Gill-Fergie relationship set high expectations



Former Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon

Former Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon

Peter Kenyon resigning as chief executive at Manchester United, to assume a similar role at Chelsea, in September 2003 determined a number of things: it gave Roman Abramovich a key figurehead to help engineer his hunger for world domination; end what was a deteriorating relationship with Alex Ferguson; and install David Gill as his successor.

Ferguson told about Kenyon’s ambitious behaviours in his autobiography published in October last year, titled Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography, and the sequentially strained lines between them. “Peter, I felt, tried to take on too much and consequently was unable to deliver on some of the most important tasks. The expertise you need in a chief executive role is a talent for completing missions,” he said.

It was as much to his success as it was his downfall that Kenyon built a global marketing brand behind Manchester United that would be quietly, yet healthily, maintained by David Gill. What the now ex-Chelsea board member envisaged after the sale of David Beckham to Real Madrid in that protracted, drawn-out summer, was continued in a similar vain. Only that Gill would spend the majority of the next decade forming a solid, cohesive understanding with Ferguson.

In fact there were very few, if any, times where either man disagreed with the other. Short and long-term were as analogous as the Scot was with Carlos Queiroz, later Micky Phelan and René Meulensteen. On the same page when Roy Keane mutually terminated his contract with the club in November 2005, when the club went against competing for Carlos Tévez’s signature in 2009, and even during Real Madrid’s much-publicised dogged pursuit – and eventual capture of – Cristiano Ronaldo. One time where they may have seen lines blurred was when Gill tried to mark Fergie’s 25th anniversary at the helm by renaming one of Old Trafford’s stands after him. Gill revealed the “great lengths” he had to go to so that it was all kept a secret from him.


Former Manchester United chief executive David Gill

Former Manchester United chief executive David Gill

So when the Birmingham University alum decided to step down last summer, it came as a doubly huge blow to the United contingent, who had just witnessed their greatest-ever boss also hang up the proverbial coat. And, given how the last 10 months have transpired, it becomes much more apparent how much of an impact both men had as individuals and in a solid partnership.

One can only assume what has been said behind closed doors between Ed Woodward, the Red Devils’ latest incumbent in the chief executive hot seat, and David Moyes. From apparently rushing back to England from Australia in order to tend to ‘urgent’ matters, to Moyes’ continued tendencies to play up the opposition’s strengths, 2013/14 has been nothing short of a PR disaster. And since being pictured joining the current United boss at the Carrington training ground one crisp autumn afternoon, arms tucked in for warmth, little has been seen or heard of him since.

Woodward did address those concerned in a conference, to try and assure that this coming transfer window would be exercised to its fullest. It was after the club’s financial reports that he held a conference call. “It’s fair to say that we are focused on strengthening the squad. We are looking at some players in the squad as well, as players that perhaps may be sold this summer,” he said.

“We wouldn’t necessarily be looking to churn [offload] a huge number of players, because that can have a destabilising effect, but we are not afraid of moving in the market in a way we perhaps haven’t seen in recent years.”

“It’s a dynamic situation and obviously the market itself can throw up opportunities or the opposite of that [with players leaving]” he added. But that was in February, and since the Kroos rumours began to fly around shortly afterwards, his name has been frequently appeared, with supposed attempts to try and agree terms with the German midfielder.


David Moyes

Current United manager David Moyes

Certainly since the mistakes made last time out. Greater care will have to be taken in strategy, whilst retaining a diplomatic approach to what is available in the market. What could also be learned from, as Gill demonstrated throughout his tenure, is the great effect of communication between Woodward and Moyes in regards to their positions. Both made a conscious effort to, not only have a great relationship behind closed doors, but also when the public urged their views on something regarding the club.

Both the chief executive and managerial roles are precarious ones to be in, but by staying on similar wavelengths, they can avoid the types of sound bites that media outlets have been able to enjoy. Lessons have been learned, wounds sorely licked, and errors admitted. Times are bound to improve for Manchester United, even if it is to the dismay of their notorious foes, but certainly memories of what was achieved within the last decade will be looked upon in where standards have been set, and expectations to be met.

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