In a stark a contrast to the sales of bomber jackets and Ray-Ban aviators, Manchester United’s stock wasn’t particularly high as 1986 drew to a close. Considering they didn’t become a PLC until 1991, you could almost say it was non-existent. Despite only a couple of FA cup wins to his name, Ron Atkinson had already cemented himself as Utd’s most successful manager since Matt Busby but was in trouble as the 86-87 season kicked off. In a week where ‘Take My Breath Away’ stormed the UK charts, Utd decided to take a similar approach to big Ron’s contract and replace him with the Scottish high flyer Alex Ferguson.
15 years later he overtook Sir Matt Busby’s achievements, and last week, his longevity.
A lot has been written about Sir Alex Ferguson and it is not my intention to discuss him much further. As remarkable as his achievements have been, not even the greatest managers can go on indefinitely and this Boxing Day sees two of his potential successors come face to face in an intriguing game at the Reebok stadium.
At the time of writing I couldn’t find odds for Di Matteo, but you can get odds of 27-1 on Owen Coyle to one day succeed Ferguson. Needless to say, neither are considered particularly likely.
However I think there is a strong case for both, especially for Owen Coyle. If you were to push me, I might even suggest that today’s game not only sees the future Utd manager in action, but Arsenal’s too. Not only does Coyle share the same nationality as Ferguson, but so far he appears to handle the media with the same poise and charm as a young Ferguson did. This is a highly underestimated quality amongst the managerial elite and one that cannot easily be learnt. Jose Mourinho, the current favorite, is a manager who walks a thin line in this regard but has a methodology and CV which could make Utd fans skeptical in Fergusons wake. Here too, Coyle and Di Mateo offer attractive alternatives.
Under Megson last Season Bolton scored 42 goals for the season, they are currently on target to reach over 60. It’s no surprise that Kevin Davies top scored with 9 goals last term, but so far this season he has 6 and Elmander has 8 and we’re not halfway through yet. I could go on, but you get my point. A word of caution though, Coyle was succeeding one of the most uncharismatic and dull managers in the league and thus his statistics must be interpreted accordingly. Still, a piece of hot coal being nicely crushed.
Di Matteo brings his own qualities to the table. He posseses the same attacking instincts and charm as Coyle, however this can be potentially combined with added European experience, attractive to clubs with successful European aspirations. As well as playing in 3 different European countries di Matteo was a proven international picking up over 30 caps for Italy. As well as the obvious stylistic and cultural benefits of these experiences, Di Mateo also speaks at least 3 languages, critically, this includes excellent English. Finally Di Matteo, having played at both Lazio and Chelsea, may be better equipped to harness the modern day football player’s massive and potentially devastating ego although Roberto Mancini is currently proving that this is not necessarily always true.
In light of the recent misfortunes of messrs Allardyce and Hughton and the reminder of the turbulent environment which managers and coaches are expected to exist, the freedom of expression at both Botlon and West Brom should bring some festive joy.