Some (female) tweeters have expressed exasperation at the amount of coverage given to David Moyes' sacking. I'm not sure they're right. Football is about more than 22 men chasing a ball. It also lets in light upon what is normally a shadowy but key feature of capitalist inequality - the role of management. So, in the spirit that every news item demonstrates what I've known all along, here are five lessons of Moyes' tenure at Manyoo.
1. "Nobody knows anything." There's a parallel between David Moyes and Gordon Brown. Both were widely seen at the time of their appointments as good successors to successful longserving leaders, and in both cases that widespread opinion was subsequently revised. (Contrast the reaction to Moyes' appointment to the "Arsene who?" headlines when Wenger became Arsenal boss.) This suggests that identifying successful leaders is like venture capital and the movie business: "nobody knows anything." As Marko Tervio has shown, this fact alone can generate inequality, because hirers will prefer to pay over the odds for known mediocrities rather than take a risk on unproven geniuses.
2.The contrast effect matters. Objectively, David Moyes' record at Manyoo wasn't too bad - especially if, as Danny Finkelstein stresses (£), we take account of the statistical noise surrounding such a small sample of results.But it looks bad because of the contrast with his predecessor's record. The message, as Andrew Hill says, is: "Never, ever, agree to take over from a legend."
3. Organizations matter more than individuals. The truth is that the Manyoo team isn't very good. Only three or four of them (Rooney, Mata, Van Persie and De Gea) would get into the first 11 of a top four side, and they won the league last season because their rivals were in transition rather than because of their own brilliance. Danny's right to say: "In most cases it is impossible to separate the success of a business leader from that of his or her team, from market conditions and from the strength of the product." Or as Warren Buffett put it: "when a boss with a good reputation takes over a business with a bad one, it is the business that keeps its reputation."
4. Competitive advantage is fleeting. Manyoo lost theirs because their rivals improved - in most cases by spending a lot of money. What's true in football is true in business generally - albeit at a slower pace thanks to market imperfections. Even giants die eventually.
5. Matches matter.Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, not least because a weakness is just a strength redescribed*. Moyes' misfortune is that his weaknesses - tactical caution and an inability to manage egos - proved more damaging than expected. This suggests that the job of finding a new manager is often misdescribed. The trick is not to find the best man but rather to find the right match - the man whose weaknesses won't hurt the organization too much.
There is, I think, a common theme here. It's that our attitudes to business leaders are coloured by cognitive biases and a failure to acknowledge bounded knowledge. Such attitudes might do more to sustain inequality than they do to promote effective organizations.
* For example, boldness is recklessness, attention to detail is pedantry, consistency is inflexibility and so on.