Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - 'The Damned Utd' is a novel penned by British author David Peace archiving Brian Clough's tumultuous 44-day tenure in charge of Leeds United in 1974.
Clough, widely regarded as the best English coach to never manage the national team, replaced legendary boss Don Revie at Elland Road. Revie, who guided Leeds to First Division titles in 1969 and 1974 as well as an FA Cup crown in 1972, was revered throughout England upon his appointment as England manager following the 1973-74 season, while Clough's arrival at Leeds did not come without turmoil.
It was a curious hire given Clough's outspoken criticism of Leeds, a team he branded "dirty" and "cheaters" during his successful stint at Derby County and an impressive season at Brighton & Hove Albion. Those comments appeared to act as a harbinger for Clough's time at Leeds as he was behind the eight-ball from the beginning.
As the story goes, Clough suggested the Leeds players, in his first training session as manager, throw out any awards they had won during their time with Revie, opining that they had not won them fairly. He proceeded to commence a small-sided game, to which star player Billy Bremner scoffed and pointed out that it was a drill that Leeds had never done under Revie's command. Clough, eager to put his own stamp on the club and emerge from Revie's shadow, threatened severe punishment to any player who mentioned the former Leeds manager's coaching methods again.
Clough ultimately never won the respect of his Leeds team, which still had emotional ties to the success it experienced under Revie's guidance. What followed was a brief and hugely disappointing spell for Clough and the club as Leeds, reigning champion of England's top flight, began the 1974-75 season with just one win in seven matches.
Peace's novel was turned into an acclaimed feature film released in 2009 titled "The Damned United," starring Michael Sheen as Clough and directed by award-winner Tom Hooper.
And a sequel may be transpiring before our very eyes.
There are many parallels between Leeds circa-1974 and Manchester United 39 years later.
Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the greatest manager of all-time, stepped down from his post as Manchester United boss last summer after nearly 27 years on the job. He assumes the role of Don Revie in this analogy.
David Moyes replaced Ferguson with United after a largely successful 11-year stint as Everton manager. Much like Clough at Derby, Moyes often overachieved at Everton given that he was made to work on a shoestring budget, and the Scotsman helped turn the Toffees into a model of stability in the Premier League. While Revie did not hand-pick Clough as his successor, there is enough of a correlation to allow Moyes to assume the role of the former Derby boss.
Moyes, eight months into his United managerial career, already has lasted longer than Clough at Leeds, though it's safe to say that results at Old Trafford have not met the high standards set by his predecessor, a similar scenario to what happened at Elland Road in the 1970's.
After winning the Premier League title last term, United's poor form this season has dropped the club to seventh place through 29 matches, leaving the Red Devils 18 points behind first-place Chelsea. By comparison, Leeds finished ninth in the top flight in its first season without Revie.
United has been out of the title race for some time, but things just seem to keep getting worse for Moyes. When a 2-0 loss at Olympiakos in the first leg of its knockout round Champions League tie seemed like rock-bottom, United went on to suffer a humiliating home defeat to Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Supporters, pundits and even some United players appear to have lost confidence in Moyes. There was a rumored falling-out between Moyes and Ryan Giggs, United's longest-serving player who has strong ties to the Ferguson era. Though the Welshman has vehemently denied such occurrences, it is impossible not to be reminded of the faction of Leeds United players rejecting Clough's methods.
One advantage that Moyes has compared to Clough in his brief stint at Leeds has been the backing he received from both the club and Ferguson himself. And while many have speculated that Moyes could be sacked if the club fails to advance from Wednesday's Champions League return match, the United manager remains unnerved.
"My future has not changed one bit," Moyes said in a press conference ahead of the home tilt with Olympiakos. "I have got a great job, I know exactly the direction I want to go in.
"(Ferguson) has been incredibly supportive," Moyes continued. "I speak with him regularly and I see him at the games. I always have a few minutes with him. He is very supportive. He told me before I came in it was a difficult job, but he is always here to help. Him, (director) David Gill, (vice chairman) Ed (Woodward), all the board are very supportive.
"The biggest assurance is that they let me get on with the job, we never discuss it (Moyes' position). We talk about the future, we are making big plans for years going forward. That is why they gave me a six-year contract because this is not a club that works on a short-term vision, it works on a long-term vision."
Moyes is absolutely correct in his analysis of the rather long leash he has been given. Manchester United is precisely that kind of club, not one to make such decisions on a whim.
Leeds was not quite as loyal, parting with Clough at the first sign of trouble. But perhaps Leeds would have been better served to weather the storm with Clough, or at least probe for a way to better the club's situation, like reuniting Clough with longtime assistant Peter Taylor. After all, Clough did go on to guide Nottingham Forest to back-to-back European titles in 1979 and 1980 with Taylor at his side.
And for additional evidence of the benefit of patience, look no further than Ferguson's early tenure as United boss. The Red Devils were battling relegation early on in Ferguson's time at the club, but the former Aberdeen manager was afforded the time and patience necessary to lift the club out of the abyss and to the Promised Land, a move that paid off in spades. There is no reason why the same approach cannot be taken for Moyes.
But regardless of what the future holds for Moyes and the Red Devils, it is incredibly interesting to consider Leeds United's situation nearly four decades ago and wonder whether another Damned United club is heading for the same fate.