Before talking about Manchester United, I’d like to talk about an interesting case study which I studied & should be relevant for this blog. I am sure many of you would be aware of it too.
The case study is of Nokia, the Handset manufacturer who had more than 50% sales globally in 2007 & was the leader. So what happened to Nokia, where did it all go wrong for them, is largely summarized in the following 4 points:
- Some of you would say, Nokia had inferior technology to Apple’s, who had launched its iPhone in 2007 & they didn’t innovate enough
- Arrogance of the top management, which comes with being at the top of the chain
- Organizational culture &
- Lack of vision from the top management
Most people reading the case would agree that all 4 points mentioned above are fatal for any organization. Well, yes! But the most important being, the 4th point, Lack of Vision, according to me.
“The only thing worse than being blind, is having sight, but no vision!” – Helen Keller.
Having a vision for the organization, how do you perceive its journey, as a leader & how do you intend to grow the organization – a vision, matters, a lot!
That said, I feel the people at Manchester United, especially, the Board & the owners – The Glazers, haven’t heard/read about this case study.
Nokia’s then CEO, Stephen Elop in 2016 while announcing Microsoft’s acquisition, said the above quote & they didn’t know what hit them.
Most organizations milk the Cash Cow, in this case (refer below chart), Manchester United & eventually move out. Many of you would be aware of the BCG matrix (Boston Consulting Group), which points towards the fact that the owners are looking at the club as a Cash Cow. Milking the club through profits, generated by steady revenue streams every year.
To top it off, no one in the board or at the top has enough experience with football, leave alone negotiations & know-how. There’s a desperate need for someone to shoulder the responsibility to drive a footballing culture, a playing style or recruitment of managers or players.
But hold on to your horses! Lets go back in time to 2014, when Man United was linked to a lot of managers, after David Moyes got the sack. The club then hired Louis Van Gaal (LVG), after a 3rd place finish with Netherlands at the World Cup. There were glowing reports in the media & he was showered with a lot of praise, over a lot of tactical decisions he made during the finals. Boom, a decision to hire LVG was taken based on the performance in the World Cup. Post that the club hired, Jose Mourinho, who was looked at the time, with someone who knows how to win & has a history of winning, despite his defensive playing style & by the way was never our style of play. Shazam! Jose is hired by the club.
Even a blind man will see that there was no thought or vision behind the recruitments of managers, the less said about the players like Sanchez, Falcao, Di Maria & the lot, the better.
It absolutely points to the fact that there’s no vision at the club (something that happened with Nokia), a plan & how it needs to function, how it needs to perform on the pitch, how the style of play needs to be, the manager to hire based upon the style we want to play, back-up managers in case a manager doesn’t perform.
It all seems very reactive, unplanned & preposterous for a football club of this magnitude.
Clearly, there’s a gap which was needed (yes, I’m saying it in past tense) to be plugged by hiring a Director Of Football (DOF) or Sporting Director long back! Man United also has sort of advertised for this position after a lot of pressure from the media & the fans in 2018, but Ed Woodward opted against it. Its been reported couple of month back again that the club is in the hunt, but nothing has been closed, while being linked to a host of DOFs.
So lets look at what’s the role of a DOF & why is it so crucial for United to appoint one.
The Director of Football, is usually a senior figure at the club, someone who oversees the day-to-day activities at the club & serves as an intermediary between the manager and the club. The idea is to allow the manager to focus fully on preparation for games, tactics and on-field issues, while also providing input about potential player as well as managerial targets (if needed, to the board).
The role of a DOF is quintessential because the top hierarchy has no clue about the running of a football club – on the pitch. Yes, off the pitch we are fine, only because we get commercial deals in place & that’s largely thanks to the fan base & the brand the club has developed into, by Sir Alex in the modern era. Getting in revenues & deals, will only last till the team is successful & cannot be sustained over a long term with the failings on the pitch. A DOF, once signed, will add stability to the club if given the responsibilities mentioned above & will definitely add value to the club where its much needed.
The lack of planning, the direction on the pitch as well as off it will be lent by a DOF. Woodward has had his chance of running this role for 7 years now, its clearly not worked. Its time the Glazers give this opportunity to someone more qualified than Ed. A person who can club both the on-field & off-field tactics & planning for the club, someone who backs the manager during & above all, PLANS for the betterment of the club.
Taking a cue from Nokia’s case, it doesn’t take long for another competitor to jump in & take your place. Arrogance, sitting back on your laurels is something no organization can afford, even Manchester United, irrespective of the size of the club. Its imperative that the club signs a Director of Football, the true signing (above even new players) we all need at the club.