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David Cameron or Ed Miliband - Who's the Alex Ferguson of British Politics?

15/01/2014 09:44 GMT | Updated 16/03/2014 09:59 GMT

There are some key factors in building successful teams in politics, sport and business - and Ed Miliband might be stealing a march on David Cameron in one area.

Successful sports teams are often long in gestation: Sir Clive Woodard's Rugby World Cup winning team of 2003 first had to fail in the tournament four years earlier; Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester took six years to win the league and he survived a near-sacking halfway through that time.

Like these sides, Ed Miliband's team has survived some torrid times and is beginning to look more comfortable and could deliver results in 2014.

Great team managers are ruthless in discarding players who are past their sell-by date and replacing them with hungry, talented, if untried younger charges.

It is notable therefore that Emma Reynolds and Tristram Hunt were to the fore in the media over the weekend, giving sure-footed performances. Indeed, in his flagship Telegraph article, Miliband name-checks both, along with Rachel Reeves (who makes a well-trailed set-piece speech next Monday).

And it's notable who he doesn't mention: Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Dougie Alexander and Andy Burnham, who occupy four of the key posts in the Shadow Cabinet and are veterans of the last Government, are all absent.

Meanwhile, David Cameron's team is beginning to look very reliant on wise old heads. Remember, two of his predecessors as Conservative Leader are in the Cabinet, and most posts are filled by MPs who have been in Parliament since 2001 or before.

There's a danger that like Ferguson's final Premier League title-winning side last season, when the legs of the Giggs's and Scholes's go, those replacing them are either too inexperienced or just not good enough.

Ferguson had the luxury of leaving David Moyes to deal with the mess; Cameron may not be so lucky. All of which makes any reshuffle after May's local and European elections vital.

The credentials of the likes of Sajid Javid, Nicky Morgan, Matt Hancock et al (mainly Osborne supporters) have been variously touted, yet they've all had to settle for junior posts so far.

Cameron may well need to call on their like to inject life into his Cabinet before the summer.

But will that be too late? It gives the promoted less than a year to get to grips with a new brief, establish a media profile and sell their ideas to voters - with Labour counterparts having had a considerable head start.

And Cameron has proved to be a small c conservative when it comes to reshuffles, so a radical recasting of the Cabinet isn't all that likely, particularly if senior Cabinet members are reluctant to stand aside.

The likes of Iain Duncan Smith, William Hague and Eric Pickles may well feel they have jobs to finish. Mind you, could any of those still envisage being in the same roles in 2018/19?

The most ruthless managers jettison star players before they go stale, not after.

Ferguson ditched Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis one summer, leading to Alan Hansen's infamous "you can't win anything with kids" comment. But those kids included David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, and Manchester United won the league and cup double.

So it may turn out that Ed Miliband, who looked to be burdened by survivors of the Blair and Brown eras has actually played the longer game, and will go into the general election with the leaner, more hungry team.

Mind you, Johnny Wilkinson and a number of those who won the Rugby World Cup in 2003 played as England crashed out four years before - 2015 could still be five years too early for this Labour team.

But for long-term success, any team has to mix its experience with up-and-coming talent. And at the moment, it looks like Ed Miliband's in front of David Cameron, at least on this measure.