Today Sven-Goran Eriksson claimed he accepted an approach from Manchester United to replace the retiring Sir Alex Ferguson in 2002.
It’s an intriguing admission. Firstly, it suggests Eriksson was willing to break his contract with the FA as England manager in order to take the helm at Old Trafford. Not only does this bring into question his own loyalty, but also casts an unflattering light on the Manchester United. If the Swede’s claim is true, it reveals the disregard the club’s board showed towards the FA by making the move in the first place.
However, of perhaps greater interest is the extent to which it suggests Sir Alex Ferguson’s thoughts on his replacement changed. Upon his eventual retirement last summer, Ferguson frequently discussed his appreciation for the management style, so similar to his own, of his replacement, David Moyes. Such a sentiment could not have been echoed in the case of Eriksson, whose manner and outlook differs significantly from the Scot.
While it is easy to forget now, back in early 2002, Eriksson was regarded as a foreign footballing luminary. He was being credited for securing qualification for the World Cup in South Korea and Japan, while simultaneously dragging England out of the tactical dark ages they had been operating in under previous manager Kevin Keegan.
Over the intervening 11 years, Eriksson’s reputation has waned dramatically and he is no longer in contention for managerial jobs in either of English football’s top two divisions. As a result, when Moyes was appointed Manchester United manager, Eriksson was in China, taking charge of Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F. How times change.