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Prayaag Akbar is Associate Editor of The Sunday Guardian

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Mancunian Empire

David Moyes

he news filtered in, coming to us not quite o'er the glens and dales and distilleries of Scotland, but certainly wrapped in a warm kilt, and with the strains of a solitary bagpipe, faint and funereal, announcing the beheading: the Goggle-Eyed Prince of Mancunia (House Moyes; Motto: If anie ay mah players has a nicht wi' mah lass he's goin' loaned oot tae Cardiff) was finally gone.

In the corner, the greatest of the Scottish lairds, the Red knight Alex of Ferguson—not executioner, just the man who sat in the directors' box as the sword sharpened and sang his assent as it came thundering down—rumbled and grumbled. Young Goggle Eyes was a lad of his choosing, of course, and it would not do for Alex of F to appear less than godly in the adoring eyes of the dolts of Mancunia. He would have to find someone else. Someone more like himself. Not just someone who sounded like him, or went that same winestain purple when in anger, because both these tasks Moyes performed with aplomb, but someone who could win like him, again and again, win in great style and ceaselessly into the beyond, as the pretenders to his throne came and went and the Professor who stayed withered away, muttering, as they straitjacketed him, about a very long injury list.

The problem was this new feller, whoever he was, should win, but not quite as much as Sir Alex. There was tell of a Iberian prince, battle-hard already, victorious on grounds far and near, who had wanted the job so badly that he dissolved to tears when he heard it'd gone to the ginger jester. But Prince Jose (for that was his name) had never lost his habit of victory, and if he won in the grand manner of Sir Alex then perhaps the bards would sing of castle and not king, and that double decade of overbrimmed cup and chalice would be forgotten, lost to the annals of grainy footage, even as that rakish Dago was proclaimed.

Decades later, when the historians gathered to study the full fall of this once mighty empire, they wondered at that folly: just how could they have let a man choose his own successor? And that was not the worst of it, for Ferguson was then so admired across the globe—that temple of shifting knowledge, Harvard Business School, had anointed him sage—that his manner of succession was copied in various lands, by regals and regents both. Yet, as if it was the Goggle Eyed's curse, always the same disaster befell those involved.

The problem was this new feller, whoever he was, should win, but not quite as much as Sir Alex. There was tell of a Iberian prince, battle-hard already, victorious on grounds far and near, who had wanted the job so badly that he dissolved to tears when he heard it’d gone to the ginger jester.

There was Thom Yorke, or Transistor Face, invited by bonny Bono to take over his global position of Hector the Hectorer. That mission was simplicity itself: when a decade past the point of any lingering musical relevance, you must start to travel the globe, lecturing all and sundry on topics of which you know nothing, getting your insight in-flight and gifting policy advice to darkies everywhere, free of charge and free of demand. Yorke proved a perfect fit for the job, bereaving the bereaved of any remaining joy in their lives until that tragic day he was discovered in a deluxe suite in Hotel Rwanda, Food Aid packets strewn about, choked on a cloud of self-satisfaction.

There was Manmohan the Mute, who left as his successor Modi the Modern. Modi did turn out to be modern, but not in a sense anyone outside his PR bubble was familiar with. Though the anxious scribes who feared publicly for their quills and parchment were proven wrong in the end (for they had overesteemed their own impact upon the populace, and he did not care a whit what they had written or would write), Modi's idea of modern turned out to be quite less than that, shaped as it was by the gents in khakhi hotpants who stood alongside him. And so it became that the ladyfolk stopped wearing denim, and his Internet warriors became the chosen, and miscreants wielding sticks went chasing into bars, beating Indian women black and blue to protect the dignity of Indian women.

The saddest of these, of course, was Martin GRR, who wrote beloved tales of muscled knights clashing, and comely maidens disporting, elegant stories of great derring-do, gallantry and pomp, hardship and heartache, but who, sweetly and softly, ham-sandwiched his way to a heart attack. The TV fellows panicked, and threated to run amok; but his wife said, 'I'm sure, his last cry was "Chuck"'; and so they went out and got the Fight Club chap, himself half-crazy, Mister Palahniuk. Now Chuck was known to break a taboo or two, but he wasn't quite ready for Martin's world of death and paedophilia and rape and incest and incest tinged with rape. The ending of that series, with its myriad characters turning out to be in one insurance salesman's head, is perhaps literature's dampest squib.

The lessons of history are drawn from the telling, and perhaps some of the learning we can glean today would've been of use back then, on that fateful day when the mandarins of Mancunia went back to their puce Scotsman and asked if he had someone else in mind. We all know what happened then—Ferguson's choice of Shebby Singh baffled many even at the time. Shebby had seemed somewhat out of his depth during his stint as Global Adviser at Blackburn. In fact Shebby had seemed somewhat out of his depth as an "Expert" Commentator on ESPN Asia. Yet they stuck with him, the Mancunian faithful, because Sir Alex had asked. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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