At some point in their lives everyone believes in something ridiculous. A blind, illogical, unwarranted trust that an agent higher than themselves knows what they’re doing. Be it gods, parents, politicians or the Clear Browser History function, the human propensity to follow our faiths off a cliff should never be underestimated.
There’s a perfectly good reason for this of course. People are idiots. The chronicled history of our breakthroughs as a species is a long and exhaustive list of the men and women who knew more than people. People read the Daily Star. People watch reality shows. People vote for Jim Davidson on reality shows. People voted for Hitler, while George Washington was elected without a popular vote. If we lived in a perfect democracy we’d be erecting statues of Joey Essex and ruled by a yawning kitten. People are overrated, and largely awful.
No more so than in football, where every man and his cab has an opinion and every message board is bursting with know-it-alls, transfer muppets and weird tactical bods with heat maps making those confusing screenshots of arbitrary moments doodled with arrows and little coloured circles.
In science and politics we notice when it’s gone wrong, but are mostly pretty sure we wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to fix it. “Ha! Those idiots at the Large Hadron Collider have suffered a magnet quench again. They should never have discharged their electricity to the helium enclosure,” says absolutely nobody.
In sport however, we do know. We could’ve scored that. We would’ve given that penalty. We would’ve picked a better team. Sport is transparent. You show your workings on the pitch. And yet the workings out of sight – the day-to-day management, the ownership, the several confusing levels of director – are still much of a mystery.
So when those in such positions do things that seem contradictory to our accepted wisdom, one reaction is simply to trust that they know what they’re doing. They’ve got this far, why wouldn’t they? When a 15-year-old video of Harry Redknapp chastising a fan for doubting a curtain haired boyband Frank Lampard, this steaming nugget of viral gold seemed to vindicate that wisdom.
And it’s this wisdom that many fans fell back on when Manchester United appointed David Moyes. There had to be something else to his appointment beyond the surface. A huge, submerged iceberg of reason beyond the mere tip we could see. Something hidden, something magic, something blatant yet unbeknownst to us layman mortals because everyone without a vested interest could see the collapse coming a mile off.
Every average Joe, every cab driver, every publican. Every phone-in junkie and keyboard monkey had some kind of inkling this would happen. From the moment he was announced there were jibes about him ‘Evertonizing’ the Champions, finishing mid-table and failing in Europe. As the summer transfer window limped on, the running gag that he’d sign Fellaini gathered more traction. People opined that he was a boring, functional, defensive manager who wouldn’t provide the free flowing attacking style United craved, and asked why a team who’d won everything going but the FA Cup would respect a man who’d won sweet F.A? His dismal away record against big sides was whooshed into graphic form on Sky Sports News so frequently everyone knew the score. Those ‘I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING’ memes began on his first day in the job.
And with the eye rolling predictability of a Jamie Redknapp post-match analysis, it all happened. Literally. In glorious, ghastly slow motion. In an almost satirical parody of itself. The subtlety of a BBC Three sitcom starring Frankie Boyle as Moyes and David Walliams as RVP was lost on the Chucklevision reality. And no one was really surprised. It seemed so obvious.
And yet for something so evident to everyone to be unknown, unappreciated and under researched, then accepted, approved and rubber stamped by everyone at Manchester United (MANCHESTER UNITED!) the most consistent and successfully run club in European football (whose record for consecutive Champions League appearances now looks doomed to be broken) seems virtually unconscionable.
The crux of accepting authority’s wisdom is that deep down, we want it to be true. For some it’s easier to accept conspiracy than entertain the idea those with power over our destinies are merely incompetent. Even evil competence is better than benign idiocy, and so predictably some are even questioning whether this was part of the plan. Whether Sir Alex Ferguson has deliberately set Moyes up for a fall, either to preserve his legacy or lower the expectation on his replacement. It seems ridiculous.
But is it any more ridiculous than the idea that Ferguson, Charlton, Gill and everyone at Manchester United are less football savvy than us? Than the man or woman on the street, in the pub, or on the Internet? That a man with more knowledge and success in the English game than any other would appoint a successor simply because he liked him and was a bit Scottish? That everyone at board level would ignore Jose Mourinho because Sir Bobby Charlton – a man retired for 30 years who made a mess of his own managerial career – gets a bit of an off vibe from him? That the Glazer family would accept slipping out of the Champions League just because they’d been told it was some mythical “United way” to stand by a manager?
That’s ridiculous. Surely? No one in football would hire David Moyes to replace Sir Alex Ferguson unless they absolutely knew what they were doing. No one. The only explanation is that Moyes can turn it around. That he’ll come good. That he’ll suddenly start learning to play good football at 50 after 15 years in management and no previous inclination he knows how. It’s the only sane explanation. He’s the right man. He simply must be. Because he’s so clearly, patently, obviously not.