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Mr. President, never leave us a Moyes

Ramathan Ggoobi

Mr. President, never leave us a Moyes

It took Ferguson 27 years to rebuild Manchester United, but it has taken Moyes just six months to destroy every single record that his anointer had created!

In the weeks gone by, the debate about the future of Uganda has taken the centre stage. Whispers were filling bars and other social gatherings, suggesting there was a silent but salient rift between you, Mr. President, and your last political friend, Premier Amama Mbabazi, until the Kyankwanzi caucus brought everything to the fore.

It is now common knowledge that it is not all well, you reached the point of playing intelligence recordings to prove to NRM members that Mbabazi and his family were, and still are, plotting to remove you from power!

Well, it is my grandmother who used to tell me, before she passed on, “My grandson, don’t ask God for so many things; ask him for one important thing — life. Life will enable you to see amazing things…”

The amazing things I have seen, but that is not the reason I picked pen and paper this week. The reason I picked my pen, Mr. President, was to make a genuine appeal to you. I understand you are a football fan. I once saw you pulling on jersey No.7 at Namboole stadium.

United now a laughing stock

Mr. President, where you stop at loving football is where I pick from. Like your (former?) friend Mbabazi, I have very few things in life that attract my evening gusto. I don’t drink (not because I am Muslim per se); I don’t go to music shows; I rarely attend weddings; and as a rule I don’t keep company of “party animals”. Yet I am a very lively and happy guy! So what keeps me alive? Football and economics.

I have supported English football club, Manchester United, all my conscious life. Throughout, I have seen this team succeed at all fronts under the management of one man, Sir Alex Ferguson. Coincidently, this is a man who became United manager in the same year you took power, 1986. I have written about this before. He left the club last year.

During his glorious 27 years as manager at Old Trafford, collecting a glut of trophies along the way, Ferguson was successful in limiting any major errors on his part to a minimum. However perhaps the biggest mistake he will be remembered for was recommending to the club’s board that the man who should replace him in the hot seat was his compatriot, David Moyes.

Under Moyes, my club has not only fallen from grace to grass, the once most feared team has now become a laughing stock in football. True any manager or leader needs time to go through the transition, but Moyes has so far shown neither any tactical acumen nor capability of handling the task of managing one of the biggest, richest and most successful clubs in world football.

Handpick own successor?

Of course it is fair to note that the squad of players Moyes inherited from Ferguson was not the strongest; United’s Premiership title triumph last season had as much to do with the weaknesses in the Manchester City camp under Roberto Mancini as with their own winning consistency. But United were still champions and even Moyes himself knows that a good manager should have done so much better with the current squad.

Events at Manchester United today are a mirror image to the collapse of the team in the early 1970s when a one, Wilf McGuinness, replaced the legendary Matt Busby as manager and in the space of four years the club had sank from winning the European Cup (now Champions League) to relegation in 1974.

Leadership pundits will tell you that although several factors matter, it takes a certain type of person to be able to succeed at the very high levels or occasions such as a big club like United.

Indeed even some football pundits think United made a mistake allowing Ferguson to choose his successor. I don’t subscribe to that opinion. In my view, no one could possibly compete with Ferguson’s knowledge and experience of the game of football, and so he would naturally use this to find a manager capable of building on his legacy.

Yet six months into the job and with United being out of the title race, humiliated by nearly every team that Man-U fans loved to beat, and slumming it in seventh position, it increasingly looks as though the pundits could be right; it was a mistake to allow Ferguson to handpick his own successor.

We need one with proven track record

In his recently published autobiography, Ferguson justifies why he went for Moyes, a fellow Scot, thus; “A lot of Scots have a dourness about them: a strong will. When they leave Scotland it tends to be for one reason only. To be successful. Scots don’t leave to escape the past. They move away to better themselves…The Scottish dourness others talk about sometimes applied to me as well.

“David had some of these traits. I knew his family background. His father was a coach at Drumchapel, where I played as a lad. They have a good family feel about them. I’m not saying that is a reason to hire someone but you like to see good foundations in someone appointed to such high office.”

In these two paragraphs it appears as though Ferguson got too carried away in trying to find someone in his own image to replace him. Yet in over a decade of being a manager at Everton, Moyes hadn’t won a trophy!

Mr. President, those who follow football will tell you that Manchester United is too big a club to appoint a manager for the content of his character rather than the contents of his trophy cabinet. It goes without saying that United needed a manager with a proven track record of winning rather than the good foundations that Ferguson looked for in Moyes.

It is believed that on hearing he had been overlooked for the post of succeeding Ferguson, Jose Mourinho (one of the most successful coaches in history) burst into tears. Right now the vast majority of United supporters, myself inclusive, must be sharing his frustration that the Special One was not named as the Chosen One too.

Uganda needs a Mourinho

When the news that Ferguson had overlooked Mourinho in favour of Moyes first came out, I was naively perturbed why on earth a man who dedicated his all to build a team as successful as United could make such a mistake.

It is my oracular friend who told me, “Don’t be naïve. The last thing Ferguson would want to do is to hand over his legacy to a former rival in Mourinho and then watch as the Portuguese enhances his own already sizeable reputation on the back of all his hard work. He would prefer to have a Moyes who would fail and people say, ‘you see, United was successful because of Ferguson’.”

Mr. President, I know you have already announced you are still around. Well, whatever the case the next decade will see one reality — you leaving State House! As a Manchester United supporter who has experienced, firsthand, the anguish of witnessing a club that just months ago was celebrating as champions and now being humiliated by conference teams, I beg you to do me and other Ugandans one favour: when time comes for you to leave, please don’t leave us a Moyes.

I see a number of Moyes’s trying to position themselves, and some (or is it one?) are being groomed by you! Mr. President, I tell you from a position of experience, spare Uganda of Moyes. Like Ferguson did at Manchester, you picked this country from a very sorry state. You have rebuilt it. But don’t get carried away that since it has now reached somewhere, a Moyes can manage. Alas, it took Ferguson 27 years to rebuild Manchester United, but it has taken Moyes just six months to destroy every single record that his anointer had created. This country needs a Mourinho.

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Ramathan Ggoobi

Ramathan Ggoobi is Policy Analyst, and Researcher. He lecturers economics at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and has co-authored several studies on Uganda's economy. For the past ten years, he has published a weekly column 'Are You Listening Mr. President' in The Sunrise Newspaper, Uganda's Leading Weekly

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