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Legends don’t maketh success

The decision to draw on the talents of the class of 92 at Manchester United seems flawed to me. Legends always go down well with fans, but history shows they are better suited at being ambassadors or hosting a lounge. The demands of building a successful outfit, being savvy in the market, working the press, having constructive relationships with your chairman and chief executive, and a tactical system that works are far important than being heralded as a legend by the fans.

A good example is Liverpool. Kenny Dalglish, for whom his many friends in the media mounted a campaign, was welcomed with much expectation by his adoring fans. However the purchases of Carroll, Henderson and Downing for nearly £100m brought little success and he was kicked upstairs. Brendan Rogers has never worn the Liverpool shirt but looks like achieving their first ever premier title.

Going back a few years, Leeds United were a formidable team under Don Revie. Except for Jack Charlton,  Revie’s players were almost all managerial failures. Roy Keane was a legend at Manchester United but his career as manager has not been that successful.

I was talking to Stefano Ursolino about this. There are no bigger legends than Baresi and Maldini at Milan but noone sees them as managers. At his team Fiorentina, neither the legendary Antognoni nor Batistuta are seen as good enough to become a coach and the man that is, Vincenzo Montella, was a legend at Roma not Fiorentina. Alan Tanner, who was with us, commented that Fulham have a tradition of ex-players which has worked for them, but their greatest player Johnny Haynes managed just a couple of months and is largely remembered for discarding Malcolm MacDonald.

The whole selection process in football must be shocking to those in industry and commerce, not least at Old Trafford when Fergie appoints and anoints his  successor, who is then given a six year contract and walks away with £7m. The board may find out the hard way that in looking for qualities to restore success, being a legend is not one of them.

About Rex Mitchell

Rex Mitchell is a Brentford supporter from childhood. This has not prevented him having a distinguished Fleet Street career as a sports reporter and later deputy football editor. A widower, Rex is a bit of a bandit golfer off his official handicap of 20 and is currently chairman of his local bowls club. More Posts