How big a mess did Manchester United make of the PR around their change of manager? On Saturday evening, just a matter of minutes after Manchester United had won the FA Cup Final, the BBC and other media outlets were reporting that Louis Van Gaal had been sacked and that Jose Mourinho was set to take over.
Astonishingly it was Monday before the Club actually confirmed that Van Gaal was leaving. The official announcement of Mourinho’s appointment didn’t happen till the end of the week. It seems that one of the reasons for the delay is that Manchester United are listed on the New York Stock Exchange and are therefore bound by that institution’s strict rules on the disclosure of any information which may affect the share price. English football clubs and their managers, it would seem, are now multi- national brands.
Sadly, this is not the first time that Manchester United have messed up the PR around a managerial sacking. Two years ago they got a lot of criticism for announcing the sacking of David Moyes on Twitter.
It also says much about modern football that some media outlets have suggested that Mourinho’s appointment owes as much to his ability to generate social media traffic as it does to his skills as a coach. One of the reasons for the delay in Mourinho’s appointment was that he and the club had to come to an arrangement over his image rights!
One of the issues highlighted by this affair is that high profile organisations like Manchester United can no longer maintain a silence on big issues. The 24/7 news cycle means that stories will often break at a time that is inconvenient to the organisation. However, if you don’t make any statement all you end up doing is allowing other people to set the agenda. Manchester United’s silence led to more, not less, coverage of the story in the press and on social media. It also meant that the club lost control of the story.
For Manchester United’s sake, they had better hope that the players score fewer own goals than the owners have done.