With United favourites to win the European Cup on Wednesday, there has been much debate surrounding whether Sir Alex Ferguson will finally retire. After going back on his decision to do so in 2002, the question of when he will leave us has been brought up time and again. Between 2004 and 2006, many hacks claimed Fergie made the wrong decision in deciding to stay on. Sports Journalist of the Year two years running, Oliver Holt, had several unkind things to say about our manager as he approached his 20th year in charge, just 6 months before he ended our 3 year title drought.
Next Monday, Sir Alex Ferguson will celebrate 20 years in charge of Manchester United. In some ways, I’d like to join in the accompanying orgy of back-slapping and misty-eyed remembrance. But I can’t. I’m happy to acknowledge that after Bob Paisley and Brian Clough, Ferguson has been one of the most successful and brilliant managers in English football history. But like celebrating his pal Tony Blair’s 10 years as prime minister next May, Fergie’s anniversary amounts to nothing more than a lazy and meaningless ballyhoo for a man who has stayed on too long. Whatever United go on to achieve this season or in seasons to come, nothing changes the fact that Ferguson should have quit in 2002 when he said he was going to quit. But then, depending on what you want to believe, his nerve failed him, his wife got to him or he found out how much Sven Goran Eriksson was going to be earning as his replacement. And so he made one of the worst and weakest decisions of his life and decided to stay on. In the four years that have elapsed since, his legacy has been irrevocably tarnished…The European dynasty Ferguson vowed to found never materialised. The win in the Nou Camp in 1999 was a one-hit wonder.
Of course Holt, like all the other ABUs who slated Sir Alex Ferguson, haven’t been too quick to hold their hands up and admit their mistakes following the consecutive titles wins Fergie claimed this season and last.
Fergie’s decision to stay on has been vindicated by the new squad he has built, the trophies he has since won (Three league titles: 2003, 2007, 2008. One FA Cup: 2004. One League Cup: 2006) and will only be further proven if we are crowned European Champions again on Wednesday.
There is not a chance of him leaving his post before he has at least equalled Liverpool’s 18 titles, so I am not at all concerned about rumours stating he’ll leave if we win the Champions League, however, he’s not getting any younger, and we do have to consider that in five years time, he probably won’t be the United manager anymore.
I recently read an article on RedRants.com about who should take over from Fergie when he decides to go. From all the people linked to take over, from Roy Keane to Martin O’Neil, Mark Hughes to Jose Moruinho, the strong conclusion was whoever it was, it shouldn’t be Queiroz, but I have strong reason to believe that it our current number two who should get the job.
Manchester United is a club which has always focussed on the importance of nurturing youth. From the Busby Babes to “the kids” of the 90s, and now, our most recent batch of youngsters including Ronaldo, Rooney, Anderson and Nani, we are a club that has always had a healthy mix of established and young players. It is the United way.
Carlos Queiroz excels in this field and is something he has a great interest in. The Portuguese “Golden Generation”, which included the talents of Luis Figo and Rui Costa, was attributed to his scouting. His work with the Under-20s in Portugal, discovering talent, saw them develop and as the first team years late, reach the 2000 European Championship semi-finals, then finalists 4 years later, as well as the 2006 World Cup semis.
Ronaldo, Nani and Anderson are Queiroz’s latest successes. Ronaldo was a player who he had followed throughout his developing career. The club were split on whether it was Queresma or Ronaldo they wanted, with Queiroz pushing for the latter. Carlos organised a friendly with his former club, Sporting Lisbon, in the summer of 2003, so that Ferguson could get a better look at the young talent. Ronaldo played a blinder and was signed not long after.
Following the World Cup 2006, Cristiano Ronaldo was ready to pack his bags for Madrid. It seemed as though his position at United was unattainable, following the dreadful press he received in England. Queiroz was on the first plane to Portugal after news broke Ronaldo was set to sign for Real Madrid and played a crucial role in keeping him at the club.
How important was that? In 53 appearances for the club that season, Ronaldo scored 23 goals and had 20 assists to his name. In the season just gone, Ronaldo has scored 41 goals and has and 7 assists in his 47 games.
Ronaldo has hinted that he might leave the club when Ferguson does, but a lot of his development can be attributed to Queiroz, who took him under his wing when he joined the club as a teenager. The exit of both Ferguson and Queiroz would ensure the exit of Ronaldo too, as well as possibly Anderson and Nani.
Failure at Real Madrid?
An argument against appointing Queiroz is his failure at Real Madrid, in the 2003-2004 season. Leaving United for what he felt would be his big moment, ended without silverware. Despite topping the table with a few months to go, the season ended in disaster, with Real losing their last 5 games and finishing 4th.
However, what is rarely highlighted when this argument is made are the conditions Queiroz was working under. Florentino Perez, the Real Madrid president, got too big for his boots, and fired manager Vicente Del Bosque who had just won the title. Understandably, the players were not happy about the president’s decision, which resulted in the likes of Claude Makelele, Fernando Hierro and Fernando Morientes leaving the club. Queiroz worked to keep Makelele, recognising his importance, and supporting the claim, backed by team mates Zidane and Raul, for an improved contract for the midfielder. Makelele, one of the lowest earners at the time, was shunned by Perez, would not have his authority undermined, and sold him on to Chelsea. “We will not miss Makélélé,” he said. “His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways.”
Queiroz spotted 20-year-old Brazilian defender, Pepe, playing for Portuguese side Marítimo. Available for just 2 million Euros, Queiroz wanted to buy him. However, Perez overruled him, claiming defenders didn’t sell shirts so he wasn’t interested. Three years later, Real Madrid bought him for 30 million Euros.
Rumour has it this boisterous president was picking the teams for Queiroz, forcing him in to playing the big named stars regardless of their form.
Therefore, I don’t think his one season at Real Madrid serves any purpose in deciding whether he is up for the job at United.
Fergie was on the phone after Queiroz was sacked, and despite being offered further managerial jobs in the Premiership and La Liga, couldn’t turn United’s number 2 position down. “I’m here on a mission to repay a debt to Alex,” he said, “but to be in charge – that’s the reason everybody works. When it’s the right time to make a decision, I’ll do it.”
After having one manager at the club for over twenty years, it is important that the transition from one boss to the next is a smooth one. The backroom staff, the training routines, the relationship with the manager, and the weekly routines, could all be thrown out of the window. 22+ years of habit is a tough thing to replace and the gap vacated by Ferguson will be too large to plug for some time. It is therefore important that the transition from one manager to the next is a slow and stress-free experience, and I believe that is what we are undergoing at the moment.
I trust Sir Alex Ferguson’s judgement and if he’s going to give Queiroz so much access to our team and our tactics, it’s because he trusts him to do a job. Time and again we all may have been guilty of questioning Fergie’s judgement, but more often than not, he comes good. How can United compete with a team full of kids? How could Ronaldo replace Beckham? What will United win without Keane? Why did we spend £5.5 million on a little, French left back who had a mare on derby day? Why are you selling Ince, Kanchelskis and Hughes all in one summer? Why bring on John O’Shea to replace Rooney when we’re getting hammered by Liverpool at Anfield? Why the hell do we want Leedscum’s Eric Cantona? The list goes on and on…
What on earth are you doing letting this creepy Portuguese guy having anything to do with our team? He has been our number two for our last three title winning seasons, so surely he’s got to be doing something right.
His negative tactics didn’t go down well with the fans, playing defensive formations that was, along with our injuries, resulting in a poor standard of football and little to celebrate. But United have moved away from that now, under the guidance of Queiroz as much as Fergie, although are still able to revert back to it when needed. Our performances against Roma and Barcelona in the CL quarter and semi finals this season were like nothing I’ve ever seen at United. Composed, solid and defensive, and it worked, despite not having an out and out striker which would have made us all the more effective for the chances we did create. Were these performances the result of Ferguson, or can they be attributed to Queiroz’s handiwork?
Queiroz knows our players, he knows our staff, he knows how United works. When Ferguson leaves and if Queiroz isn’t handed the job, he will be out as well. He won’t stick around to be number two to anyone else at United. To have all his methods totally erased and replaced by somebody entirely new, after more than two decades of Sir Alex Ferguson, could have disastrous effects on our club.
No manager would bring with them a guarantee of success and filling Fergie’s shoes will be the toughest job in football. However, that job would be a lot less challenging for somebody who has worked side by side with the great man for a number of years. He knows our ways.
In Ryan Giggs’ autobiography, he said Queiroz had “large amounts of responsibility” within the club, and had been entrusted to “train us, prepare us for games, organise the team and decide the things we need to work on.” It is for these reasons that I believe it’s so important he’s still a part of our club when Fergie leaves. I don’t for one minute think he’ll go on to be our manager for the next 20 years, but I think he’ll do the job for the transition at least. Maybe he’ll prove us all wrong and have the capabilities of being a great manager, but this current team should be able to win stuff by themselves for the next few years anyway. He should just be the man to take us from one brilliant manager to the next.
The personality of Queiroz is not something I’ve ever been a huge fan of, I’ve never really warmed to him. I can understand the people who don’t want to see him as manager of our club. I can see why people would feel a lot more comfortable and secure seeing the familiar face of Mark Hughes in the dug out. However, for the good of our club, to be able to sustain all the things Ferguson has worked so long and hard in creating at United, the only choice for the next United manager for me is Queiroz.