’t be good at it.

2. You need a certain stature to make the biggest signings — We know what type of players CQ can sign — the up-and-coming Portuguese speaking type. But one thing you will never hear from the mouth of any player we sign if he became manager is the line spouted by almost all of Fergie’s signings, “I couldn’t turn down the chance to come and work with one of the greatest managers in the game”. You would see us losing a lot more of the races for the really top players with CQ as the gaffer.

3. A wide-ranging scouting network is essential — If you’re looking for a player from Portugal or South America, CQ is your man. But what about up-and-coming British/Irish players, or players who are making their mark at English clubs? Fergie knows everyone in the British/Irish game, and gets a lot of phone calls to alert him about a particular talent from guys he’s given guidance and advice to in his time. What about France, Italy and Holland? Someone like Evra is gold dust, and United had been able to build up links with Ruud for a couple of years before we first tried to sign him. What about Eastern Europe? A lot of talented, physical players are coming up through the increasingly competitive leagues over there, and we’d like the next Vidic, please.

4. The next manager needs to manage the whole club — CQ’s current role is first team coach. No doubt in the position he finds out a lot about what’s going on with the younger players and has contact with people. But Fergie runs the whole footballing operation. He employs the U-9 scouts, he hires the under-15 team coach, he interviews the replacement physio, everything. Whoever takes over needs experience of doing that.

So I contend that whilst on the face of it CQ is the safe choice, he is actually a big gamble. And one I don’t think we should take.

To justify the guys I would prefer to CQ:

Martin O’Neill certainly doesn’t fall down on 1, 3 or 4, which combined with the qualifications I set out in part I makes him my first choice. For his first season, the stature of the club should help him out with making the signings, and then he’ll have his own record to be judged on.

Mark Hughes falls down on 2 as well, but has less experience in Europe than O’Neill so comes in second for me. He’s also a much bigger gamble, since it will be his first experience of managing a club where success is expected — a different atmosphere. (Note O’Neill faced that at Celtic).

Mourinho struggles most on number 4. Yes, he may have been Porto-centric in his first phase at Chelsea, but that changed as he went on, and now he has a pretty cosmopolitan network of contacts. And no, his football isn’t as negative as you all think. You forget his first season when, as was pointed out in the comments last time round, Drogba with Cole and Duff supporting from wide, Lampard arriving from midfield and the full-backs bombing on was remarkably effective. Notice any similarities to our current formation?

But for now, thank God, this is all academic. Long may it remain so.