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Man Utd And Celtic Made The Same Basic Error. It Won’t Be Repeated At Anfield.

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As Manchester United continues to go through the agonies of grappling with a major decision about its manager, there will be plenty of regret amidst the certain recriminations.

There will be sadness at the inevitable realisation that Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s time is up and an understanding of how it will harm his reputation.

But there will be even more over that he was ever given the job in the first place by a club that has usually been ruthlessly pragmatic.

Solskjær was not the right fit for Manchester United. Nothing in his managerial career made him ready for that job.

What dominated the thinking was sentimentality and an awareness that the two names combined made for a good “brand.” The same thinking was behind the otherwise inexplicable decision to sign a striker way past his prime on the strength of his name.

This is how dynasties collapse. It is how empires fall. It is how football clubs self-destruct.

Solskjær is not a bad man, and most people agree on that. He’s just a dreadfully bad choice to be manager at a club the size of Manchester United. When clubs follow their hearts rather than their heads the result is frequently disastrous. So it has proved at Old Trafford.

Watching it unfold, I am reminded that we’ve made a similar mistake and not that long ago.

There was no logical footballing reason for giving Neil Lennon the Celtic gig either the first time or the second, but you could make an argument for the first one because we didn’t know then what we had and it was reasonable to find out.

But the second appointment is scandalous and inexplicable from a board of directors who did know what they were getting and hadn’t liked a lot of it the first time around. His self-detonation at Bolton and the even more spectacular one at Hibs were red flashing warning signs above and beyond what was obvious already.

From Brendan Rodgers to Lennon’s more cavalier management style was an obvious backward step. Which other way was the club and team likely to go?

Those who worshiped Lennon could think of nothing better than seeing him as the manager at the centre of the ten in a row.

That blinded them, until it was too late, to the obvious fact that by relying on sentimentality we had endangered that project. Even now, some folk are willing to accept his claims that everyone else was to blame rather than him.

Doubtless there are Manchester Utd fans who feel the same way about the hero who scored in that famous Champions League Final comeback against Bayern, people who would continue to give him time even when it was obvious to all the rest that they were simply pissing it against the wall.

He was applauded by a section of their fans at the weekend; I found that incredible.

Football clubs cease to be collective endeavours at the point where the personality cult takes over.

The board’s which enable this often find it hard to exit. Some show the appropriate ruthlessness at the right time. Chelsea dispatched Lampard the moment the shine wore off and they have never looked back from it. Others get trapped and flounder.

One club which will not make this mistake is Liverpool.

The narrative around them – that Gerrard is somehow destined for the big seat – has never been anything other than ridiculous. He would have to prove himself several times over to even be considered and his one trophy in nine (at the moment; that record will get worse) is not one that will erase doubts.

Their board are the ruthless pragmatists I often wish we had at Celtic Park.

They don’t do sentiment. They don’t respond to tugging on the heart strings. They will bear the talk about a return from their former captain because that’s the polite thing to do, but they will never, in this lifetime, hire him for the biggest job at their club.

Sentiment has no place in business.

Winning football matches, well that’s a serious as business as it gets in Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.

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4 comments

  • Ange Baby says:

    Good piece James-as further evidence I’d also remind you that incredibly Henrik Larsson was offered the job as Celtic manager in 2004.

    On the basis of his standing as a legendary player not for any managerial acheivements.

    Crazy-fortunately Henrik realised that himself and turned down the offer

  • Ange Baby says:

    Sorry 2014

  • Gerry Dorrian says:

    Why is there wee snippets relating to Eddie Howe coming up as pop ips

  • Solas sa Saoirse says:

    Wise words indeed!

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