David Beckham, who retired this week after a glorious, 20-year playing career, lacked the one element that I always reckon is the key ingredient for a top-class player, namely pace. Yet Beckham, though not in the same bracket as men like Pele, Maradona, Messi and Ronaldo, was the exception to my rule. From the moment he burst on to the scene at Manchester United he performed to the highest standards at the highest level at Old Trafford, Real Madrid and Milan. He had immense stamina, a tremendous delivery and he was the scorer of some outstanding goals. Beckham won a remarkable 115 England caps and he was also a marvellous ambassador. Well done, David.
Manchester City have made a mess of their sacking of Roberto Mancini, who deserves better treatment after delivering the FA Cup and a first league title in 44 years in his three and a half years in charge. It cannot be right that the rumour mill was churning at full pelt long before he was told of his fate. I admit that, after City’s shocking cup final display against Wigan, I am not shocked by Mancini’s sacking. But I am disappointed on his behalf and I know he will be bitterly upset at losing his job. After all, he was City’s most successful manager of the past few decades.
Okay, he may have made mistakes in the handling of some of his players. When he had the problem with Carlos Tevez not wanting to come off the bench in the Champions League last season, he came out and said the forward would never play for the club again. That left him exposed, especially as Tevez returned to play a crucial role in the last few matches of the season as City clinched the title. He upset keeper Joe Hart with criticism after the match at Real Madrid this season, got on the wrong side of skipper Vincent Kompany and did not handle Mario Balotelli well. Balotelli, who was sold to Milan this season, caused too many problems on the pitch for too long. So, maybe Mancini’s man management wasn’t the best. But he deserved better than this.
I sympathised early this season when he stated: “There is no respect for my position.” Lack of respect is a problem in society these days, not merely a problem confined to football. And football managerial sackings simply go with the territory, especially at this “galactico” level. Increasingly, the saying amongst top-flight managers these days is: “Grin and bank it.” That’s not to say that the huge compensation pay-out Mancini will surely get lessens the blow to his pride at losing the job he loved. Ironically, Manuel Pellegrini, the man tipped to succeed Mancini, suffered the same fate at Real Madrid a few years ago. With increasing foreign ownership of clubs, the tendency to fire managers after one, two or three years is increasing. When people come with “a five-year plan” it makes me laugh. As my “uncle” Jim Royle – of the TV comedy The Royle Family – would say: “My arse!” That is why it was so refreshing to see Manchester United not only appoint a Briton in David Moyes to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson but also to give him a six-year contract. United are one of only a few clubs who retain a traditional attitude to longevity and loyalty and I’m sure they will strive to give Moyes time to do the job. At the same time, I reckon Arsenal and Chelsea – though the Blues are soon to change manager themselves – will be looking at the upheaval at City and the switch over at United and thinking they have an opportunity to regain domination over their Manchester rivals.