I apologise in advance that I’m drawing loyalty lessons from football. I know there might be many of you here who do not care for football. I get it. But frankly, I don’t know what you are doing with your life if you don’t love football. It is akin to hating bacon or pepperoni pizza. Your joy can’t be full.
I swear by Manchester United. The club is a special gift to mankind. Back in the days of the hunter-gatherer, life without United was nasty, brutish and short. But the Good Lord saw fit to lighten the sorrows of man and bestow on humanity Manchester United. For your enlightenment, Sirs Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson have had a far greater influence on history than William Wilberforce and Sir Winston Churchill. Sir Winston Churchill won one war. Fergie won a treble. And if Roy Keane had been Prime Minister, Brexit would not have happened. So, it is only fitting that I draw my treatise on loyalty from the admirable folks at Manchester United.
Harry Maguire is a center-back ( central defender) at Manchester United. He joined Hull City for £2.5 million in 2014. Then he joined Leicester City for £12 million in 2017. In August 2019, he joined Manchester United for £80 million, a world-record fee for a defender. In January 2020, manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer made him club captain.
It’s a fairy tale. The type we pray for in our careers.
The problem is, Harry Maguire can’t lead a colony of ants to a sugar farm or motivate a parliament of owls to stare.
Maguire is spectacularly average. When I compare him to previous club captains like Eric Cantona, Roy Keane or Nemanja Vidic, I want to slit my wrist.
This season, under Maguire’s leadership, Manchester United has conceded 56 goals in all competitions. And Maguire has started in all but one match.
This is Manchester United for Pete’s sake!
I have no doubt that Harry Maguire is a good chap. He may even be a great bloke. Helpful, fun and great to hang out with. He is also a decent defender. He is in no way calamitous.
But he is no £80 million defender. More like a £35 million defender. That’s no fault of Harry though. He didn’t buy himself. The fault lies with Ed Woodward. For a top-rated commercial guy, Ed is worryingly susceptible to daylight mugging.
Most United fans would prefer Bruno Fernandez as captain. He’s a brilliant player. He is influential on the pitch. And he has passion.
But Harry Maguire is Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s ride-or-die partner. Ole is sticking by him as captain despite our displeasure. If he’s fit, he’ll play every match. Even with his public indiscretion in Greece last summer, he still retained the captain’s armband. Maguire will have to boot Ole’s dad in the groin and stab his mother in the eye before Ole strips him of the captain’s band.
That, my friend, is how loyalty plays out.
Loyalty isn’t necessarily about competence. It shakes out in three ways.
One, it is about saving face. If you made a bad hiring decision, you stick to that hire for as long as reasonably possible lest your judgment is questioned. No manager likes his judgment to be questioned. Especially when you’ve committed the business to a huge investment. Doubt about your decision-making will chip away at your respect and eventually, authority.
Two, loyalty is also about protecting a hire you brought in. I mean, you convinced the said employee to leave his current employment. He joined your company because of you. It is only fair that you don’t leave him high and dry when the storm rages.
The third element is chemistry. The hire may not be the most competent but senses what you want. He understands you. And hearkens to your instructions. He may have a different opinion, but he cedes authority and power to you. Doesn’t ruffle your feathers. Doesn’t bristle at your rebuke. Every manager likes that.
Here is a piece of career advice for you. If your new head of department or managing director brings in a hire that is struggling or not competent enough, be on the good side of the boss. Help and support the hire. Because the boss isn’t going to cut that fella. Nope. He is responsible for him. He’ll protect him at all costs for the three aforementioned reasons.
There’s a lot more at stake in loyalty than competence. Emotions play a significant role. People hire friends. They hire who they know and can trust. And there is also ego, authority and pride at stake.
So, best get with the programme. Ole is never going to ditch Harry Maguire. Not as long as he’s the manager at Manchester United.
Don’t fight with the boss’s hire. You may not lose but you’ll never win.
Except you’re Lionel Messi, of course.