The Old Trafford Boot Room
So as a record-breaking 19th league title arrives at Old Trafford, it is only natural for commentators to ponder on how the fantastic period of prolonged and sustained success can possibly continue. There has been and always will be certain people within the game (mainly known as Liverpool fans) eager for any chink in the mighty red armour to appear which is thought will result in the ultimate demise of the club.
There have been many factors attributed to the current period of dominance; the main criticism or easy answer has been to point at the financial power of the club in previous seasons, where before the days of Russian suger-daddys and oil-rich Sheikhs, Utd were the dominant force in the English transfer market. £20-30 million players were the norm for the club and largely, these players unquestionably improved the team and kept United ahead of their rivals.
These days have now gone with the Glazer stranglehold and massive debts bestowed upon the club by the American owners limiting transfer activity. The well-documented lack of investment of a certain £80 million player sale was proof that the club was on the wane. Financial ruin was around the corner and the club would not be able to compete with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City in the coming season. This was the theory….
In reality, it was very different. A 24 game unbeaten league run, dropping just 2 points at home all season (at time of writing), a gem of a signing with a lethal Mexican and ultimately a record breaking 19th league title and possibly a 4th European Cup. Not bad for a team in decline.
What this illustrates is that there is something more to the club, a determination, a willingness and desire to stand up in the face of adversity and prove the critics and knife-sharpeners wrong. It is a consistency, a set of traditional values and an ideology that this is not just a football club, this is the Manchester United family.
The ethos has something in common with our great rivals from down the M62 and it is no coincidence that during these periods, both clubs have dominated the era. Liverpools ‘boot room’ philosophy served them incredibly well with people in charge and at the club who knew what the club was all about and who possessed the inherent qualities and determination to maintain the achievements.
Famously Sir Alex came one match away from reportedly losing his job in 1990. A Mark Robins goal away to Nottigham Forest in the FA Cup sparing the now legendary boss the axe. United went on to win the FA Cup and so the legend began. This show of faith (or fortunate moment depending on how you look at it) was crucial in writing the modern history of Manchester United. Only with time can a manager put his stamp on a club and achieve the results that he wants to.
The retirement of Gary Neville and the uncertainty surrounding the future of Paul Scholes will all but bring an end to the first batch of Fergie fledglings (with the obvious exception of a certain Welsh winger) and this can be viewed as a change in the guard at Old Trafford. Despite the loss of such influential senior squad members, the next batch of experienced pro’s are ready to make the step up as ready replacements. The likes of Rio, Vidic, Darren Fletcher, Rooney and Wes Brown to name but a few have all been at the club for numerous years and will take up the mantle, ushering in the next era of smooth transition.
This is a mentality which is now engraved upon the club and is in my opinion, the key reason why United have been able to sustain their on-field success. It’s simple really, continued periods of stability off the field will result in a successful team on the field. It is for this reason that I believe Fergie’s successor will come from within the Manchester United ‘family’. Although Mourinho seems almost certain to be United manager one day, I am unsure if this will be the correct route for the club to take.
I am a Mourinho fan and his record speaks for itself in terms of trophies won. However, if he was to succeed Sir Alex, as is widely touted, he will bring with him his own mentality, his own approach and ideas which will be conflicting to those of the club, implanted within the last 20 years or so. This could result in conflict due to possible upsetting of the red apple-cart and a complete overhaul. There is an arguement that to replace such an iconic figure and big personality, would require a new, fresh-faced, equally big personality to handle the pressure of following in the Glaswegian’s footsteps and Mourinho would certainly fit that bill. I disagree with this and would like the transition to be as smooth as possible. Mourinho would not want to come and work alongside Sir Alex for a season and I cannot see it working if Sir Alex were to remain at the club after retiring from the touchline due to the looming shadow this would cast on whoever was in charge.
A more favouravle solution for me would be a former player or somebody who was prepared to become Fergie’s assistant for a season or two before the reigns were handed over full-time. Rumours are circulating this could be Fergie’s farewell season – this I doubt massively and I am convinced that we have not seen the last of the wily old Scot just yet but when the time does come for him to hang up his suit and reflect on a glorious career, the Manchester United boot room era must continue for the good of the club. Fergie will surely have a massive say in whoever is appointed as his successor and, a known fan of David Moyes, I would not be suprised to see Moyes brought in alongside the boss with the promise of getting the top job when Fergie does call it a day. Whoever is appointed though will certainly have a hell of a task on their hands to continue the traditions and values of the football club. This is after all more than just a football club. This is a family.
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