Dear Pep…come and have a go at United

Date published: Monday 11th January 2016 10:44

Dear Pep, or, to give you your proper English football name, Guardiolasie,

I’m sure you will agree that if there’s one guiding principle when considering any football matter it is this: never agree with Harry Redknapp. Actually, you probably just think a Redknapp is some sort of wading bird, don’t you, so let me explain. In England he’s very popular proper football man with some people in the media, just like you are, only without the nice suits, pert buttocks and slim hips…oh, and without almost any success at all in a 30-year managerial career. But he knew Bobby Moore, so…well…you know…that’s what really counts over here. That and the golf.

Anyway, Pep, he has suggested, as you’re coming to England to manage, you might want to take over at Dagenham and Redbridge. No, it’s not a car factory. We don’t have them anymore. You see, he thinks this would test how good you really are. Between you and me, he thinks Alan Pardew is as good as you. No, I’ve not heard of him, either.

But unfortunately, underneath all of his anti-foreigner rhetoric and regular volte face revisionism, mis-rememberings and plain daft blarting, he may, on this occasion, have a small point, in the same way that every big gobstopper once used to have a single aniseed in the centre.

It is undeniable that you managed two teams to huge success that were stuffed with fantastic resources when you took over. Now, it’s easy to mess things up, and well done for not doing that, Pep, and you’ve won everything there is to win, but then you did have almost all the best players in the world at your disposal, didn’t you? I’m not saying it was dead easy to win everything with all the best players in the world at your disposal, but it does traditionally make it a lot easier than doing it at Dagenham and Redbridge.

And Pep, you’ve done this twice now. Twice is plenty, isn’t it? In the same way that sex once an hour is great, twice is nice, but the third time is joyless hard work and involves a lot of sweat and concentration and possibly incurs a blister.

I’m sure you’re tired of this type of success, so the next, indeed, the only thing left for you to achieve, is to equal that success by taking over a team that has potential but is, at the moment, quite, quite dreadful and full of underperforming, under-talented and overpaid wassocks with rubbish hair.

This excludes Arsenal and Manchester City and Spurs because they’re all rather good and a little too replete with sweet-scented metrosexuals (sit down Milner) like yourself, Pep. It excludes Chelsea because they were just rubbish due to internal politics, which, now resolved, sees them playing rather well again.

The side you need to take over is obviously Manchester United. You needn’t worry about having to do without any money, because United are very, very rich. But nonetheless, you would be tested like never before and surely that is the kind of challenge that would excite anyone who wasn’t just interested in the easiest route to more success. On the downside, you will have to buy a waterproof coat from an overpriced designer menswear store, of which there are very many in Manchesterm and the locals do speak in the kind of hypnotic dull drone you may only have heard previously coming from a malfunctioning hurdy gurdy.

But if you just take over a side that is already doing well, there will be a healthy minority of people who will always say, like Yaya Toure’s agent, that actually you were not that good and anyone could have led Bayern Munich and that bunch of passy-passy-yawn-feign-injury-oh-alright-that-is-brilliant side you started off with, to such huge success. You don’t want that, do you? We know you can win with all the best players in the world, so let’s see you win with almost none of the best players in the world.

At Manchester United you will be presented with a real challenge and something you’ve never had before: an expensively assembled squad of players that is a rag-bag of don’t cares, cant’s, wont’s and never coulds, along with a small amount of excellents. Yeah, how do you like them apples, Pep? Let’s see you teach Wayne Rooney how to consistently control a football with one touch; that’ll tell us how good you really are because no-one has been able to do it yet. Better still, let’s see you sell him and get someone good in.

If you can turn this United squad into a Champions League-winning side within a season it would be the greatest achievement of your career. You will never do that by inheriting a great side and just adding the finishing touches. In fact, if you do that again, you will look weak and unambitious and eventually you will inevitably attract contempt. You will look over-vaunted. It will be like someone who is born into money proclaiming themselves to be a self-made man.

And then some time you will fail at a club that is already really good when you take it over. You will then look bad and no amount of expensive, lightweight, tight cashmere sweaters will make you look good. And remember, when that happens, a huge mythical fire-breathing English monster called The Big Sam will be waiting to eat you.

After one manager who was in awe of the club, and another who was in awe of himself, you are bound to look good. The football played in recent years has veered between tedious, hapless and woeful, occasionally peaking at boring. You can do better than that, Pep, can’t you? If you won’t take the challenge on, then a lot will think that actually, no, you can’t.

So, as the locals used to say, whilst overturning and setting fire to a burger van, come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.

John Nicholson

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