Since last night, the Twittersphere went into over drive with rumours that Alex Ferguson was going to retire at the end of the season, and this morning it was confirmed.
The news broke out from a players versus coaches golf game yesterday afternoon. Apparently, the news was meant to be revealed on Sunday when United would be officially crowned champions, but once the rumours started Ferguson had to respond.
I for one am a little surprised, partly because he seems to flirt with the idea of retirement every summer and not before the season ends. Also, I thought he’d try to lift the Champions League one more time.
Manchester United have been hugely successful over the last 27 years and for me, he is the main reason why. This season, like others before it, experts and fans alike have said the United team that has won the league wasn’t the best. Whether that is true or not is open to debate, but the fact is Ferguson gets the absolute maximum from what he has. When you consider the squads at Manchester United and Manchester City, and the contrasting amounts spent on it, it is almost criminal that Manchester City didn’t win the league. So for United to win the league so comfortably, it a huge testament to Alex Ferguson’s ability as a coach and manager.
Of course, he has spent big money on players but nothing in the region that other big clubs like Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona and PSG have spent in a single transfer window. He has combined youth, experience and most importantly – and something I have been especially jealous of – is a winning mentality. You can say what you like about Gary Neville (when he was playing, not now), Rio Ferdinand, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane et al, but however much they were f*cking annoying people, they were winners. Winning is all that mattered and they did it at any cost. They’ve had squads in the past that weren’t the best technically, but they still had that desire to win trophies. When Arsene Wenger talks about mental strength, Manchester United have that in abundance.
Last summer when Robin van Persie joined United some newspapers speculated that his purchase was a leaving present for Alex Ferguson, a last ditch attempt to wrestle back the Premier League title from their noisy neighbours. And so it proved, they were right.
Before you accuse me of a Manchester United and Alex Ferguson love in, I will remind you something Arsene WengerÂ said of Ferguson a few years ago. He basically said that they respected each other because what they achieved in the game, but when it came to playing against each other it was a fight. Because I support Arsenal it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the things Ferguson has done for United – it is undeniable that he has been the driving force in their massive success over the last 20 years. I don’t think the Premier League will be the same without him and it’s hard to say what kind of affect his departure will have on that club.
And that brings us to his replacement.
It’s hard to imagine who could possibly replace their greatest ever manager. It would just be like us trying to imagine who could possibly replace Arsene Wenger when he decides to retire or leave the club. The bookmakers have made David Moyes the odds on favourite but for me I cannot see that happening. He has done well for Everton, but even Everton fans I speak to say his tactics are limited and can be overly negative.
If he does get appointed (and I would be surprised) then Manchester United must feel that everything is in place for continued success. Something many people haven’t mentioned is his lack of experience in European competition. Some people have the knowhow when it comes to European football but others haven’t. Roberto Mancini for example has no idea how to do well in Europe, as he’s shown with Manchester City and previously at Inter Milan.
So we come to other candidates. Of course, Jose Mourinho will be mentioned as he has pretty much cut all ties with Real Madrid. And the question is would he return to a football club? He likes to try new experiences (that much is clear) and filling the boots of his friend Alex Ferguson would be massively tempting for him. It would also be a massive coup and signal of intent if United poached him and if I was a Chelsea fan, I’d be a little worried.
Other names mentioned are Jurgen Klopp, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Jupp Heynckes, Gary Neville, Manuel Pellegrini, Mike Phelan, Laurent Blanc and Michael Laudrup. In that list are a few really top top managers with a wealth of European experience, hence the reason why I feel Moyes would be a strange choice. And who would want to turn down the chance of managing on the biggest football clubs in the world? United won’t struggle to find a world class appointment, that’s for sure.