You might find it interesting to know that Automatics are only faster because Most manual drivers are being penalized by the EPA. Don't believe me, check out this video from Hagerty's own "Know it all". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BH-N8t_1Fc
I have to disagree with you on that "removed" feeling, I have driven hydraulic, cable, and mechanical rod linkage clutches, and the only time I feel a difference in them is when there is come sort of imperfection in the system such as a fray in the cable causing a drag or the ball stud wearing causing there to be a "bump" in the travel. A hydraulic clutch that is working properly should feel like a steel rod connected to the clutch, not disconnected at all.
Being a former Focus owner I now know three of the scariest words in the English language are "new Ford transmission." Good luck FoMoCo customers, you'll need it.