So the time finally arrived…
As day always follows night, the inevitable retirement of an ageing Scotsman in his twilight years on this planet, was always going to occur sometime very soon. Of course, it feels no less of a shock. That sudden feeling of loss, your heart detaching itself from the arteries and veins, and passing its way up your throat and out of your mouth, unceremoniously falling at your feet on to the cold floor, in a ball of grief. You will always remember where you were the day you heard a living legend was to take his rightful place in history, leaving by choice, rather than because of failure, with yet another league crown stacked high upon his red-nosed head.
The eulogies for Alex Ferguson and his achievements have only just begun, but as a club we are already looking towards the future and what awaits us. We now know that immediate future is David Moyes. A Sir Alex-lite character, who probably owns a few hairdryers and tea-cup throwing records of his own. He has taken Everton as a fallen giant flirting with relegation, and turned them into a top six club, spending only breadcrumbs and pennies along the way.
When I first heard we were opting for Moyes I was shocked, and frankly disgusted. Here we are, Manchester United, the biggest club in the world, and we have gone for a guy who has never won a trophy. Does Moyes have the capabilities and tools? What is it on his CV that makes him even worthy of an interview for one of the most prestigious jobs in world football? This time yesterday, I could not have been any more underwhelmed. You also have to factor into the equation the availability of Jose Mourinho, as he leaves through the revolving door at Real Madrid. You would be forgiven for thinking that we would opt for a coach of his talents. The timing was perfect. Yes, you lose a legend, but you replace him with a coach who has been to the proverbial well, and quenched his thirst for glory, almost at will.
But no. We chose the bloke from Everton.
After spending most of yesterday, shivering in the Arctic tundra of doubt, a strange change started to happen to me. The chronic analysis I had allowed my brain to undertake on this Moyes situation, started to bear fruit: Could David Moyes be the right man to replace Fergie after all?! Now for a chronic football sceptic like myself, who has the odd bath now and then, in a tub of negativity (like all football fans tend to do) this thought, that came out of my very own brain, really did surprise me.
So here we are now: On a wet Thursday evening, and Moyes is our new manager on a six year deal…and I feel excited!
The one biggest element of this specific change in tenure is that Sir Alex is still at the club. Yes, in the years to come he will represent the club in a more social, hands-off approach, but for now I can see him still being very much hands-on with club matters. It is no surprise that he chose Moyes. A character he could efficiently communicate with. A man whom he could personally groom for the roller-coaster ride that is Manchester United. He couldn’t do this with Mourinho. If Jose had joined the club, that would be the end of Ferguson’s active involvement. This way the club gets the best of both worlds. Two heads, for the price of one.
This assessment may well seem overly optimistic, and if we are languishing in mid-table next Christmas, it will seem like a ludicrous view. However, there is a huge safety net for us, knowing that the modern father of the club is still there with us…watching, observing, teaching. A change to Mourinho would have been a beautiful way to start a clean slate, but I believe this is now the second part of Fergie’s ‘Masterplan’ kicking in, to keep United on top, ahead of the other clubs who can outspend us, and build teams in a less frugal manner. This is by no means a clean slate for Manchester United. This is dynasty building on the grandest of scales.
This is Sir Alex’s ideal opportunity, to let go and retire – without actually letting go and retiring. This squad of players and staff, is his own creation and he has spent years as a godhead, building it. The last thing he would want is to see it dismantled and consigned to the bin. And if Jose had joined our club that is what would happen. The coaching staff would be replaced. Jose would probably bring in some very attractive twenty eight year old female physiotherapist, Steve Clarke might have popped up to lend a hand at the club, along the way. United would be moulded in Jose’s image, and the legacy of Sir Alex would be reformed and ultimately dismantled.
Ferguson’s ego would not want that to happen. His vitality does not allow this.
As much as the boss respects Jose Mourinho, I think he still wants an active part in the club’s future. David Moyes can run team affairs, while Fergie concentrates on more acute strategy for the club. When we negotiate with sponsors and potential new signings, we can position Sir Alex directly in front of them, to broker deals with his intelligence and legend. He IS Manchester United. There is no need to mothball him, when he can help the club to continue to grow. If you want to sign a Ronaldo, you send a Sir Alex Ferguson to go and get him. It makes perfect football and business sense.
Moyes is an important part of this next phase of Ferguson’s United. The six year deal he has been given shows the commitment the club has in developing him to be the best that he can be. The rules will be the same though: Keep Manchester United at the top of English football, and be strongly competitive in the Champions League – he will not be given any room to breathe on this matter. Any abject failure on the football pitch over a sustained period of time will see this second phase of ‘The Masterplan’ obsolete. He will be sacked, and United and Moyes will part ways. He will not get the same amount of time to succeed that Ferguson was once offered, in the 1980s.
But the future is bright. Ultimately, United have not lost a legend. His influence on the future of the club will still very much exist. Moyes may well lack experience in Europe, but he has the best boss in the known football world to look to for advice. He has also managed in the Premier League for eleven years – that is eight years longer than Mourinho and Klopp combined. Ultimately, he is no fool to the demands of the English game.
Success under Moyes is not guaranteed, but neither would it have been with anyone else. What we do know is that if this is all part of Ferguson’s ongoing plan for our club, we are in the safest of hands. It is a case of prevention rather than cure. The health we have displayed over the past two decades is more important to maintain, than ripping up the rulebook, and starting again. He may not be in the dugout in future, chewing gum like a hammer drill, but this is still very much the club that Sir Alex built.
Is this the end of Fergie Time? …Not a chance.
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