Where football ends, Gill begins



It has become a truism that international breaks are dull, and there are far too many of them. That FIFA bigwigs, holed up in their Zürich glass box, deigned yet another one take place this November – the third of the current season – is testament to the battle raging in football between the club and international formats of the game. Any international football, even the most pointless, underscores FIFA’s importance in the body’s collective mind.

And so while Euro 2012 Play Offs take place this week, the Football Association has arranged two utterly meaningless friendlies at Wembley. Manufactured arguments between the FA and FIFA about symbolic Poppies aside, Fabio Capello will gain little from England’s thrashing by Spain on Saturday, or the bore draw with Sweden in the coming week. Capello’s side is little better than average, a fact no friendly double-header is likely to alter. Meanwhile, there’s a large bill to pay on Wembley’s development, and the bumper crowd ensured by World Champions’ visit has the FA’s bean counters grinning all the way to their stadium office.

FA board member David Gill presumably approves. Indeed, international week is also the time Gill predictably tunes into MUTV to update the masses with the latest from camp Glazer. This week Gill pledged that whomever follows Sir Alex Ferguson into the Old Trafford hotseat must adhere to a club policy of investing in youth. The chief executive didn’t state that Fergie’s successor must understand the phrase “there’s no value in the market,” but he wasn’t far short. Like England’s prestige friendly with Spain, it’s all about heritage and tradition, you see.

“We are a great club whose values go back in history to our heritage to the ’50s and ’60s and the last 25 years with Alex,” Gill told MUTV, forgetting the 70 years of history before Sir Matt Busby took charge of the club in 1948.

“To continue with that, the new manager needs to understand those values and the vision for the club and must buy into that. The important point to make is the new manager, whenever that may be and whomever that may be, will be taking over a great, great club, in a great, great sport and Alex, in particular, will want to make sure he inherits a great squad. That’s our goal – to make sure when the new manager comes in he does have a great squad to work with in terms of age and profile.

“Alex’s legacy to United is to my mind very clear – delivering an unprecedented period of success in the Manchester United way. By that, I mean attractive football using young players – both homegrown and buying players when necessary like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, but actually developing our own players. That record is there for everyone to see and that legacy is very clear also.”

In that Gill presumably means a commitment to the current policy of acquiring only younger, cheaper, players in the transfer market, while eschewing fees spent on those over 26. It is a policy that, guided by Ferguson’s genius, has allowed the Glazer family to taste success despite largely starving the club of transfer funds. The ‘Ronaldo money is available’ you see, but the market is ‘so over-heated that only young players will do.’ In any case ‘United’s tradition is to focus on youth’, forgetting the six occasions on which the club has broken the British transfer record during Ferguson’s early reign.

Whitewashing of history aside, Ferguson’s successor will bring no similar guarantee of success with the same policy. After all, the Scot has squeezed more out of his relatively limited squad over the past five years than any mere mortal could expect to. It is a period in which Ferguson’s true worth has genuinely shone through. Without the deluge of talent the class of 1992 brought, or the relative wealth of the early 2000s, Ferguson has still delivered a succession of major trophies. In this week that club, supporters and manager have been celebrating Ferguson’s 25 years in charge at Old Trafford, this is worth noting.

“I believe in young people,” Ferguson told his favourite media outlet Sirius XM this week. “You need a foundation at a football club and that is vital. You can build a first team, but you really do need the back-up and the foundation to make it a football club.

“With all the young players that come to us in their formative years, you have got a job to make them good footballers but also to show them how to grow up the right way. Cristiano came to us at 18, just a young lad from Portugal who didn’t know the country. But he learned the language, adapted very well and he has turned out fantastically as a human being, just as was the case with the Nevilles, Scholes, Beckhams, Giggs and all those lads.”

Ferguson’s selflessness in building a squad for the future is relevant, although there is, of course, strong evidence that the Scot has little choice. With money released this summer largely down to retiring stars removing themselves from the wage bill, Ferguson’s successor may well begin life with a serious financial handicap.

Indeed, of the leading candidates to replace Ferguson none – save perhaps for Pep Guardiola – has a history of building teams based on home-grown talent. In that the Spaniard has benefited hugely from Barcelona’s very long-term policy of investing in La Masia, together with some very deep pockets for expensive acquisitions. Meanwhile, José Mourinho has largely built a youthful-looking Real Madrid team in the transfer market, while Laurent Blanc, David Moyes, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have no such heritage at all.

It all adds up, says Gill, to a “difficult” choice in replacing Ferguson, when the Scot retires at some point over the next three years. It probably doesn’t require a FIFA-sized committee to work that one out.

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  • Alfonso Bedoya

    This will no doubt stir the Glazer fan boys out of their rat holes…
    I can hear it now…
    “You’re an ungrateful sod Ed”.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  • Herbie Simms

    Pepe Guardiola would be the ideal replacement for SAF as he would not only be looking to groom home grown talent but home grown talent with exceptional skill and knowledge of the game. The problem with our academy is, they bring in youngsters with potentual and try to make them good enough to play for the premier division team.
    Guardiola ONLY brings in youngsters that he considers are already world class, thats the difference. This is not my opinion, Guardiola said this himself after they beat United in the Champions league final. He looks for world class quality in youngsters.

  • Damian Garside

    Here’s the Myth that either the club has been captured by, or more cycnically, are wishing to exploit: to capture us fans by: it is the myth of youth: the irresitible energy of youth.

    This is a powerful Myth: we see it in film and Literature. The Ancient Greeks connected it to beauty, the Romantics to a doomed intensity: and now our club connects it to the glamour of uninhibited attacking football (our football style, our character) and altogther less nobly and related to the tackiness that is the Glazers: to the saving of money.

    Proble is: it is a Myth: youth in football does not mean irresaistible energy and high-tempo flowing, attacking football: it means lack of expereince and intelligence and the gnarly strength that comes with achievment at the highest level. We saw what happened to our young players in the derby match: a goal goes in and they collapse: no resilience. And this attacking football: we don’t see that anymore: we did all so briefly at the beginning of the season, but now we are playing safety first hoping that when City hit a bump in the road we will be close enough to take advantage.

    I remember seasons where we dominated from the beginning, or came flying in during the run-in with unstoppable force. We are not capable of either of these now: and so can only win if we are the best of a bad bunch.

    We need a new manager who will — like Fergie did — break with the old and redefine Man United. Wasn;’t it Trotsky who called for `permanent revolution’. ? Hopefully it will be so ironic Gill talking here — because when the new manager comes in, Gill will not be around to welcome him.

    • Geno

      And why would Gill not be around?

      • Damian Garside

        Oh, I don’t know: people disappear all the time.

        Imagine how secure he will feel in his position after we haven’t won anything for a couple of seasons and City start filling their trophy cabinet

  • vlad

    We collapsed because we had young Cleverley injured, and that probably because he was loaned away the season before.

    Trotsky is far from being an indisputable authority.

    • Damian Garside

      Listen to yourself: one player goes and the team folds like a house of cards: its little building a ship that sinks when it hits an ice-cube rather than an iceberg of the size that finished the Titanic.

      I suggested Trotsky because you cannot stay as you are for ever: to succeed as a modern corporation (or team /club that is also a corporation you need to change: otherwise you start to become moribund. I can sense that that is what is already happening to us.

      • TheCANTONA

        Now listen to sidney, you “glory-seeking” fans!!

  • sidney

    Gill said Fergie has given him the hairdryer treatment on a number of occasions
    I reckon he’s given the Glazers a gobbing off once or twice too
    Not for raising ticket prices and pricing out working class fans though

  • sidney

    I think Trotsky was quoting Marx… He subscribed to the notion of ‘permanent revolution’ – which apparently involves massacring innocent people at Kronstadt.
    But err anyway. Fergie said he works in 4 year cycles. He believes that after just 4 years it’s necessary to freshen things up in order to stay in touch with modern football. This current team marks the start of a new cycle – it just needs a decent midfield.
    Our rivals struggle to mount a regular title challenge year on year because presumably they don’t work in such short cycles. They have a ‘spell’ – then they go back to the drawing board. That’s where Chelsea are at now and it’s where City will be at too, eventually

  • captainhormone

    I think you’ll find it’s “glory hunting” you cock.

    LKHF

    faffing

  • Herbie Simms

    If we can bring in youngsters to the academy that have world-class talent, we will not have to worry about spending millions of pounds looking to buy world class players, they will be already in the academy team. We just are not getting the quality coming out of the academy team to promote to the senior team so now the academy team is looking to be a waste of time. We brought in a 19 year old goalkeeper so I guess Amos was not good enough. You see my point? We need a right back and a class midfielder and vlad is right when he said that when Cleverley got injured, the team collapsed. But not to worry, one day we will get it right and everyone will have nothing but positive things to say most of the time.

  • denton davey

    Damian Garside: “We saw what happened to our young players in the derby match: a goal goes in and they collapse: no resilience. ”

    Revisionism of the worst kind.

    Up until the second goal – in the sixtieth minute – UTD were still in the game. They could have/should have scored an equalizer in the 54th minute when Ashley botched a double-chance – and that was with ten men.

    The “collapse” took place in the last minute of regulation time and then went ballistic in injury time when ManShitty ran rings around 34 year-old Rio Ferdinand and 24 year-old Jonny Evans and 31 year-old Patrice Evra.