When Winning Is Losing

There’s no such thing as a sure thing. Even when you’ve got your hands on the prize, you can find yourself unceremoniously booted out the door. By Kannan Chandran

In the high-stakes, high-profile sports management arena, Louis van Gaal has been unceremoniously dumped from his position as manager of Manchester United.

Winning the FA Cup over the weekend wasn’t enough to help the Dutchman keep his job. Two years into his three-year contract, the American owners of the club were not overly impressed with the dour football on show.

One would have thought that after the David Moyes horror show following the Alex Ferguson era, van Gaal couldn’t have done worse. While he hung on to his job for a longer spell than Moyes, it didn’t help his eventual fate.

Van Gaal’s story is reflective of life and business, to some extent.

You can win the battle but that doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy the spoils of war.

Too often there are many variable factors in play that will help to derail your intended goal, even if you reach it.

For instance, owners who have their own notion of what should be achieved with their money. Or who change their minds mid-way because they have been distracted by something else, or someone else.

In van Gaal’s case, it is said to be Jose Mourinho, the man both revered and reviled by Chelsea who is waiting to take his place in the hot seat at United. After his last calamitous spell with his players and the fans, “the chosen one” has been eyeing the next club to woo with silver tongue for silverware.

Fickle fans are like shareholders who are easily swayed by market sentiment. And no matter how many notes you scribble on your clipboard, unless its translated into action on the pitch, the herd mentality will prevail, and they’ll be baying for blood.

So the merry-go-round of sports management has been taken to the next level. Van Gaal’s exit was perhaps expected, more so than Leicester City winning the English Premier league. But it does show that in times of uncertainty, you should expect more uncertainty.

If it’s any consolation, van Gaal walks out a winner.

Photo: Mitch Gunn

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