Man Utd: Why The Great Sir Alex Ferguson Could Leave Behind a Poisoned Chalice
With the world of football rocked by his impending retirement, writer Tom Gatehouse looks at the trouble with replacing a manager like the great Sir Alex Ferguson
It doesn’t matter who you support, who you favour, or how you perceive the man himself, the impending retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson will have affected every football fan from every creed, culture and coven. There is no man in football other than the incorrigible Scot who should be associated with the question: ‘How do you replace the irreplaceable?’
Superlatives lose their bite when describing Sir Alex, as none can accurately sum up the mark he has made on the world of football, the plethora of players he has managed, or Man United football club itself. The world has been falling over itself attempting to give patronage and tribute. From the highest echelons comes Michel Platini, Uefa President, who said,
“He is a true visionary. He has made a massive contribution to football, not only in Scotland and in England, but across Europe and beyond.” [source: Independent]
Fans from every corner of the globe have also expressed their shock, dismay and above all, their admiration for the man. But there will be fear in their hearts.
What will happen to our beloved club without our beloved boss?
It is a question born from an unthinkable scenario for most fans. There will be many who have only ever seen the Red Devils managed by Ferguson, and it is a frightening, barren looking world without him. 26 years he has been in charge of the Manchester giants, an almost unheard of number considering the current plight of managers, especially in England. For the Premier League, he has been a beacon of solidarity. Even the veteran Arsene Wenger has, in more recent times, been under the proverbial cosh.
Perhaps the best summation of the fear gripping the United fans has come from their former player, Michael Owen. The striker, who is retiring himself at the end of the season, said,
“Manchester United with no Sir Alex just doesn’t feel right” [source: Guardian]
The announcement of Ferguson’s intention to retire came with a word from the man himself. Sir Alex explained the importance of leaving the club in the right state, a state that he believes he has achieved,
“It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so. The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one. [source: Sky Sports]
And while he may have built yet more foundations for another sparkling United side, it means nothing if the man to replace him does not share his original ideal. That is to focus on the youth at the club, peppering the mix with genuine foreign talent.
David Moyes is to be the man to take up the flaming hot reins after Sir Alex disappears upstairs following the close season. It is the chance of a lifetime, but it will be the hardest undertaking of his entire career.
Jose Mourinho had been an initial frontrunner, and why wouldn’t he have been? He had a wonderful relationship with Sir Alex over the years, both on a professional and personal level. Some of the best loved footballing anecdotes from the past few years have come from the two managers, be it sharing a bad bottle of wine after a game, or testing each other in a battle of mind games.
But Moyes is a man often likened to Ferguson himself. A fellow Scot, Moyes is also a long-serving manager, with the eleven years he has spent at Everton showing his commitment to projects. He has a keen eye for signings, gives his youth a chance, and has slowly built the Merseyside club up into a real top-5 side. He is a different kettle of fish to his Portuguese counterpart, and is arguably an astute appointment by the United hierarchy. He too has enjoyed a healthy relationship with the departing Ferguson, and that bond will bode well for the club when Ferguson takes his place upstairs as a director.
But Moyes’ appointment will not be the end of the worries for the fans, as the shock of the great Sir Alex’s departure will surely put a negative spin on the new manager’s arrival. Like a departing father, no one looks forward to the void being filled, and the new ‘step-dad’ rolling in to claim that everything will be just how it has always been.
Moyes will have more pressure on his shoulders than arguably any other in recent history. If United do not retain the Premier League title, then many fans will enter crisis mode, allowing themselves to envision a doomed future of perennial misadventure, and a slow, agonising fall from grace.
United’s squad is far from perfect, even though they cantered to the title this season. It arguably has been as much the seasonal performance of the Reds, as it has been a disappointing and inconsistent campaign of their closest rivals.
The Manchester United manager’s position, which was vacant for the first time in 26 years, could well turn out to be a poisoned chalice for the new man. Man United are well known for their ability to fashion victory out of certain defeat, but Moyes will find that to be accepted as the successor, it will take a lot longer than 90 minutes (plus Fergie time)!
David Moyes must be wondering how to achieve this acceptance from the United fans. He has a lot to live up to, considering the two and a half decades of stunning dominance that came from Sir Alex, the greatest boss to ever live.
What do United fans think of Fergie’s retirement? Is Moyes the right man for the job? Share your views in the comments section below.
Follow me on Twitter: @tragatehouse and check out my Blog: http://goodbadribery.blogspot.co.uk/
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