One of my topics at University was US political history- yes my course really was that exciting – and despite it sounding as interesting as watching Manchester City reserves, I actually grew to like it. Don’t get me wrong as soon as I didn’t have to study it anymore I forgot about it, a bit like algebra- but from what I remember it wasn’t the worst subject I’ve ever taken- that was obviously secondary school German.
While at Uni’ I’d have two concerns- Manchester United and passing my course-in that order. So it wasn’t long before I often mixed the two- as I was studying journalism this became handy with blogging about United writing match reports etc. I also began to see the connotations between United and my other subject- US history.
There were the changes in fortunes of both the US and United, with both eventually becoming the main superpower, both had rivalries with evil ‘Reds’ and both had ‘United in their title. It was inevitable that one day I’d be left pondering which US President most resembled Sir Alex Ferguson -in terms of success, longevity etc. Which led me to think if we look at several United managers how similar were their careers to that of ‘leaders of the free world.’
Here’s a list of United managers and the US Presidents I feel their careers most closely resembled.
Ernest Magnall – George Washington. Ernest who? Well to be fair he’s hardly the first name on every United fan’s lips but if it wasn’t for Magnall there may not be a Manchester United now- at least not the one we know. Magnall guided the club from the Second Division to the First in the early 1900’s and also won the first two League Titles and FA Cup for the club.
Washington defeated the British and helped gain the US it’s independence as well as being it’s first President. Although Magnall has never had his face on a dollar bill and certainly isn’t as well know as Busby or Sir Alex, for setting United on the path to greatness he’s the George Washington of Old Trafford.
Sir Matt Busby- Abraham Lincoln. While Busby may not have freed the slaves or been successful in a civil war which could have destroyed him, he is still the most revered manager in world football history. Why? He was able to not only change the face of modern football, introducing innovative coaching, scouting and tactical methods, but he produced one of the most entertaining teams there ever was only to see it decimated by the Munich air crash.
Just like Lincoln in the face of such overwhelming odds and tragedy he didn’t give up, but fought on to achieve glory that seemed unthinkable at one point. Another reason for the comparison is like Lincoln, Busby had a way of speaking that demanded people listened and were inspired. Lincoln had his Gettysburg address, Busby had his hospital bed speech which broadcast to a still grieving Old Trafford, made people realise with such a great man at the helm, the club would go on to triumph.
Ron Atkinson – Lyndon Johnson. Big, brash, larger than life and initially very successful. Atkinson and Johnson have a lot in common. Johnson had the successes of introducing the Civil Rights Bill not to mention Medicare and Medicaid, while Atkinson won the FA Cup twice and at one point took United to a seemingly insurmountable lead in the League. However it would end in tears for both men as Vietnam put paid to any hope Johnson had of being as revered as JFK or FDR while Atkinson’s United career went off the rails with his desperate league form.
You could argue both men were unlucky- Atkinson with injuries – Johnson with poor military advice and while neither is remembered particularly harshly, they both probably don’t get the credit they deserve.
Tommy Docherty- JFK. This may seem an odd choice but the similarities are obvious. Both were media savvy and great speakers. Both men came back from early set backs- relegation, Bay of Pigs, to eventual success. Both had their time’s at the helm cut short unexpectedly and both are still well thought of today.
It was the rifle of Lee Harvey Oswald – unless you believe Oliver Stone- which ended JFK’s presidency – not to mention his life, while ‘The Doc’ was sacked for an affair with the wife of United physiotherapist Laurie Brown. JFK is still revered as one of the most popular presidents ever- despite his relatively short tenure, while United fans from the seventies still look back with fondness at the Docherty era- especially in my local pub where a small group of middle-aged men insist on singing songs from that time. If I hear one more ‘Big Jim Holton’ or ‘Skip to me Lou Macari’ chant, I’m drinking elsewhere.
Sir Alex Ferguson – Franklin Roosevelt. Where do you start? Longest serving at both their respective positions. Ferguson a mammoth 24 years and counting FDR the only President to serve more than two terms, clocking up just under 13 years. FDR saved the world from an evil empire- Facism, Sir Alex stopped the domination of another empire of sorts- Liverpool. Both men took their jobs at dark periods, and seemed to be struggling after a few years at the helm.
Three years in at Old Trafford and many people were wondering if Sir Alex was the right man for the job, while FDR’s recovery program- The New Deal- for getting America over the Great Depression had seemingly stalled. Yet both went on to achieve spectacular success and take their respective charges to world dominance- sort of. FDR is the most successful of American Presidents, after saving the country from ruin and defeating Facism, yet he is still arguably not quite as revered as Lincoln, which you could argue is the identical case with Sir Alex and Busby.