Why Richard Keys' five-year Man Utd managerial plan is a truly terrible idea

The presenter has suggested that the Red Devils should try and lure Xabi Alonso to the club as their next manager.
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I once pitched, only half-jokingly, a regular column for this site called 'Through The Keys Hole', in which I would make it my devoted mission, upon the publication of every single Richard Keys blog post, to dissect them with a proverbial fine tooth comb so as to try and unravel the tangled machinations of one of the most unerringly unhinged minds in sports broadcasting. It was rejected, and in retrospect, I am glad.

You see, deciphering the thought processes of this mundane bedlamite, who swans about the Middle East like the unsettling result of what might happen if Alan Partridge and Hasbulla fell into that gene-splicing machine from The Fly, is simply too much tensile pressure for the average human mind to withstand. What do you mean that Manchester City should bring in Sam Allardyce on a temporary basis because they drew with Leeds United, or that Rafa Benitez should be using his own personal wealth to fund Newcastle United's transfer business? Make it make sense, please!

Anyways, at the risk of cracking our collective inner psyche, allow us to delve, together, into the hirsute presenter's latest harebrained outburst. Keys, in his finite wisdom, has been casting a beady eye over the current palaver engulfing Manchester United and - if you can believe this of him - is of the opinion that he might have found the perfect solution to the Red Devils' ongoing woes.

Speaking, this week, on beIN Sports - where else? - he said, with a straight face: “Right now, Manchester United should go to Leverkusen and say to Xabi Alonso, ‘We want you to come to Old Trafford, we will give you Saudi League money and we will guarantee you five years.’ Fergie had when he first went to Manchester United. He for me is the individual that might just be enough to get something going.”

Now, before we go any further, please understand this; in an ideal world, Xabi Alonso probably would be a dream managerial appointment for United. The Spaniard has been nothing short of revelatory since assuming the helm at Bayer Leverkusen, and it is with good reason that he is being touted as one of the next great footballing brains in the professional game. So far this season, his side are unbeaten in 20 matches across all competitions, and since his graduation into first team management, including a prior stint with Real Sociedad, he boasts a loss percentage of just 29%.

But to suggest that he would simply abandon it all and waltz into Old Trafford on the promise of a five-year contract and a hefty transfer kitty is, at best, downright delusional. United are a club in a perpetual state of self-inflicted turmoil. It wasn't so very long ago that interim boss Ralf Rangnick claimed that their entire operation required 'open heart surgery'; in the time since they have barely managed an eyebrow threading.

As manager after manager gets thrown under the bus, and optimistic new dawn after optimistic new dawn has slowly descended into a monsoon on a salt flat, it is becoming apparent that there is a serious, systemic rot at the heart of the club that is preventing it from rekindling its former glories.

In all likelihood, a manager of Alonso's blossoming pedigree would have a better chance of taming these bugbears than most, but why on earth would he willingly risk reputational ruin by accepting a poisoned chalice from the monkey's paw (my mistake, that's just Richard) and taking a swig? This is a man who, if he were to continue on his current trajectory could quite easily be in line to succeed Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid, or Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. United, in their current guise, simply do not compare.

On some level Keys must recognise this, because his stroke of evil genius is to lure Alonso in with the promise of half a decade of job security and the kind of untold riches that only his Middle Eastern paymasters can afford. This is, for the sake of absolute clarity, a misplaced scheme. Firstly, five years in hell is worse than one year in hell, and secondly - and I really can't believe that I'm having to write this because it should be very, very obvious - United do not have that kind of money readily available. If they did, they would have spent it already. In fact, part of the reason they don't is because they have spent it already. Whether it be through poor financial handling or pure stinginess, there is a reason why the Red Devils have essentially been reduced to one, maybe two, big signings every summer. That won't suddenly change just because Xabi Alonso and his designer stubble have moved into the penthouse of The Lowry. Not everybody gets a wheelbarrow of oil-stained bank notes magically deposited into their current account every month, Richard.

The thing is with United and their lingering predicament is that they are only ever going to dig themselves out of it when they start to properly acknowledge their newfound standing amongst the hierarchy of the Premier League's upper echelons. It is both naive and damaging to prolong this masquerade that they are still somehow capable of attracting the very best talents in global football. They are not, and as with anything of this nature, the first step is admitting that. Then, and only then, will they have a chance of making the kind of realistic appointment that can actually encourage them back onto a path of steady, upwards progress.

Really though, the proper death knell for Keys' latest bout of verbal nonsense was the reaction of those on the punditry panel opposite him; Jason McAteer, incensed; Dwight Yorke, slack-jawed and stunned into bewildered silence; Andy Gray, non-committal. Do you know how bad a Richard Keys take has to be for Andrew Mullen Gray to not overtly or vocally agree with it? Let me tell you, dear reader, pretty bloody bad.