Date: 10th May 2013 at 3:50am
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The end of an era, the changing of the guard, the King is dead long live the King etc, it seems no amount of sensationalist headlines can do justice to the shockwaves the departure of the most successful manager in British football history has caused throughout the world. The analysis of the reasons behind Sir Alex’s decision has already been done to death, with more than just a few journalists, pundits and everyday fans, claiming they saw it coming and many even referring to vague comments made months ago that prove their point.

With hindsight it’s easy to see the signs, the reaction after Madrid, the statue being unveiled, the breaking of transfer tradition to go all out for the regaining of the Premier League, it seems Sir Alex knew this season would be his last and the evidence certainly supports this.

If we take a minute and try a revisionist look at Sir Alex’s retirement, there seems to be just as much if not more evidence to support the idea it wasn’t as pre-planned as many of us may have believed. In the matchday programme only five days ago Sir Alex noted:

“It’s always difficult in football to be absolutely sure of the future because the game has a habit of tripping you up,” said Ferguson.

“I don’t have any plans to walk away from what I believe will be something special and worth being around to see.”

“This team of champions is not going away – we are here for the long ride.”

Although Sir Alex has often made statements that turn out to be completely false, “I wouldn’t sell them a virus..” etc, looking at the Chelsea game his selection didn’t seem like one of a manager choosing his final team against a top side. If Sir Alex knew he was picking his penultimate home side, why not select his strongest possible team? Go out with a bang, not a whimper.

A week earlier ahead of the Manchester derby Sir Alex commented:  “We’ve a lot of youth in the team and our record over the last 20 years tells you we’re not going away. I’d expect us without doubt to make a real good challenge next year.

“We’ve got players who are maturing nicely. Rafael has proved himself and has developed this season. David de Gea has progressed through the season. He has had some superb performances and will get better next season.

“Kagawa will be a far better player next season, so there are a lot of plusses for us. One or two players are getting older but we’re not too bad at protecting most positions, so we’re not going away.”

There’s also the extension of Ryan Giggs’s contract in March this year, it seems slightly odd that the manager would ask the United legend for another season, knowing full well he would be leaving in the Summer. I don’t believe for one moment that Sir Alex was pushed out of the door, if he was that is quite simply the most bonkers decision in the entire history of association football, but I do suspect his mind may not have been fully made up until very recently.

Even René Meulensteen seemed shocked at Ferguson’s departure, admitting that he’d only been told by the manager the morning of the official announcement, either the United coach is a very good actor or Sir Alex chose not to disclose his long term plan even to those closest around him- unless of course he hadn’t made his mind up until recently. I wonder if rather than as some suspect Sir Alex contemplated retirement at the end of last season before THAT last minute strike made him reconsider, the United boss actually did only decide these past few days.

I’m not claiming Sir Alex hadn’t considered it earlier, but feel there’s a good chance a culmination of factors over the course of the season, right up until very recently may have finally made his mind up. The nature of the loss to Madrid may have dissolusioned Ferguson to the point of “one more attempt at the Champions League” was too much to bear, there’s also the departure of David Gill a man Sir Alex confessed: “Him [Gill] stepping down is a big loss to me.”

Incoming Chief Executive Edward Woodward noted only a week or so ago: “I wouldn’t expect there to be a major retooling of the squad.” 

It’s easy to wonder if Sir Alex looked at his new Chief Executive or maybe even spoke to him and felt they weren’t completely on the same page, or envisioned a somewhat difficult relationship ahead. One could note that David Moyes must have had a heads-up otherwise he would’ve signed an Everton deal earlier but again there’s no real proof that Sir Alex didn’t decide to act while the Everton boss was available rather than the other way round.

There’s also the health issue, Sir Alex due to have a hip operation- hardly the smallest of procedures, plus an incident regarding a never ending nosebleed last Summer, was there a ‘doctors order’ about continuing the stress of managing the world’s biggest football club?

All this is conjecture of course as no one other than Sir Alex knows the exact nature of his decision and the fact he’s staying on at the club means we may never know the full truth, but I’m not convinced this wasn’t a last-minute decision. Why did not one journalist have any real inkling Sir Alex was set to retire other than till the day before he actually did? Reporters who enjoy a good relationship with the club and are often at the forefront of United stories, claimed that Nani was off in the Summer, Lewandowski was on his way, ditto Strootman, yet not a single one of them knew we’d have a different manager…..

Have I fallen in off the deep-end or did Sir Alex make his mind up literally this week? Feel free to comment, suggest and abuse below:

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