For many of you familiar with my writing, I am apt to use analogies as a tool to explain the goings on at United FC. Whether it was comparing United’s search for a goalkeeper to NBC’s vetting process for Steve Carrell on The Office or likening Sir Alex’s “Squeaky Bum Time” to a few different Eminem songs, articles like these are a specialty of mine.
One of, if not the, best shows currently on television is AMC’s Mad Men. Winner of the Emmy for best drama four years running, the show focuses on the 1960s era ad agency Sterling Cooper (Draper Pryce). Following the show’s return to cable, it got me to thinking that many of the characters on the show reminded me of members of the current United first team.
The main character of the show is Donald Draper, who is the highest paid executive at the agency and is in charge of the creative department. His double on Manchester United is none other than Wayne Rooney. While Rooney may lack the good looks that Draper has in spades, both are relied upon to provide the creative spark to their respective outfits. Rooney, like Draper, has had his issues with monogamy and have been tempted to leave their jobs for more money at a close competitor.
During the first season of Mad Men Sterling Cooper’s big rival was McCann Erickson, who wanted to poach Draper and in the process reduce Sterling Cooper’s comercial appeal significantly. Similarly in the fall of 2010 Manchester City attempted to persuade Rooney to join them and inso doing castrate the United attack and take away one their rival’s all-time best goalscorers. Fortunately for both Sterling Cooper and Manchester United, both Draper and Rooney decided to stay where they were, but not before using their potential moves to get a healthy pay rise.
One of the most crucial players to United’s successes this season is Michael Carrick. In previous seasons Carrick has not been viewed as an important player to the team’s success but following injuries to Anderson and Tom Cleverley Carrick was thrust into the middle of the United set up and has proved many of his doubters wrong. Similarly Lane Pryce arrived at Sterling Cooper to much fanfare but found himself over the course of the third season to be disliked by much of the staff in spite of his essentiality to the company. Eventually his role at the company became truly appreciated when he was able to fire Draper, Sterling, and Cooper so that they could start their own advertising agency at the end of the third season.
Pryce is not the most exciting character on the show nor is he generally well-liked by those who watch it as well as his coworkers at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. And yet his knowledge of budgets and finance proved to be absolutely essential to the company staying afloat during the fourth season. Not ones for frills or extravagance, Pryce and Carrick both exemplify the “get the job done” mentality crucial to any company or football team’s success.
At the end of the third season, account executive Pete Campbell finds himself feeling unwanted and considering his options outside of Sterling Cooper. While he feels as though he has acquitted himself well, those above him in the corporate hierarchy remain unimpressed as they know he is capable of much more. Just as Campbell divides opinion among his fellow employees, Luis Nani does the same amongst the support of Manchester United.
Most supporters are aware of the fact that Nani offers something different to the first team that no other player in the squad is capable of. This season supporters have seen both what Nani can do to enhance the thesis of football as the beautiful game as well as the Portuguese’s ability to be more infuriating than a picture that refuses to hang straight. During the first episode of the fifth season, Campbell proves that he is deserving of the mantle of top account executive at SCDP formerly occupied by Roger Sterling, much in the same way that Nani has proven the same of inheriting Ryan Giggs’ role as United’s chief wide threat.
And with that, it is only logical to move into the comparison of Giggs with Sterling. Both men even in their advanced age have a penchant for marital infidelity and a constant pursuit of younger women. During the heyday of Sterling Cooper, Roger Sterling brought in and serviced most of the clients at the company. Similarly Giggs was the primary contributor to United’s success with cross after cross setting up countless goals throughout the past 20 seasons. Both still play important roles at their respective jobs, and can still provide the skills from their respective primes in doses.
The most eccentric and least understood character on Mad Men has to be without much doubt Bert Cooper. To be completely honest, I am not even sure what his formal role at the company even is. With that said, his presence at the company has in the past proven vital to its survival, just as Dimitar Berbatov’s contributions have been in seasons past to United’s reign as the top team in England. Both Cooper and Berbatov are misunderstood by the less clued-in as surplus to requirements. But as Berbatov proved last season with his 20 goal haul and Cooper showed in leading the group out of the clutches of McCann Erickson at the end of the third season, both proved their immense worth.
Berbatov and Cooper in the present day appear to be on their way out of their respective jobs. Both are craftsmen better suited to a bygone era and have seen their roles eliminated as the companies change their points of emphasis. SCDP is looking to modernise and hire more minorities, even though Cooper has proven himself to be a bit of a racist and womanizer. Comparably, Berbatov is reminiscent of a striker that would have prospered in the mid 90s United teams that were not focused on pace so much as methodical buildup play. Now that Sir Alex has demonstrated that the squad is moving more in the direction of a faster style centered around movement and the resulting necessity for players to swap positions effectively, Berbatov finds himself on the bench or out of the squad on most weekends.
One of the more remarkable aspects of United’s 2011/2012 campaign has been the rise of Jonny Evans. Slagged off by most of the support as a player who lacked the requisite class to prosper at the club, Evans was left for the scrap heap as many preferred new arrivals Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. And yet this season Evans has proven that he may be the best of the young defenders at the club following the formation of a successful partnership with Rio Ferdinand. Similarly Harry Crane, much the forgotten man at Sterling Cooper, found himself stuck behind better equipped coworkers, but managed to make himself crucial to the company’s success.
Both Crane and Evans are capable of embarrassing gaffes and are generally still disliked amongst viewers and supporters alike. In spite of their mistakes, both play key ancillary roles (as much of an oxymoron as I am sure that sounds) at their respective jobs and seem impervious to criticism.
If one were to say the names “Freddy Rumson” and “Michael Owen” to a Sterling Cooper employee or to a United fan, a warm smile would open up as both bring back some fond memories. Rumson is remembered well for his addiction to alcohol, his generally obscene ability to make merry, as well as his visionary support of Peggy Olson, the company’s first female copywriter. Owen, similarly, will remain a permanent fixture in the recent history between the two Manchester teams for his late, late, winner in the Old Trafford derby in 2009. While it is not well-documented, it would surprise me to find that Owen has not had a tremendous influence on the rise of Chicharito, United’s first Mexican player.
But as both have certainly provided shining moments for their respective employers, each have also become increasingly peripheral as others surged to the forefront. Rumson was dismissed in season two and returned during season four, but remained ineffectual. Correspondingly Owen has found himself in and out of fitness and has yet to play any role in the first team after scoring versus Leeds in the Carling Cup last year. What the future holds for Owen is still a subject of debate, the player at least believes he will be around next season.
Kenneth Cosgrove starts out in the first season of Mad Men as a very promising account executive at Sterling Cooper. His undoubted charisma and good looks, as well as his calm demeanour, give many the impression that nothing is ever wrong. Cosgrove’s composure in the board room assists in his rise through the ranks and earns him a role as joint-head of accounts at Sterling Cooper. Eventually he is promoted to head of accounts, but is not able to hold down the role for long as the company is sold again, along with parent company PPL to McCann.
Meanwhile, Tom Cleverley has drawn similar plaudits for his play at United. His professional footballing career has been followed by many around the club and is believed by more than a few to be the heir to Paul Scholes’ throne as midfield metronome-cum-attacking midfielder. Like Cosgrove, Cleverley left United for a year to test his abilities away from the cocoon of Old Trafford and came back a better player. Similarly Cosgrove took a job with another agency after Sterling Cooper became SCDP and returned in the next season with more accounts and proved a valuable asset to the company. Both Cosgrove and Cleverley have much untapped potential and appear poised to play increasingly crucial roles as their company and team continue to evolve.
And finally, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and Peggy Olsen bear a rather strong, if surprising, resemblance to each other. Neither Hernandez nor Olsen arrived at United or Sterling Cooper to much fan fare. Olsen, through her inspired work as a secretary-cum-copywriter, became the first female copywriter in the company’s history. Similarly Chicharito through his impressive performances for his local Mexican side Chivas and Mexican national team, showed flashes of potential that led to United snatching him up for an estimated six million pounds.
Both by the end of their first full seasons of real involvement proved to be invaluable assets to their respective company and team. Olsen became the creative foil for Draper in the same way that Chicharito became the perfect muse for Rooney. While their superiors get most of the credit, the support that Olsen and Chicharito provide is absolutely essential to the success of SCDP and United. Both display an incredible appetite for their work and show remarkable effort, even if that earnestness can lead to both being caught offside more than their coworkers may like.
Manchester United and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce at present find themselves in similar fights for survival in their classical castes in their respective fields. United face a stiff challenge for their 20th title from their crosstown rivals and SCDP continue to fight for their identity of being a creative-focused agency that maintains an emphasis on being different. And while obstacles certainly exist, if history is any indication of what is to come, it would not be unreasonable to expect success for both. As Winston Churchill once put it, history will be kind to them, because they intend to write it.