Alex Ferguson, it has been announced today, will retire from the position of manager of Manchester United Football Club at the end of the current season.
Yes, as we approach the end of what has been one of the dullest Premier League seasons in living memory, something has cropped up to make us all sit forward and pay close attention. Speculation over when the most successful manager of the Premier League era would finally relinquish the reins at Old Trafford has been rife for years, now, finally, we have our answer.
The timing of his decision will come as no great surprise to those who follow the game. Although his departure may be the most obvious signal of a change of era at Old Trafford, truth be told, behind the scenes circumstances have been shifting for some time now.
The change of ownership, the arrival of the Glazer family, took the most profitable club in the country from the black and plunged it deep into the red. The system of leverage, used by the Americans to obtain one of English football’s most prized assets, means that United simply aren’t cash rich enough to compete with other clubs at the very highest echelons of the game. Given that the lion’s share of any money made goes directly into servicing the huge debt, there’s comparatively little to spend on players, a fact borne out by United’s limited transfer activity in recent years.
This is a fact that Ferguson knows all too well. Up until now, the Scot has managed to hold things together remarkably well, domestically at least, however he’ll be well aware of the fact that even he would be hard pressed to keep conjuring league titles from a bag of tricks which is in desperate need of replenishment.
Truth be told, it seems almost certain that Ferguson would’ve taken the golden handshake at the end of last season had United not squandered an eight point lead in the final weeks of the season, only to be displaced by their closest neighbours Manchester City in the final minute of the final game of the campaign. That he chose not to in the wake of what happened was hardly surprising, to do so would have been completely out of character. However, the big money signing of the 29 year old van Persie hinted clearly at the veteran manager’s mind-set – win it back, win it quickly and then I can go.
Win it back his United team did and quickly at that, the league having been wrapped up for some time before mathematical certainty was reached several weeks ago. And now, after delivering United’s twentieth top flight title, he is going.
That Ferguson won only two European Cups in his twenty plus years in charge will likely be his biggest disappointment, however with United a long way off challenging for Europe’s elite club competition again, that’s something he’ll have to live with.
What next for United? Well, word is that an announcement on Ferguson’s successor is due within forty-eight hours, so we should know who will be picking up the gauntlet by this weekend. Moyes, Mourinho, Ancelotti, Klopp, Solskjaer, who knows? The only certainty is that United will find impossible to replace Ferguson’s particular brand of, steel, pragmatism, bloody-mindedness and will to win.
The job will not be an easy one, this Manchester United side is in need of refurbishment and on a tight budget too. Whoever takes over will have their work cut out following on from the club’s greatest ever manager, and there’s every possibility the most stable club of the Premiership era will now face a few years of uncertainty as they bid to find a manager who can take them to new heights.
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