The Chosen One or The Wrong One?

Posted on April 11, 2014 by


Manchester United Manager David Moyes has been having a tough time of it recently. With Fergie’s big shoes to fill, UP’s Alan Clark, Senior Recruitment Consultant (and footie fan) takes a look at the process (or lack of) behind Moyes’ appointment.

Alan Clark

Alan Clark

As an avid football fan, this season’s English Premier League season looks like it will come to a fascinating conclusion with the race for the title a three-way shoot out between Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool (unfortunately my team Arsenal have drifted off the pace!)  And for the first time in many years, Manchester United are not in the shake-up and will not qualify for the Champions League next season after defeat by Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals.

Having been crowned Champions less than 12 months ago, the decline in their fortunes has largely been attributed to the change in manager and the new incumbent David Moyes has been subject to much criticism, with some supporters and journalists even suggesting he could be sacked, despite being given a 6 year contract in the summer.

The board of directors have also been heavily criticised for appointing David Moyes, which led to the much publicised banner unfurled at the back of an aeroplane over Old Trafford recently stating he was the “wrong one” and demanding he be dismissed.  This was in stark contrast to a banner heralding his arrival at the start of the season, describing David Moyes as the “chosen one.”

Personally, I believe he needs to be given time to make the necessary changes to the squad and to implement his ideas before a decision can be made as to whether he will make a success of his new role.  However, as a recruitment professional, I do think that a number of questions can be raised about the quality and robustness of the recruitment process Manchester United undertook when making this key appointment.

When news broke that Sir Alex Ferguson was retiring, it almost immediately emerged that David Moyes would be his successor.  As the story goes, Sir Alex visited David Moyes at his home where he confided that not only would he be retiring, but that the reason for his visit was to offer him the job of following in his footsteps.  For such a key appointment, I must confess I found this approach strange.

In our role as recruitment advisers to our clients, we would always suggest that companies make use of personal networks and contacts to encourage prospective applicants for a role.  However, it is imperative that those candidates identified through this route are then assessed fully and rigorously against the competency framework developed for the position.  I would have expected the board of directors to fully consider the job and what it entails with a view to developing a comprehensive job description for the role.  This is something that my HR colleagues at the Urquhart Partnership help a number of clients with to ensure it captures behavioural competencies as well as the duties and responsibilities of the post.  Once this has been developed, typically companies will embark upon an attraction strategy in order to “sell” the job to prospective applicants and ensure it reaches the right target audience.  Thereafter, a shortlist can be drawn up and a comprehensive assessment of the candidates against the competency framework can take place in order to identify the most suitable candidate.

footbal in goalAt the Urquhart Partnership, we assist clients in developing such assessment centres, tailored to the job requirements and often incorporating psychometric assessments, in order to provide rigour to the recruitment process and to aid the hiring process as it is well-known that making the wrong hire can be costly, both financially and in terms of time.  For instance, consider the cost to Manchester United should they decide to jettison David Moyes in the summer with 5 years left on a lucrative contract.

Though it is too early to say whether Manchester United have made a costly error in appointing David Moyes, certainly it can be argued that the recruitment process could have been more robust.  When Sir Alex Ferguson advised the board of his pending retirement, it appears that the process was as simple as a recommendation to the board, presumably followed by an interview.  However, in order to ensure they had identified the right candidate to match the credentials they were looking for, it surely would have made more sense to carry out an attraction strategy in order to identify other potential applicants for the position as well?  By assessing a pool of suitable applicants against the set criteria, they would then be able to make an informed decision based on the data gathered and could feel confident that they had appointed the best the market had to offer.

So the debate will rumble on about David Moyes.  There is no doubt that, given the circumstances of him becoming the Manchester United manager, he is “the chosen one”.  And had he been seen to earn the right to manage Manchester United having come through a competitive selection process his position may be more secure.  However, for now, we will all have to wait and see whether he is the “wrong one” and interestingly from my perspective, the recruitment strategy they choose to adopt the next time round (whenever that may be!)