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Andrew Redfern

Twitter predicts who should replace Sir Alex Ferguson @ Manchester United

Whilst we are sure the Glazers are not frantically scanning twitter or the blogosphere looking for advice and opinions on who should replace Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager it definitely makes for interesting reading.

Journalists and players giving glowing tributes to a man who is arguably the greatest club manager in history, Evertonians lamenting the loss of their manager, the odd shell-shocked United fan wondering why on earth Sir Alex is quitting because of hip-hop. It's all there for everyone to see. The era of 24 hour sports news means rumours are magnified and reaction instantaneous, it can make for a huge amount of background noise and separating the wheat from the chaff an insurmountable challenge.

It is for scenarios like this HitSearch developed their unique reputation management tool. A tweet or a blog post is a drop in the ocean but our system is purpose-built to sift this data to analyse and make sense of the underlying sentiments. Tested successfully against demanding projects such a presidential elections (analysing swing-state political activism to gain a feeling for which voice was gaining sway between Democrat & Republicans) and reality tv (successfully analysing volumes of support and criticism ahead of weekly phone-votes) the model can be applied to sport at times like managerial changes and transfer deadline days.

The table below illustrates which target people tweeted about and how positive or negative the tweet was. A total of over 300k tweets in a 24 hour period.


The reaction for Sir Alex is undeniably positive, it would be remarkable if rival fans were able to drown out the praise for him given his unparalleled record of success. The bookmakers quickly installed Everton manager David Moyes as the likely successor however overall the reaction to him getting the job is more mixed. Sentiment analysis initially returned neutral assessments and analysis of the raw data backed this up with a mix of praise and wariness plus negativity over the prospects for his current club Everton.

Positive and Negative

Reaction for the other viable candidate Jose Mourinho was actually more positive then for Moyes but perhaps because of his links with the Chelsea job the volume was significantly lower.

Pic Chart

Whilst the public mood counts for nothing at board level it might be worth wondering what would have happened if more attention was paid to the public mood ahead of appoints such as Steve Kean at Blackburn Rovers and Rafeal Benitez at Chelsea.

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