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The Truppr 5k

I love to run, and this may not be a surprise to some people. I often run by myself and though it was hard at first, I have been able to keep up with running on a regular basis, twice a week at least. As the months have gone by, I have witnessed more and more people take up exercise on the streets of Lagos. Some run by themselves, some run in a group. It always makes me happy because exercise confers real benefits, and as many people as possible should enjoy them.

When enough people begin to undertake a particular activity, it is inevitable that communities will form. Bosun Tijani, a co-founder and CEO of the Co-Creation Hub and a prominent member of Nigeria’s growing technology community, is also the founder of Truppr, which aims to create a community of fitness lovers across a number of sports, like football, running, tennis and general aerobics.

The 5k run held today, and being a fan of long distance myself, it was a no-brainer for me to take part. I also knew it would be fun to meet up with good friends and make new ones. A Fitbit Flex was up for grabs too, so that was added motivation, quite apart from the desire to be first and beat my last time. It was a great turnout, and there was some celeb support there too. Kate Henshaw was in attendance and ran the full race. Esta Morenikeji took the pre-race warm up, and by the time she was done, I really couldn’t wait to get started.

The key, as always, is to start a little slowly then storm to the finish. It almost worked, but for Opeyemi Balogun’s resilience to pip me right at the finish line. Oddly, I met him for the first time exactly a week ago, and had no idea he is such a strong runner.

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Answering some questions after the race

So, no Fitbit Flex for me. I am dying for an activity tracker/smartwatch though, and I fancy my chances next time round, which should be next month. The event itself was very well organised, and a big thumbs up to everyone involved in the planning and execution.

The Truppr 5k was a lot of great fun, and I am happy it will be a regular event from now on.  I encourage you to sign up for the next one. The more the merrier.

View all the pictures from the event here.

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Ferguson’s choice

The brooding figure of Alex Ferguson at every United home game is by now a familiar sight. This was no more obvious than at the game against Liverpool, where he watched the players he used to coach – and the man he appointed to take over from him – display their collective impotence against a Liverpool side who were brimming with confidence, despite their occasional penchant for individual errors.

As good as Liverpool have been this season, there are moments when, under pressure, they commit errors. However, their hosts on Sunday never came close to applying such pressure on them. Inside 9 months of lifting their 20th league title, fired to it as they were by Robin van Persie, Manchester United have become a car being driven in reverse by David Moyes.

Last summer saw handovers at a number of Europe’s biggest clubs. Pellegrini came in at City, Martino at Camp Nou, Ancellotti provided a welcome relief to what had become a toxic Mourinho circus at the Bernabeu, while The Special One went back to Stamford Bridge for a reprise, which is not going too badly. Bayern, the European champions, replaced one treble winning coach with another, and just when it seemed impossible to imagine FC Hollywood going into another gear, they have done just that.

Of all these changes, the one at Old Trafford has been the worst by some distance. Manchester United have their lowest number of points after 30 games in Premier League history, and will finish behind Liverpool for only the second time in 23 seasons. It also looks likely that Spurs and Everton will finish ahead of United for the first time since 1990.

A lot of those defending David Moyes have talked about how he needs time to shape the squad in his image. David Moyes has already shaped the squad. Alex Ferguson inherited a team who were 19th out of 22 teams and had not won the league in 19 years. David Moyes inherited the Premiership champions and put them out of the Champions League places inside 7 months.

So, it is not so much a decline as it is a dead drop, and it is perfectly fitting that Alex Ferguson has a front row seat. It was he who, coming from a trophy laden spell north of the border with Aberdeen, woke up the sleeping United juggernaut and turned them into a powerhouse club and true global giant. It was he who, after over 25 years of building a dynasty, personally handed it over to a fellow Scotsman of very modest achievements. It is he who must ultimately take the blame.

His achievements with Manchester United have seen Ferguson invited to speak in several places about leadership and management, and rightly so. However, the ultimate test of a leader is leaving behind a structure that will outlast him. Events at Old Trafford are yet more proof of how much easier it is to destroy, of how easy it is to reverse in a few months what took years to put together. What makes it worse is that this happens under a man anointed by Ferguson, and who, by all accounts, still enjoys Ferguson’s support.

It is time for someone close enough to Sir Alex to tell him that he is on the verge of destroying his legacy, or at least tarnishing it to a significant extent. Things will not get better under David Moyes, and if this season is any indication, United have less margin for error than at any time over the last two decades. There is no longer a top four set in stone, but a top six, with Liverpool and Spurs closing in all the time. Abroad, in addition to the traditional European powers, clubs like PSG and Monaco can compete at the top end of the market. Some are of the opinion that United can afford two seasons outside the Champions League places, but they forget that Liverpool are ahead of schedule in their evolution, that Spurs will eventually get it right in their choice of manager, and Arsenal are more willing to splash the cash these days, plus they still have Wenger. Players are driven by money to a large extent, but they also want to be on the biggest stages. An inability to offer CL football means the club will have to pay a premium.

In addition, United’s success on the commercial side, which the Glazers have gleefully exploited, is hinged entirely on serial victory. Once that exterior begins to come apart, revenues will be hit. For a club that has been either the most valuable or second most valuable in world football for years and years, the decision making process regarding Ferguson’s successor has been a clear disaster.

How could it be possible that the next coach of such a big club was between just two candidates? Why was a thorough search not conducted in order to make the best possible choice? Why was the biggest decision in nearly three decades at Old Trafford, essentially left to one man? This practice of simply pulling names out of thin air appears to be common in football according to this article, but it is probably compounded by the fact that the Glazers don’t know a lot about the football side and just outsourced that part to Ferguson.

The time has finally come for both the Glazers and Ferguson to admit that this experiment has been a failure, and use the summer to make amends. It would be a huge mistake to hand over significant transfer funds to ‘rebuild’, when 65 million pounds has already been used to acquire Mata and Fellaini, but the team still play like zombies who have never met before.

The most important signing United can make right now is a new coach who has a clear, progressive plan that gets the best out of the players already at the club, and those who will be signed. Under David Moyes, Manchester United are going nowhere fast. The time to cut him loose is now.

If this does not happen, Alex Ferguson will continue to watch many more games with a grim look on his face, in circumstances mostly of his own making. He may yet live long enough to see everything he worked for utterly rubbished by a man he handpicked. God forbid.

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City’s record breaking scoring season.

On Saturday, Manchester City scored another 4 goals to beat Watford 4-2, to avoid an embarrassing exit from the FA Cup. This now brings the number of goals they have scored this season, in all competitions, to 110 goals in 36 games.

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This brings their goal average to just over 3 goals a game. If it feels like a lot, it certainly is. Manchester City have the added distinction of scoring the most goals by any team after 22 games of a 38 game Premiership season.

22 games

I created both those graphics with Datawrapper, but could not import them here, hence the need for screen shots. Both graphics are here and here.

If you notice from the last graphic, the team with the second most goals after 22 games are the City side of 2011/2012, coached by Roberto Mancini. Last week, he took some of the credit for the exploits of the Citizens in front of goal this season, since he brought in the core of the side Manuel Pellegrini has used to such devastating effect so far.

Indeed, the core of that 2011/2012 side is still very much in place, and they have a very good chance of breaking the record for the most goals in a Premiership season, set by Chelsea in 2010/2011, with a total of 103 goals. They are only 40 goals behind this tally with 16 games to go, and they must fancy themselves to set a new mark.

Beyond that, City look certain to win at least one trophy this season. They lurk ominously behind Arsenal in 2nd place in the EPL and are in the final of the League Cup. In the 5th round of the FA Cup, they face a hard to beat Chelsea side. In addition, a double date with the mighty Barcelona in the Champions League makes for a packed February and March. The real tests are coming thick and fast. Fortunately for them, they score goals so freely that they always have a chance. If only they could tighten up a bit in defence.

Romanticising stability

That famous Steve Jobs quote about how you can only connect the dots backwards has gotten me thinking. I remember Ferguson standing in the centre circle at Old Trafford and saying: “This club stood by me through tough times, so stand by your new manager”, and I think he had a feeling about what was coming. He may have known that David Moyes would test our collective patience, but he may not have known the extent. Old Trafford, once a venue where giants of domestic and European football were beaten, has now become a place where teams like West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle and Swansea pick up points. To add insult to injury, Roberto Martinez, who became coach of Everton and replaced Moyes, came to Old Trafford and collected three points. Everton currently sit in fifth, four points ahead of a team with vastly more resources, with over half of the season gone.

It may be that Ferguson saw part of himself in Moyes, but it is unclear what it was, exactly. Moyes turned 50 in April, but by the time Ferguson was 50 (in 1991), he had broken the Rangers-Celtic dominance in Scotland over a decade earlier. Ferguson won three of Aberdeen’s four Scottish League titles to date, before embarking on a rescue mission at Old Trafford. Upon taking over the team on 6th November, 1986, United were 19th out of 22 teams in the English First Division, and had not won the league for 19 years. If there was anyone in Britain who could say he wanted to knock Liverpool off their perch and mean it, it was Ferguson. He knew the mentality required to break an established order. He also knew the mentality required to sustain one.

This is the context within which we must assess Moyes. He has been given one of the biggest clubs in the world to manage, a team that finished 11 points clear of their nearest rivals less than 9 months ago. No amount of preachments and shibboleths can erase these facts. It therefore stands to reason that the parameters used to define ‘patience’ in the late 80s at Old Trafford, cannot possibly be the same parameters in 2013.

I would be the first to admit that had Moyes taken United straight into another title fight, I would join others in applauding him – and Ferguson – for masterminding a nearly seamless transition. However, this is not the case, and the time for an inquest is at hand. Indeed, it has already begun.

The managerial stability at Old Trafford is legendary, and is no doubt a thing of pride for its supporters all around the world. There have been 20 changes of authority in the dugout, but Real Madrid by contrast have had 60. In fact, there have been 27 managerial appointments at Real Madrid since Ferguson took over in 1986, which is more than all the managers United have ever had. A similar pattern plays out among many of Europe’s top clubs.

Having said that, there is such a thing as stability for the sake of stability. The three managers before Ferguson had a total of 14 years between them: Tommy Docherty (5 years), Dave Sexton (4 years) and Ron Atkinson (5 years). They only managed three FA Cups, Atkinson winning two of them and Docherty the other. In fact, Atkinson, who preceded Ferguson, had league finishes of 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 4th and 4th in his five full seasons in charge.

This is not 1986. United have a lot more to lose now than they ever did, and they also have the example of Liverpool’s decline as a cautionary tale. While Anfield sleepwalked through the 1990s and 2000s, living off the occasional cup winning high, United arose, as well as Chelsea, and Manchester City. Wenger’s savvy has seen Arsenal remain competitive, and Liverpool now find their route back into the big time blocked by these four teams.

My suspicion is that some think United have one or two seasons to allow Moyes to get things right. If this ‘patience’ comes at a cost of missing out on Champions League qualification in back to back seasons, it becomes a lot harder to attract the kind of players that can take a team to the next level, something Liverpool are finding out. Professional footballers love money, but they also want the glory, and they know that in today’s hypercommercialised environment, both go hand in hand. With teams like PSG, Monaco and City able to splash the cash, in addition to the traditional European powers, United are far from the only ones looking for – or able to afford – top talent.

One thing we know about the fall of empires, is how fast things can unravel. In theory, much of what Ferguson spent nearly 27 years building could be significantly eroded inside five years. He could yet live to see his legacy irreparably tarnished. The irony of this would be that it happens under the watch of a man he personally recommended to take over from him.

Some would say that Ferguson earned his right to choose his successor, but as far as the Glazers are concerned, it is probably as much a payback for his support for their regime, as anything else. I would be surprised if they are not privately wondering if that was a mistake.

Under Moyes, Manchester United have set unwanted record after unwanted record on the field, taking confidence among the players down with it. It is not just that results have taken a turn for worse, it is also that there is no consolation of having played well. Dire results, dire performances.

By all accounts, the Glazers are prepared to back Moyes substantially in the transfer market, but the kind of players United needs are hard to come by in January. On current form, the club may be unable to offer new recruits Champions League football next season. Therein lies the problem. One minute you are Premier League champion, the next minute you could be struggling to retain your place at Europe’s top table.

Of course, it is still possible that Moyes turns results around, secures Champions League qualification, and marches on with aplomb. It is possible that we could look back a year from now and wonder what the fuss was about. It is also possible that we look back and remember that this is where it all went wrong.

As for Ferguson, the words of Harvey Dent come to mind: “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”.

My running playlist

For me, running is the best exercise. Maybe it is the constant movement, but I love it. I also run hard. Every time I run, I try to beat my last time. In this quest, music is a major ally. Below are a list of 13 songs I use when I run my 10k, most of which are drawn from Fall Out Boy and Linkin Park.

I don’t care – Fall Out Boy

Thks Fr Th Mmrs – Fall Out Boy

Beat It – Fall Out Boy: This song is an amazing take on the original. It is done at a higher tempo, driven by Patrick Stump’s delivery.

America’s Suitehearts – Fall Out Boy

Alpha Dog – Fall Out Boy

Eyes of the Tiger – Survivor: This song is not too up tempo, but the lyrics are compelling. In addition, you get to feel like Rocky when you run.

A place for my head – Linkin Park

One step closer – Linkin Park

With you – Linkin Park

Don’t stay – Linkin Park: Having Chester Bennington scream in your ear is very motivating.

W.A.R.R.I.O.R. – Ebony Bones: I first heard this song when playing FIFA 2011, and the high tempo got to me. It makes you feel like a warrior too.

The Phoenix – Fall Out Boy: This joint is from their most recent album, ‘Save rock and roll’, and it is in keeping with their other tracks on my playlist: energetic and funny.

Big things poppin – T.I.: This is my power song, and T.I’s intensity is the reason for it.

I am in the process of putting together another playlist, so if you run regularly and have any suggestions, feel free to put them in the comment section. On the other hand, if your New Year resolution is to exercise more, a few of the songs above will definitely help.

Watch what you say

The book of Proverbs, and the bible in general, is full of admonitions to watch our utterances. Words, once uttered, cannot be taken back. This is perhaps even truer in the age of social media. A tweet can be retweeted several times, same with a video. Once you hit ‘send’, you are no longer in control.

There is an irony in here somewhere. Social media invites us to spill our guts, to reveal more and more of our thoughts, but simultaneously exacts what in some aspects could be a disproportionate punishment for revealing those same thoughts. The result is that we have to constantly exercise our own internal filter, lest we end up begging for mercy from friends and strangers alike. All of a sudden, we are discovering that having an audience is not all it was cracked up to be.

A private joke that may have been shared with just a few people not that long ago, ends up being viewed by thousands, courtesy of a few retweets. For example, Justine Sacco’s ‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!’ tweet sounds like something that would have been sent to a friend by text message, but she happened to tweet it before getting on a plane to Cape Town, from London. By the time she landed, she had lost her job and became one of several examples in 2013 alone of people who have said stupid things and had to take them back, but not before paying a high price.

Martin Bashir, who was then a commentator with MSNBC, went overboard on Sarah Palin and had to resign. Alec Baldwin also had to leave MSNBC after homophobic slurs. His new show was just five episodes in. Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Robertson family who have a reality show called ‘Duck Dynasty’, was briefly suspended from the show following his own remarks about homosexuality.

Just yesterday, Bright Okpocha, popularly known as Basketmouth, posted a joke on his Facebook page that appeared to make light of rape. The joke goes as follows:

White girls:

1st date: Coffee

2nd date: Kiss

3rd date: sex

African girls:

1st date: Fast food

2nd date: Hug

3rd date: Chinese restaurant

4th date: kiss

5th date: Attempted sex but failed

6th date: Shopping

7th date: Cinema, new phone, more shopping

8th date: Attempted sex but failed

9th date: RAPE!!

There are two obvious problems with this: First is the racial undertone. Mr. Okpocha seems to suggest the average African girl is more materialistic than her Caucasian counterpart. This is a separate issue that could be an entire post on its own. The more grievous matter is the flippant treatment given to rape. Now, anyone who follows the news with any regularity in Nigeria, or merely interacts with people on a regular basis knows how prevalent rape is in Nigeria. In general, Nigeria has a big problem with violence against women. This violence takes many forms: psychological, physical and economic, to name a few. Anything that appears to make light of this very real problem will have to be subjected to scrutiny.

By its very nature, art lends itself to a variety of interpretations, and what Person A sees in an art form may not be what Person B takes out of it. Even so, all art operates in a context. In the Nigerian context, based on the havoc rape has caused and continues to cause, jokes about it are never funny.

What makes it even worse is the ‘apology’ offered up by the comedian, which went like this:

Ok guys, I’m sorry about the rape joke, I won’t crack such jokes again, I’ll just stick to jokes about Men being able to marry under-aged girls in Nigeria. #Rimarima

That does not sound like remorse to me, and it suggests a lack of sensitivity to his surroundings. He could have chosen his words a lot better. We all owe it ourselves to be careful in our speech.

Contracts and coup plots

The following passage is from Page 8 of Max Siollun’s ‘Soldiers of Fortune‘, a book I strongly recommend for anyone interested in Nigeria’s history.

Civilian-military tensions went beyond meddling. The Shagari government received numerous warnings of coup plots against it. The Director-General of the National Security Organisation (NSO), Umaru Shinkafi, detected up to ten coup plots against Shagari. However, most of them were nebulous intelligence ‘chatter’ that the government could not act on. The overt exception was a coup plot detected in 1983, and incited by one Alhaji Bukar Mandara. In 1983 the commander of the Brigade of Guards in Lagos reminded his men during a parade that they were duty bound to report any knowledge they had of coup plots against the government, and that any soldier who failed to report a coup plot to the authorities would be punihsed in the same manner as the plot’s ringleaders. Shortly after the parade, a soldier present at the parade walked into his commander’s office and informed him that Mandara was trying to recruit soldiers from the brigade to overthrow the government.  Mandara had previously been awarded a contract to supply food to the brigade but became aggrieved when the contract was revoked in 1979 following the restoration of civilian rule. He decided to get even with the government by inciting a military coup to depose it. Mandara was arrested and convicted of treason, but on appeal was subsequently released due to a technicality involving the venue at which the charges against him were brought.

One of the things the above passage makes clear is that there were those civilians who benefited a lot from the military, and wanted to see them continue. Generally, any system which stays in place long enough will create those with a vested interest in its survival. Military rule was no different.

Secondly, it is very ironic that Mandara was released based on a ‘technicality’, the kind of technicality that could only exist in a democracy, the very same that he tried to overthrow.  If he had tried to plan a coup during a military regime, he would simply have been shot. Luckily for him, he lived to be 81, passing on last year.

Finally, Max Siollun is a very good historian. His first book, Oil, Politics and Violence covered the years 1966-1976. You can get it here.

I urge you to read both.

Could David Mark become the PDP candidate?

In the last one week, there has been a lot of buzz around Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the speaker of the House of Representatives, being given the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC). As of this moment, however, Tambuwal remains a member of the PDP, but there is every reason to believe this will change soon.

Tambuwal represents Sokoto state, which is now firmly in the APC camp. The current governor, Aliyu Wamakko, is one the governors who defected to the APC recently, along with Attahiru Bafarawa, the immediate past governor. In addition, Tambuwal attained the position of Speaker under his own power, back in 2011. That position was zoned to the PDP in the South West, but Tambuwal outmaneuvered Mulikat Akande-Adeola, who was the choice of the party.

It is ironic that Tambuwal became speaker by violating the same zoning formula that Jonathan violated by becoming the PDP candidate. That indeed is the cornerstone of the split inside the PDP, and the reason why the APC is possible. Zoning.

Nigeria’s Fourth Republic is founded on an agreement that power will rotate between North and South every eight years. That agreement was derailed, first by Yar’Adua’s ill health and eventual passing, and then by Jonathan’s insistence on running. Even that came at a considerable cost, with the fact that he had to outbid Atiku for delegates, and the subsidy regime that became a free for all.

He also had to make a pledge to be in office for only one term, and his refusal to officially honour that pledge is driving defections to the opposition party. The longer he stays silent, the more the defections will be. If the PDP in the North become dramatically weakened, the APC’s presence in the South West will be too high a mountain to climb. As per the rotation agreement, Northern politicians appear to have resolved that one of theirs becomes President again in 2015, PDP or not.

To this end, making Tambuwal the APC candidate makes sense. Buhari has had three or four pops at the highest office without success, and it is time for a new face. It also helps that Tambuwal became speaker under his own power, and as such has maintained a certain independence from the Presidency. For example, the probes into the oil industry in 2012 were done from the House of Representatives.

So, if we assume that Tambuwal becomes the APC candidate, we have to imagine what a response from the PDP might be. Note that this is very, very different from 2011. Then, the opposition were still consulting and holding meetings in the days before the Presidential elections, this time they have a merger in place and functioning, over a year to the elections. Needless to say, a year is a long time. It can be used to get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet and prepped for the battle ahead, as well as sharing the posts that need to be shared to keep everyone happy.

The question then becomes: Does Jonathan decide to force through his candidacy yet again? Or does he save face by proclaiming himself a one term president and using the remainder of his time to push through crucial reforms? Or the third option: Does he go to a primary and lose, so that a Northern candidate can emerge?

In the event that options 2 or 3 happen, I think David Mark could become the PDP candidate. He is from the North Central zone, a Christian, and could split the Northern support enjoyed by the APC by getting minorities – who are mostly Christians – on his side. This also enables him to enjoy support in the South, making him quite competitive. However, it may not satisfy the ‘Core North’ who prefer a Northern Muslim.

So, does the PDP go with a person who is increasingly unpopular in a whole region, or someone who has a chance everywhere? All of this is just a thought experiment, and I am curious to see if anyone else thinks it is likely.

The case against David Moyes

At the risk of stating the obvious or being a sucker for punishment, let us assess where Manchester United’s results in the Premiership so far this season.

  • After 20 games, this is the LOWEST points total United have ever had in the league (34 points)
  • In the same season, they have lost FOUR home games. Note that in the whole of the last three seasons combined, the number of home defeats was five.
  • This season alone, Everton got their first win at Old Trafford in 21 years, West Bromwich Albion their first win in 35 years, and Newcastle their first win in 41 years.
  • United have lost back-to-back home games for the only the second time in EPL history, and the first time since December 2001 (3-0 to Chelsea on December 1st, 1-0 to West Ham on December 8th)

Let me be clear: no one who follows United would have expected a straight continuation of the successes of the Ferguson era, but no one expected such a dramatic decline from last season. Those who support Moyes have taken refuge in the argument that he needs more time to build his squad, that he needs more money to buy players, and that the squad itself is not good enough, but that argument does not wash for a number of reasons.

  • This group of players is a title winning side. They actually won the title last season. They didn’t come 2nd, 3rd or 4th. They came first with 11 points to spare. After 20 games last season, this SAME group of players had 49 points. This season it is 34. A 15 point drop cannot just be written off by a ‘poor squad’.
  • After leaving Everton, Roberto Martinez was appointed to replace Moyes at Everton. His last act at Wigan was securing one of the biggest FA Cup upsets of all time by beating Manchester City. The progress of Martinez – again with largely the same group of players – is as big an indictment as there could possibly be of Moyes. Martinez has maximised the players at his disposal (which is the purpose of every manager, by the way) and this is also borne out by the numbers. After 20 games, Everton are a full five points better off than they were at this stage last season, and are playing a much more open, refreshing style than it was under Moyes. In addition, they are actually above United in 5th place. Of course, this may not last till the end of the season, but there is reason to suggest that any money spent on the squad will yield dividends.
  • There is an even worse indictment to come: Moyes did indeed have money to spend in the summer. He spent it all on Marouane Fellaini, who played under him for five years at Everton. Moyes should know this player. He should know how best to use him. Alas, the opposite appears to be the case. Where he has played, games frequently pass by the Belgian in the middle of the park, a position he plays for his national team. He appears leaden footed, unable to influence games at all. For the grand sum of 27 million pounds.
  • A key part of United’s title winning campaign last season was the signing of Robin Van Persie, who scored many of the goals that were so important in the first half of the season. Previously known as an injury prone player, he has been constantly available since the second half of the 2010-2011 season, playing a massive part in securing Arsenal’s top 4 status for back to back seasons. In 2010-2011, he played 1,770 minutes. In 2011-2012, he played 3,331 minutes. Last season, he played 3,123 minutes. So, over the last two seasons, he has appeared in every single EPL game. 72 of them from the start, 4 of them as a substitute. Enter David Moyes and his entire back room staff, and Van Persie has played just over half the available minutes. The reason for this is an overly strenuous training regime that essentially fixes – or rather, breaks – what was not broken. Van Persie was fine before Moyes, now he can’t stay fit. And United do not have one of their best players available because of this. Of course, this has been a blessing in disguise because Danny Welbeck finally gets to play as a striker, rather than on the left wing, and is expectedly excelling at it. He now has 5 goals in 5 EPL games.
  • However, there is further evidence of incompetence when charged with the task of keeping players fit. Wayne Rooney is currently struggling with a groin problem, and rather than let it get better, he was once again left on the pitch for 90 minutes against Spurs, eventually ending up in midfield with Shinji Kagawa. Van Persie’s latest injury was also the result of being used for 90 minutes upon his return. When you do not have your best players fit, the team suffers. Rushing them back simply replaces one problem with an even larger one.
  • While those who support Moyes say he should be given money to buy players, he has clearly made a mess of his first transfer window. In addition, if his use of the squad he has at his disposal is anything to go by, it is unlikely that investment in the team will do anything other than paper over the cracks. David Moyes has no obvious philosophy, no clear idea about how he wants to play on the field, which would influence his signings, selections and substitutions. He does not have the identity of a Rodgers, Martinez, Wenger or Simeone, to say nothing of people like Klopp, Bielsa or Guardiola. If he does not have a philosophy, then it explains the failure, so far, of Marouane Fellaini. After all, if you are not quite sure how you want to play, it then means the pattern of signings will appear an ill-fit for the team you want to create.
  • Lastly, let us talk about this issue of patience. Of giving a manager time. A lot of people give the example of Alex Ferguson, who won the title after spending seven years with United. However, a lot of people also forget that as manager of Aberdeen in Scotland, he was a serial winner. He won 3 Scottish titles, 4 Scottish Cups, 1 Scottish League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup, beating Real Madrid. He had earned the right to ask for time. The good results of Roberto Martinez so far, with his old club, and his former players, is also a serious indictment. You can clearly see that Martinez knows what he is doing. You cannot say the same for Moyes. Let us also not forget people like Simeone, who joined Athletico Madrid in December 2011, won the Europa League in May 2012, won the Super Cup in August 2012, and beat Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey in May last year. When he took over at the Calderon, Athletico were 10th, 21 points behind leaders Real Madrid. They ended that season 5th, and finished 3rd last season. Now, they are level on points with Barcelona and five points clear of Real, having broken their very poor run in the league against them.

There are more examples I could give, but suffice to say that while some managers deserve time, others do not. I do not think David Moyes deserves time. If the Glazers think that he does, that is perfectly fine. I just hope their books can accommodate not playing in the Champions’ League for at least one season. The top 3 are gradually moving clear, leaving 4th -8th to fight it out for the remaining place. As it stands, United are 5 points behind Liverpool. That gap is not at all insurmountable, but the margin for error is reducing.

The price of inaction could be 50 million pounds. At least.

On resolutions

As the year comes to an end, there is the usual reflection, as well as the vote of thanks. The end of every year increasingly seems like an award speech, especially in this age of social media where everyone has their own platform

“I would to thank (insert name of awesome person in your life here) for making my 2013. Let’s do it again in 2014”

And so on, and so forth. There is something…cute about it. It is said that an unexamined life is not worth living, and it also appears that at no time is a life examined more than at the end of a calendar year. Some people share the lessons they learned and thank those who made an impact in their lives, while others, like me, prefer to adopt a watching brief and dwell on such matters internally.

Along with the reflections and everything else, there are also the resolutions. Lots and lots of them. Perhaps because of the difficulty of keeping resolutions, an increasing number of people prefer not to make any, and in addition, mock those who do. I see resolutions as a recognition by those who make them, that they could be better people, and that they could do certain things better. This is always a laudable aim, irrespective of whether it is reached or not.

Alain de Botton said it best:

“We might be tempted to mock the public nature of resolutions.  Why resolve things at New Year? Why tell people? Precisely for the same reason that we tend to go in for public marriage: because it can be useful to back up our own resolve with the pressure that stems from the expectation of others”.

I also think that the rush of optimism people feel at the start of the year, makes them feel anything is possible, so they make all kinds of pledges to themselves. Again, nothing at all wrong with that. At the very least, some of those who make resolutions will keep them.

In the spirit of resolutions, there is one I have been thinking about for some time. I read a post by someone who said his life changed dramatically when he wrote 1,000 words every day for one week. The post is here. It is the kind of thing that intrigues me because on some days, I feel I could easily knock out 1,000 words, but due to laziness, being busy – and Twitter – I let things evaporate 140 characters at a time.

Ah. Twitter. That most wonderful and dangerous of mediums. An enabler and a trap rolled into one. I opened my account in 2009 and tweeted very sparingly, but in 2011 I did 36,003 tweets. That is 3,000 tweets a month. Or 100 tweets a day. A day. In 2012 it came down to 31,460 tweets, a number still far too much. This year? 16, 920. 2013 has been very busy for me. In between hours and hours in traffic, the second semester of my PGD, first semester of my M.Sc and a couple of projects I played a part in, my time for Twitter dwindled. I am happy about that, but it needs to reduce even more. Even on days I don’t tweet that much, I often just watch my timeline scroll by on Tweetdeck. It takes away time from other things I could be doing. Like writing 1,000 words. Or reading one of the many books I have, but have not yet gotten to. This latter affliction is called Tsundoku by the Japanese. Funny, if you take away the ‘T’ and the first U, you get Sudoku, which is the puzzle.

In an interview with the New Yorker, Clive Thompson, the author of ‘Smarter than you think’ had this to say:

“The one complaint about the Internet that I wholeheartedly endorse is that most of these tools have been designed to peck at us like ducks: “Hey, there’s a new reply to your comment! Come look at it!” And if you don’t develop good skills of mindfulness—paying attention to your attention—it can really wind up colonizing much of your day […] The whole reason these services need to peck at us like ducks is that their business models are built on advertising, and advertising wants as many minutes of your day as possible”.

So, my aim this year is to write and read more. A lot more. And tweet a lot less. I have always admired people like Paul Krugman and Seth Godin, who manage to post every day. I would like to get to the point where I write compulsively, like the way I feel about running 10 kilometers. It will help a lot because since I am going to be a journalist/writer/etc, it makes it easier for me to come up with things. Writers block be damned.

So, I have only managed about 800 words right now, but that to me a good start. Long may it continue.

'The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.' — Joseph Joubert

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