Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why I would choose Moyes

I was recently asked where I would choose to go if I could do a 1-2 year internship or be deputy-assistant manager at a football club. Now this is a tricky question, one that requires a lot of deliberate thought and analytical breakdown. A decision emerging from this deliberation would have to favor logic over emotion. 

There is no doubt that some of the world soccer's top managers are - Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Harry Redknapp, Roberto Mancini, Vincente del Bosque, etc in no particular ranking. The likes of David Moyes, Jurgen Klopp, Andre Villas Boas, Diego Simeone and Marcelo Bielsa are considered to be the next generation - some might suggest they are already there. 

Although I am a big fan of Manchester United, I would not take the decision to initiate my managerial career at Old Trafford. For starters, I don't really know how much access I will get to the wealth of knowledge that Sir Alex has. Secondly, United is a place one should consider with a few years of experience under their belt, perhaps before moving on to take complete charge of a club. 

I really like the managerial styles of Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp. The way Diego Simeone and Marcelo Bielsa get their teams to play is quite remarkable. But I would choose David Moyes simply he has almost mastered the man-management, tactical and financial aspects of soccer at such a young age. I also get a sense of integrity from him - it's not very often you see managers stick by clubs for so many years and vice-versa. It's like creating a dynasty, one that defies all odds and rules. And then ruling it for decades. 

Moyes' style is quite different from other managers too. He usually likes to do most of the coaching himself as he works on formations, team shape and tactical responses based on opposition research prepared for the next game. He has often been criticized for being too defensive. I would only partly agree that he is defensive. He has basically tried to inculcate habits of defensive jurisdiction into his players at all times. After that is achieved, he builds from there. Working with a club with the financial situation like Everton just makes the job harder. Imagine all the young players being brought to the club leaving because they have improved to a world-class level where millions of dollars are being paid to lure them away. A club like Everton cannot really reject such offers and it often results in the manager having to start from square one on the training ground. 

It has often been suggested that Moyes must move to truly fulfill his potential. I am not sure I agree with this notion. With instant results expected these days in exchange for a heavy bag of money, moving to a top 5 club is disappearing as the best option for successful managers. Even though Moyes must have already been offered a move by at least 5 clubs in his Everton tenure, the most famous of which was the interest from Tottenham when Harry Redknapp left, he has proved that his success at Everton is the product of sustained excellence of a vastly under-appreciated manager. 

With Everton being the best place to get maximum hands-on coaching and management opportunities combined with the sheer presence of a mentor like Moyes, it would be very hard to turn down an offer from the Merseyside club, if it ever came at such a juncture. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Manchester United's deadliest weapon

From the very instant the final words of congratulation left Sir Alex Ferguson's lips and headed in the direction of new Premier League champions Manchester City, the Scot will have fixed every fibre on reclaiming the crown.

And the eve-of-season signing of striker Robin van Persie from Arsenal marked what Ferguson hopes will be the defining moment in his fight to restore Old Trafford's supremacy.

Ferguson was keen to make a gesture of such significance that it would serve as a savage reminder to the new champions and anyone else daring to doubt his or United's hunger for continued success.

The signing of a player who illuminated the Premier League so brilliantly as the Arsenal captain last season, and who almost single-handled kept their campaign on course when it threatened to disintegrate, will do Ferguson nicely.

Indeed, such was Ferguson's determination to show how much United mean business, he laid aside his insistence on "value" in the market and paid £24m for the 29-year-old striker. United have also agreed a not inconsiderable salary package over the length of a four-year contract.

An added bonus is that it was an open secret that his City counterpart Roberto Mancini would have loved to have made Van Persie one of his major summer signings.

The battle lines with City have been drawn - but will it be enough to get the title back from a squad of all-encompassing quality at the Etihad, a squad with attacking riches of their own in the shape of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez (back on message and on solid ground according to close observers) and Mario Balotelli?

Ferguson thought United had silenced the growing force he labelled "the noisy neighbours" by claiming title number 20 with victory at Sunderland as City faced devastating failure at home to Queen's Park Rangers in the closing seconds of last season.

The mask of desolation that spread across the faces of Ferguson and his players as they waited anxiously on the turf at Stadium of Light when Sergio Aguero confirmed City's first title since 1967/68 was an enduring image of that emotion-charged title climax.

Ferguson had hoped an inability to cross the line would inflict "untold" psychological scars on City that would take years to heal - instead the expensive renewal at the Etihad was confirmed in the shape of the Premier League and the task at Old Trafford became even greater.

The Scot hinted at the pain he insists will drive his players to feats of recovery they have accomplished before, bouncing back from the loss of losing the title Ferguson treasures, when he spoke during United's pre-season tour of South Africa.

He said: "I've lost my temper and I'm angry. People may say Manchester City are the team to beat but I don't agree with that. We are the team to beat because of the way we react, the way we have bounced back from losing the league in the past. We will be strong this season."

Typical defiance from the greatest managerial streetfighter - but can Ferguson really take the title back to Old Trafford or is he simply attempting to turn back what many now regard as an unstoppable tide sweeping in his direction from Etihad Stadium?

The factor that must never be ignored at Old Trafford is the Scot himself. The Ferguson Factor is still their biggest weapon in an increasingly difficult battle.

In simple terms history tells us only a fool would dismiss Ferguson and United's status as the most serious of contenders to City - and anyone who does will only heap fuel on the fire that still rages inside the 70-year-old.

And while City will once again cast a considerable shadow, Ferguson can also point to shafts of optimism ahead of United's first test at Everton on Monday even before the signing of Van Persie.

The Dutchman's acquisition apart, Ferguson has injected energy, youth, intelligence and adaptability into his midfield with the signing of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmundwhile the arrival of gifted teenager Nick Powell from Crewe is a typical marker for the future.

Last summer's signings such as goalkeeper David de Gea and young England defender Phil Jones will be better for their Old Trafford experiences. The young Spaniard was an increasingly assured presence after a harrowing introduction to the Premier League while Jones, despite a mixed second half of the season, has real pedigree.

The biggest lift of all will come with the return of inspirational captain and defensive lynchpin Nemanja Vidic after a serious knee injury robbed Ferguson of his presence for the last five months of the season.

Wayne Rooney can be relied upon to put his curtailed and disappointing Euro 2012 behind him once he returns to familiar territory at his club. Antonio Valencia continues to develop into an attacker of the highest quality while Javier Hernandez will be a potent threat.

This most demanding of managers will also be casting a keen eye on the likes of Nani and Anderson in particular - insisting upon the consistency and delivery United will need from all areas of their squad to ensure they challenge again.

Ferguson has also confessed he will learn from his own mistakes last season, most notably when a desire to experiment with selection in the Champions League saw United fail to advance beyond the group stage for only the third time in 17 years.

For Ferguson and United, however, old doubts and questions remain about areas that still need to be strengthened in this team - even one that thought it had won the Premier League once more until virtually the final kick of the campaign.

The return of Paul Scholes last season after his brief retirement proved he could still be of service to United in central midfield while Ferguson's faith in Michael Carrick is clad in stone - but does he possess that truly high-class central midfield operator required to restore the measure of supremacy he requires at home and abroad?

Scholes is 37 and his great cohort in United's glory years, Ryan Giggs, is 39 in November. Ferguson has shielded them expertly from the advance of time - but it is an inevitability that their influence will wane.

The time is coming for Tom Cleverley to put his injury problems behind him and show he is worth the rave notices so many give him - but this central area is still in need of attention.

United, though, will be a force once again and those tempted to write them off may need to be reminded that, as well as the newly-arrived Van Persie, they still have that most deadly of weapons in their arsenal - a wounded and angry Sir Alex Ferguson.

by Phil McNulty

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adapting to the 4-5-1

I recently began my new roles as coach for FC UbiSoft in the Canadian Corporate League - Premiership division and FC Gabon in the African League Premiership. Coaching two teams isn't all that easy, let alone one. But it helps when the majority of players are part of both teams. It has made me realize that my favorite tactical formation wasn't really my favorite.

I have started using variations of the 4-5-1 formation. For the uninformed, a formation is the shape your team should keep during the match. Each player in the formation has a role comprising of attacking responsibilities, defensive duties and support play. A formation dictates the style of play and is usually decided by the strengths of the players in question.

For years, I have watched Sir Alex Ferguson teach the world how to use the 4-4-2 with FC Manchester United, one of the most commonly used formations in football. Assuming that it would be directly effective, I applied it to my teams too. Not only were my players out of position often, they weren't even playing to their strengths. As I began considering alternatives, I came across the 4-5-1 variations that David Moyes uses at Everton FC. Not only is the style more suited for my players, it brings a lot of fluidity to attach and defense. Below are the three variations (figure a, b, c) that the 4-5-1 can be used in.

Now some might argue that figure b is almost the same as a 4-4-2, but I would say that this style brings more midfield pressure on the opponent. Figure a is quite defensive while figure c is the attacking version. Since I have an abundance of midfield players to choose from, especially in central roles, both my players and me have adapted well to this formation.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Explaining the 'Offside Rule' to women

You’re in a shoe shop, second in the queue for the till. Behind the shop assistant on the till is a pair of shoes which you have seen and which you must have.

The female shopper in front of you has seen them also and is eyeing them with desire.

Both of you have forgotten your purses.

It would be totally rude to push in front of the first woman if you had no money to pay for the shoes.

The shop assistant remains at the till waiting.

Your friend is trying on another pair of shoes at the back of the shop and sees your dilemma.

She prepares to throw her purse to you.

If she does so, you can catch the purse, then walk round the other shopper and buy the shoes.

At a pinch she could throw the purse ahead of the other shopper and, *whilst it is in flight* you could nip around the other shopper, catch the purse and buy the shoes.

Always remembering that until the purse had *actually been thrown* it would be plain wrong to be forward of the other shopper.

Congratulations – You have just learned the offside rule!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How to Deal with Competing Priorities

by Mike Periu, EcoFin Media

Dealing with competing priorities is an integral part of being an entrepreneur. Every day we face battles where we have to choose between pricing and quality, family time and business progress and between current profits and future success. We all know it’s impossible to please everyone all of the time. But knowing this truth and acting accordingly are two very different things. Some business owners do try to have their cake and eat it too by trying to please everyone. In the process they usually fail and expose themselves to serious business and personal consequences. Even after you recognize that you can’t be all things to all people, the issue of which competing priority to satisfy remains; in other words who do you say “no” to? Here are some ideas on how sort that out.

Are any competing requests unreasonable or unrealistic?

Many times we feel the pressure to satisfy requests from people who are important to us, like key employees or customers, because that relationship matters to the health of our business. But if the request is unreasonable or unrealistic then it can be discarded right away and you can deal with the consequences with a clean conscience.
Which competing request has the potential to do more harm if rejected?

If competing requests that are rejected have the potential to cause harm to ourselves or to others, then that needs to be taken into consideration. If more people asked this question then the incidence of texting-related traffic accidents would decrease dramatically as people realized the risks involved and would instead choose to wait until later to respond.

Which competing request will be of greater benefit to me if executed correctly?

This isn’t an entirely altruistic exercise. An important part of determining which competing request to honor is the one that stands to benefit you the most. To succeed, you must make decisions that benefit you and your business. While this sounds obvious, many times the question doesn’t get asked because you are knee-deep in details and minutiae related to the decision-making and your best interests can get lost in the shuffle.

I’ve decided. Now what?

By asking these questions, you can determine the best course of action when faced with competing priorities. Once this is decided, you need to inform the affected parties. When telling someone you’ve decided against them, remember to:

1. Be direct. Nothing is worse than “beating around the bush” when informing someone that you are rejecting them. Its best to be direct and show that you are respectful of their time.

2. Provide context. A solitary “no” isn’t the best approach to letting someone know their competing interest lost out. In the future you may need to work with them and providing context as to why you made the decision will help ameliorate any ill will.

3. Use the proper tone. You may be tired, frustrated or otherwise upset at having to make a difficult decision, but this isn’t the tone that should be conveyed directly or indirectly to the losing party. Take the time to compose yourself and not let their emotional response cloud your rational judgment. Stay cool.

4. Move on. Don’t feel guilty about what may or may not happen to the losing party. You made your decision for better or for worse. It’s best to move on.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


There are some images that we directly correlate with either events, people or momentous occurrences. I had one of those recently that took me into a double flashback of sorts.

I had just boarded my 6.30am train from Montreal Central Station to Ottawa. I removed my coat jacket and placed it onto the hangar, asked for a coffee and stared out the window. The train exited the platform and this beautiful sunrise dawned. The next few minutes made me wonder why I don't travel by train, especially in ones with such big ass windows. I looked down the alleyway of the Via rail Business Class compartment....

.... I asked myself, "When was the last time I was in an inter-city train?"

It was two years ago, Dec 2009, when I was travelling from Mumbai to Mangalore and back. The time before that was around Dec 2005 from Tver to St. Petersburg.

In all these flashbacks I noticed a stark contrast in my life status and maturity. Back in 2005, I was this clueless student three years into my Bachelors degree, not really sure what the next couple of years would bring. I felt like I was just tied down and following the path with the bread-crumbs all over it.

Alternatively, in 2009, I was almost done with my Masters degree in the USA, much more mature and street-smart (I would like to believe). I was looking forward to the challenges awaiting me in that trip, the semester after it, the the job-hunt eventually.

And now, I am working for one of the biggest companies in my industry, impacting daily airline operations and making a business trip in business class wearing a nice suit, sipping on nice coffee accompanied with a continental breakfast, just hungry for every opportunity I get to progress.

A flashing sequence of memories tied together by trigger cues. Quite a satisfying feeling of progression in life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SAUL: I have a question....

Say we do get into the cage, and through the security doors there, and down the elevator we can't move, and past the guards with the guns, and into the vault we can't open...

RUSTY: Without being seen by the cameras.

DANNY: (off everyone's astonishment) Oh, right. Sorry. I forgot to mention that.

SAUL: Say we do all that. We're just supposed to walk outta there with a hundred million dollars in cash on us without getting stopped?

Danny smiles, his broad, sure-of-himself grin, the one Rusty couldn't deny earlier and these guys won't deny now.

DANNY: Yeah.


The scene that leaves a mark on anyone who watches the movie. It is hilarious, but succint. Ground-breaking, but subtle. Cautious, but inspiring.

Ocean's 11.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Top Ten - You know it's summer in Champaign when...

- The windows and doors need to be kept closed from preventing the outside (fresh and hot) air from getting in.

- The power in the living room keeps tripping because there is a fan, AC, laptop and microwave connected.

- Evening tennis begins only after the sun sets. Suddenly indoor badminton is better. But nothing beats the feeling of an optimized breast stroke in the cool swimming pool.

- You would rather just sit in the AC bus and roam around campus rather than wait at the bus stop for a connecting bus.

- You get up early and run to the office or library to study because there's central AC there and you will end up saving on your monthly electricity bill.

- You feel like having the AC for lunch and the fan for dinner.

- You start visiting people who keep their houses cooled the whole day.

- You postpone meetings because you don't want to walk one block in the scorching heat.

- You say it out loud, "India is better (temperature-wise)"

- You wonder why God gave you hair all over.