When we are all specks of dust, a distant memory in the minds of our descendants, a minor footprint in the story of man, one thing will be as assured as a Rio Ferdinand tweet.
Sir Alex Ferguson will be lauded as the greatest manager in the history of the game. Of this I have no doubt.
Other managers may have won more European Cups, or managed title winning teams in more countries than the scourge of Match of the Day, but none will be able to match the overall achievements of Govan’s finest. Breaking the dominance of the Glasgow clubs in Scotland and delivering a European trophy to Aberdeen make him special. What he’s achieved at United make him utterly unique.
Building no less than five triumphant Manchester United sides, mean that even the likes of Sir Matt Busby would arguably be slightly below Sir Alex in the pantheon of great managers.
The trophies have been a constant for Fergie since he started his managerial career and although there may have been the odd barren season, since 1990 he’s delivered more silverware than Tiffany’s, held more cups than the Queen’s butler, celebrated more wins than Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali and Rocky Balboa put together.
The man’s quite simply without equal and deserves his place at the very top of the managerial legends table.
Only one last unfulfilled goal remains that would truly cement Sir Alex’s place in history, that would leave even his biggest detractors reaching for the exit door or looking at their shoes hoping no one will notice them.
Fergie’s legacy at United could be the one factor which provides either the icing on the cake of his reign or the small twig of criticism for the United haters to try and beat a noise with.
Although Fergie’s time at Old Trafford may be far from over, there’s no denying that every United fan carries that small measure of anxiety inside them, just like our opponents must carry that tiny speck of hope- one day, the great man will have to retire and the wheels could come off the United juggernaut.
Should Fergie retire and leave the team with older stars needing to be replaced, a lack of true world class youngsters coming through and a successor out of his depth, then just as Anfield experienced in the 90’s and noughties, what goes up can come down.
It’s from our less intelligent neighbours from down the M62 that the greatest lessons can be learned as unlike United who’ve achieved 17 of our titles from the genius of two managers, Liverpool have won 13 of their 18 titles from the tenures of four different men over a 26 year period. It wasn’t the ability of one man to sustain their success over a quarter of a century that made Liverpool –for a time- the most successful club in England- it was their ability to incorporate an almost organic transition from manager to manager that was their true gift.
Although I’m loathe to praise anything the Anfield outfit did during their ‘glory years’ it would be foolish to ignore something that in all honesty should be grudgingly acknowledged as a success, if not truly admired.
Passing on the baton from manager to manager is one thing, but the state of the team you leave him with is another and each Liverpool manager was left with a healthy young squad mixed with experienced campaigners that could continue the winning ways.
I’ve no doubt Sir Alex will leave his successor with a more that capable squad and am of even less doubt that there will be sufficient youngsters coming through, the question is will the unqualified success Fergie has achieved be capable of reproduction? Of course it can be. Although one manager will never be able to replicate Fergie’s successes, there’s no reason to think the right stream of successors could do.
Following the example set out by Liverpool of appointing from within the boot room, time and time again- a formula that only failed once it was broken with the appointment of former player Graeme Sounness, rather than then coach Roy Evans, could prove to be the reason United’s dominance becomes a never ending monopoly.
The cries of ‘Jose Mourinho’ by many fans may seem to go against this idea, and there’s always the doubt that United’s current boot room hold any man capable of continuing Ferguson’s success, but the same aspersions were cast upon Bob Paisley when he took over from Bill Shankly. Unfortunately for United, these doubts were misplaced as the quiet spoken coach surpassed even his mentors achievement. Joe Fagan’s brief tenure heralded more success before ‘King Kenny’ continued it.
Appointing from within United doesn’t necessarily mean the ascension of Mike Phelan or René Meulensteen –although they may well rise to the occasion if given the chance a few years from now. A player steeped in the traditions of United who served his apprenticeship under Sir Alex for many years could well hold the key to continuing The Red’s dominance.
Now if only there was a player like that…….