An article published in last weekend’s Daily Mail Online has sent a shockwave down the spine of every conspiracy theorist from Lands End to John o’ Groats. The revelation that Alex Ferguson was to chair a clandestine gathering of some of the games leading managerial figures over a three day seminar has given further fuel to an already loaded rumour mill.
The appearance of Ferguson and his fellow managerial brethren at the FA headquarters in Burton is not necessarily news in itself: as we are all well aware of the existence and function of the LMA. However, when you throw into the equation the reported appearance of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola then all of a sudden we find ourselves in the midst of a maelstrom of conjecture, hype and misguided folly.
Just exactly what the in-demand Catalan and the current Real Madrid manager would be doing at an event arranged by an organisation that essentially represents the interests of those managing in the professional English game is something of a conundrum to say the least.
Sources close to the LMA are refusing to make any comment until the event reaches conclusion at some point today,(Tuesday) but it is believed that the meeting will seek to provide a platform for the sharing of knowledge and the advocation of new idea and approach. Just how willing the top men in the game would be to share ‘trade secrets’ though is surely questionable. For instance, a man of the calibre of Alex Ferguson who has helped transform Manchester United into Britain’s fourth most successful club has done so by being single minded and staying true to his own formula, as have most in the game with any kind of success record.
Pep Guardiola for example, in his short managerial career has been fortunate enough to preside over one of the worlds greatest ever teams. Even Alex Ferguson would attest to the fact that during his trophy laden reign, he has never been able to mould a team that could have lived with the total football experience that was a Pep Guardiola Barcelona side in full flow, so again what is he hoping to learn?
The same could be said of his one time enemy Jose Mourinho, who has already proven himself to be a managerial king of English football and who would no doubt be successful wherever he went. Being arguably the best manager in world football, as well as perhaps the most confident and self assured would again render his presence at such an event as rather fruitless. Unless of course we start to analyse this story from a slightly different angle.
The gossip monger or curious neutral among us would most definitely favour the idea that the sole purpose for the inclusion of Guardiola and Mourinho on the guest list, is to allow these well known purveyors of success, the opportunity to ingratiate themselves with an organisation that they are likely to find themselves fully subscribed members of within the next year!
The rumours of Guardiola going to Manchester City at the end of the season show no signs of dissipation, with some sources in Spain even claiming that it is 100 percent certain. So perhaps he is doing all within his capability to familiarise him-self with the English set up. Personally I just don’t see such a move reaching fruition, as the owners of Manchester City will look to continue on their theme of stability, respect and patience. I believe a switch to Chelsea is much more likely, especially with the continued refusal of their fans to except the current Rafa regime.
The well publicized deterioration of the relationship between The Special One and the Real Madrid hierarchy has again given kindling to the rumour of a return to England for the controversial Portuguese.
With a practically faultless CV, he will have no problem in securing employment, but the question of where, is a tricky one. A return to Chelsea would seem viable if he can put past problems behind him, and maybe Roman Abramovich could learn a little in terms of respect and appreciation. Again Manchester City will be linked with just about any manager that has tasted success,especially in Europe, but for the reasons previously outlined, I don’t believe the Etihad will be Jose’s final destination.
Then of course there is the Manchester United equation that links this particular managerial triumvirate. The inevitable departure of Alex Ferguson has been the subject of much debate and deliberation over a period of months, and will continue to tease and tantalise those seeking to gain an advantage in the story for quite some time. The fact that Ferguson is sure to have quite a voice when it comes to the selection of his eventual successor will only provide further mystery to the previous meetings he has held with Mourinho and Guardiola: most recently in New York with the former Barcelona man.
However, there are two major flaws to the argument that either of the two men will be taking over at Old Trafford. The first is the simple fact that Fergie has shown no indication whatsoever that he is ready to throw in the towel just yet, and is more than likely to continue for at least another two years, by which time Messrs Guardiola and Mourinho will no doubt be enjoying the success of their latest club.
The second issue, for me, is that despite Mr Ferguson having a great influence at Old Trafford, I believe that ultimately the decision of who replaces him will be one taken by a board that is likely to favour the appointment of a less controversial, flamboyant, and continental manager than the two mentioned, and will instead appoint somebody that would aspire to continue with the model of discipline and stability that has been the foundation to much of the clubs success. Enter David Moyes!
There is one other possible explanation to this story that may have been overlooked. Here’s a novel concept! Maybe, just maybe, the two managers, as guests of Alex Ferguson have travelled to the event to show a bit of moral support to their colleague,peer and friend. Pep Guardiola is currently on holiday so a trip to England to see a few friends is not a totally alien idea. Jose on the other hand is a well known Anglophile and still has property here.
He has also recently contributed to the 150 years of the FA celebration and may have attended this particular event as a way of giving something back to the wider English game. Whatever your beliefs and personal opinions on the matter, the presence of these two managerial heavyweights and the subsequent possible implications, I’m sure, will only lead to the overall benefit of the English game.