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BridgelessGeorge

The Mihail Davies I knew by Oliver Taylor

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Notes by the Author

 

People always ask me to tell them about Mihail Davies. As one of his few friends and confidants I have several stories to tell about him. I decided to write this book not only as a biography of the man but also as a tribute to the most fascinating person I have ever met. Mihail has been informed about everything I have written in this book and I have ommited per his request anything and everything he felt I had no right to write about. Tactical explanations, interviews, training philosophies, player analysis, rants, moments of triumph, ugly moments, surreal moments... there is a little of everything to be found in this work.

If you want to find out about Mihail's youth this is not the book for you. This book will start the 18th of June of 2018, the year he was appointed as Manager of Manchester United. Neither will you learn of his life after retirement, In the final chapter I will offer my theory about why he retired but not a single word will be written about him after that day. Mihail thinks of this period of time as the only meaningful part of his life and claims that spending time on other periods of his life makes no sense.

Being a highly controversial figure there are many scandals that need to be addressed. Whenever such a controversy appears in his career I will provide his statements about the matter has he has told them to me unless he has desired not to have them published.

This book offers coaches insight into the brilliant mind of a great manager, football fans loads of anecdotes about the sport's greatest non player celebrity and the average reader a biography of a larger than life figure. His tactical decisions explained by the man himself, his opinions on many famous footballers and managers past and present and his way of understanding football are all here for the reader to enjoy.

I hope that this book will shed some light about the most succesfull Man UTD manager since Sir Alex Ferguson and I hope the reader finds this an enjoyable read. 

 

Foreword by Mason Greenwood

 

I owe a lot to Mihail Davies, he formed me as a player and helped me to achieve a great deal of success with my club and the national team. I can not say that I was a friend of his by any measurement but there was a deep understanding between us. He understood what he could expect from me and I understood what he expected from me. Some may think that it was therefore a cold relationship but those people are missing the point. Mihail Davies understood football and helped me understand it. I was shaped by the man's efforts and that has left a veritable mark in me. 

Because of the nature of his appointment as manager many pundits didn't think he would last on the job but I had been working under him since I was a kid and knew exactly what Mihail was all about long before anyone outside of the club. Man Utd was not in a good place at the time but he proved to be just what we needed to get back to the top and yes there were some moments that one would be better forgetting and most of them had to do with Mihail's character but in a way it was the price he payed for his brilliance.

Opinionated, Eccentric, Driven, Assertive, Insane, Genius, Simpleton, Maniac... Many words have been used to describe the man but perhaps none of them fully encapsulates his nature. How could they? He was a once in a century kind of person and I was lucky to be born at the right time to be taken under his wing.

In this book Oliver does a fabulous job of recounting Mihail's life and career and helping the reader understand him as a person, a manager and a football fan.

 

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Mihail the football fanatic

If I had to describe Mihail as a fan I would call him monomaniac. Back in university I would bring up several topics of conversation from Literature to cute girls but the one thing he was interested in was football. He would tell me about his favourite teams from the past or the present or rant about the games from the day before in energetic fashion but once the topic of conversation changed into something that had nothing to do with football he would remain silent, his gestures for me to continue talking where the only thing that made me know that he was in fact listening to what I was telling him.

He owed several books and documentaries on football and had watched and read them all several times. He would often daydream of going to the famed "football university" of Coverciano in Italy. "If I had been born Italian" he would tell me "I would have done like Arrigo Sacchi and joined Coverciano so that I could turn myself into the best coach in the world". Indeed Mihail always praised the Italians when it came to football. "The Italians understand football because they study it, other nations don't do that. They train football but they don't study it."

Whenever we met someone I knew, he had few close friends other than me, he would inmediatly try to talk about football and would often show a dissapointed expression if this third person had no interest in the subject or could not follow the conversation.

However, the reader shouldn't think of him as some idiot savant unable to strike a conversation. He was a well educated man, an avid reader and very quick to learn things. the few times he interjected something during conversations revolving about something other than football his responses were well elavorated and backed by his previous knowledge of the matter. He simply held football in a much higher regard than anything else.

One curious thing is that before becoming a coach he never had a team he supported. To him the outcome of the game did not matter, only the game in itself was worthy of mention and study. "If I support a particular team I am depriving myself from all others, I can't do that Oliver".

Mihail always had a queer sort of contempt for the average football fan. As most people will remember, he called the Cardiff supporters "a bunch of drunk morons" during his first year in charge of Man Utd but this was not reflective of his opinion about the people of Cardiff in particular, he thought of most football fans as drunk morons (and for him getting drunk and being a moron were one and the same) and Cardiff just happened to be the team he was playing against. It was a nasty side of him, he knew that when it came to football he was above most people and had no problem stating his perceived superiority.

"They are only good as ambience and a source of income for the clubs" he once told me in private "other than that they should shut their mouths and let me do my job". I guess this revelation (if it could be called as such) will have angered a few readers, if there is anything to say in his defense for such comments I should say that this was not a case of spiteful hate but more of poorly worded indiference.

I have watched games with Mihail many times and he is a very active viewer. He is always trying to impart orders into the players on the screen. "stop taking stupid F***ing shots", "pass the ball around", "Show him to his left foot". In home as in the bench.

He didn't watch much female football or kids tournaments. He claimed kids din't know how to properly play football and considered women teams to be inferior to their male counterparts. "We were here first, we learned first and evolved. They need to catch up. The best female team can't beat a strong male side, they haven't been trained well enough, long enough, hard enough". This is not to say he thought of women as inherently inferior to men when it came to football, he believed they could be just as good "Their problem is that they only started taking football seriously this decade. They are too far behind but they can catch up if they make the same efforts as the men do". Still he refused to watch female football since he found it to be "not good enough".

I realise how elitist he sounds but allow me to (risking to make this seem as damage control) defend him one final time before we move on to his first year as a manager. You have all heard the phrase easily satisfied with the best. Mihail was like that, when he had to choose between two games to watch he would choose based on who were the "best" best for him meaning "most interesting", he didn't think of the second game as bad he just thought of the first game as better. That was his view on women and kids playing football, they weren't bad but there were better options.

Edited by BridgelessGeorge

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On how he became a Manager

Not long after entering university Mihail started trying to get a job coaching football, he was already training kids in his local club and was working towards a FA level 3 license. At the time he was also writing a sort of coaching manual that would eventually develop into his famous "Bible". After he achieved his level 3 license fortune would smile at Mihail when a vacancy appeared at a regional Man Utd affiliate youth club and he quickly made a move for the job. 

The men in charge of sorting out the candidates were impressed by his passion and the efforts he directed into getting the job, perhaps most remarkable was an almost 50 page long pseudo-dissertation on the development of youngsters into "well-rounded players" (as he put it) and the exercises that would deliver the best results. Mihail based this work on previous studies made by other coaches but added his own views on football and several hypotheses he favoured at the time to produce a document that impressed the judges. He was given the job after long deliveration.

However, he soon found himself having to wrestle with the other coaches over his methods. With his usual arrogance and faith in his ideas Mihail called the previous methods at the club "primitive, damaging misconceptions" and insisted that all coaches should adopt his ideas for the good of the kids and the club. Naturally he made no friends during his time at the club. He became frustrated with his inability to train the kids as he wanted and would often rant against his co-workers for what felt like hours.

Things became very tense at the club with Mihail often badmouthing his fellow coaches in front of the kids and ordering them to not pay attention to their counselling and tips. The coaches made a formal complaint against him and Mihail responded by contacting anyone at Man Utd willing to listen to him and acussing the coaches of negligence and bad faith.

Mihail was fired from the club after only a few months but his decision to contact Manchester United proved to be a brilliant move since Charles Ross the U14s manager, a man looking to modernize the way kids were trained at the club, took notice of him and signed him as a coach. After two years at Manchester United Mihail was made the U14s Assistant Manager and had much more of a say in the way the kids trained. 

Charles Ross gave Mihail quite a lot of freedom when it came to training but Mihail was still kept on a leash, he was not allowed to try every single idea he had and Ross had the ultimate say on matter regarding training but he was much happier there than in his old job.

Then his 23rd birthday came and Ross took a leave to be with his newly born daughter. Mihail was given the job of substituting Ross during this time and finally having the ultimate say he started his own revolution at the Man Utd U14s. He had his youngsters training with the ball at all times and rejected purely physical exercises in favour of intensive routines of exercises on the ball. He also focused in exercises involving a whole team of 11 players or duels between small groups of attackers and defenders. 

He was very strict and demanded focus and intensity from all his players both during the training sessions and during the matches. He encouraged his players to practice other sports aside from football. All things considered he was very dutch in his approach at the time. He had his kids playing in a wide 433 with a Defensive midfielder and had them pressing high and retaining the ball. 

At the time Mihail was thinking about jumping ship and training a senior team in the lower divisions but then an unexpected turn of events tied him to Manchester for years to come.

It all started with a row between Mourinho and the Board. As a result the portuguese manager was sacked and a replacement had to be found. There were three main candidates Zidane, Conte, and Solskjaer. Nobody thought of Mihail as a manager of the senior squad, after all he was not even the manager of the U23s, almost nobody outside of the club knew about him.

Perhaps remembering his previous experience in England, perhaps because of the comfortable job he had gotten his hands on Solskjaer was the first to decline. He was a fan favourite for the seat and his refusal was not something the Board expected. Zidane also declined the job stating that he wanted to take a vacation from football and was not ready to return so soon after leaving Real Madrid. Antonio Conte was ready to accept the offer but he made several demands and wanted a huge salary that not all members on the Board were ready to give him. After much deliveration a vote took place and Conte's offer was rejected.

Man United started looking elsewhere. Pochettino seemed more interested in speaking with Florentino Perez if he was to leave Tottenham. Someone proposed Ryan GIggs as a candidate but he was deemed as not good enough. Time was running short and Manchester United lacked a manager so an eye was cast to the youth managers as temporary managers untill a proper manager was found.

But even then Mihail Davies had no chance of getting the job, Nicky Butt and Neil wood were aproached but Nicky Butt was sceptical of his posibilities as a Manager so he decided to stay in his current role in the club. Neil Wood was much more eager to accept but several members of the board saw this as a bad move. And then, on June 11th the man known as Mihail Davies made his move. Just as he had done years prior to gain his first coaching job he made an appearance before the Board with several papers that detailed his time as an assistant manager then manager for the U14s as well as his vision for the senior team and a detailed analysis of how the team had finished second and how he would go around making them champions once again. He was inmediately dismissed as a charlatan and not much thought was given to his proposals.

Mihail Davies tried again the following week and the week after that one. After many attempts and with July right around the corner the board made a radical decision, at only 25 years of age Mihail Davies was appointed interim Manager for the preseason. His role was to get the players ready during the summer until a proper manager was found before the first Premier League fixture. There were several things Mihail davies was unhappy about, most having to do with the fact that he would only be receiving a 300,000 pounds per year contract, "an insultingly small sum of money for a manager of such a prestigious club" he told me. All transfer decisions would be taken by the board and he couldn't have his own assistant manager. The message was clear, Mihail was only a temporary act, all his efforts had failed to properly impress the board and he wouldn't stick around by september.

This first treatment he received from the Board would shape his relationship with the Glazer family for the early years of Mihail's career, Mihail would always feel insulted by any trivial decision the Board made and the Glazers would keep trying to find a replacement with a better reputation than him.

On Saturday the 29th of June 2018 Mihail Davies was announced as the Manager of Manchester United to a mixed reception of bafflement and ridicule from the media. But rather than be discouraged by all this Mihail rose up to the challenge, I never did see him as motivated as during that summer of 2018.

Edited by BridgelessGeorge

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