Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Life after Sir Alex. What's next?

For as long as I have been supporting Manchester United there has only been one manager at the club; Sir Alex Ferguson. He has been managing Man Utd for as long as I longer than I have been alive. So to hear that he will be retiring at the end of the season definitely came as a shock, even though I knew it was an inevitability. Nobody lives forever. Not even the man who single handedly turned Manchester United into one of the greatest club in the world. But where do we go from here? With the title already confirmed, every football fan around the world will be asking the same question; who will succeed Sir Alex Ferguson?

Whoever takes the job has got one of the most difficult jobs in the world. No matter what he does, people will ask "Would Sir Alex do the same?". As much as myself and every Man Utd fan in the world would like for the next manager to continue Sir Alex's legacy and bring continued success to the club for the next quarter of a century, chances are we won't see it happen. After Sir Matt Busby retired, five Managers came to the club before Sir Alex. In the 26 years he has been with Man Utd,  Arsenal have had 6 managers, Liverpool 9, Milan 13, Bayern 14, Juventus 14, Barcelona 15, Chelsea 17, Man City 18, Inter 19, and Real Madrid 25 (almost 1 manager a year). As afraid as I am to admit it, Man Utd could possibly suffer the same fate for the next few years until we find the next long term manager. Could Sir Alex's successor be the next long term manager of the club? Yes he could. But the odds are against him.

Ever since Sir Alex's first league win,
there was no stopping him. Image: Economist

Sir Alex has won so many honours, looking at his personal trophy collection is like looking at another club's entire trophy haul. 13 Barclays Premier League titles, 2 Champions League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 1 Club World Cup,1 Intercontinental Cup, 1 European Super Cup, 1 European Cup Winners' Cup and 10 Community Shields. He also won 526 league games and has won 1745 league points. He was awarded 27 Barclays Manager of the Month awards and 10 Barclays Manager of the Season awards. It is highly unlikely that his successor, or any other club manager in England for that matter will ever come close. 

Class of '92. Image: 1000goals
What makes his continued success even more admirable is that he did it while spending less than rival clubs. Ever since the Premier League started in 1992, Chelsea have spent £842 million, Man City £704 million, and Liverpool £602 million. Man Utd have only spent £532 million. Sir Alex didn't just buy a championship winning team, he built them. Over and over again. After the golden generation known as Fergie's Fledglings or the Class of '92, people thought Man United couldn't achieve success again. They were wrong. The side that recently won the club's 20th league title only has 2 players from that golden era; the evergreen Ryan Giggs and the ginger ninja Paul Scholes. Will the next manager be able to continously build championship winning sides as players come and go? I hope so.

The most important thing the new manager will need is time, and patience. Sir Alex only won his first league title after 7 years at Man Utd. That's longer than almost every current Premier League manager has been with their respective clubs. In today's world, instant results are what owners want. That's why mega-rich clubs like Chelsea and Man City will never achieve long term success. They change managers as often as a mother changes her baby's diaper. Stability is the key to long term success, and I hope the new manager will be given the same chance Sir Alex was given to establish a legacy.

Man Utd's first league title in 26 years
took Sir Alex 7 years to win. Image: Facebook
So after all is said and done, who do I want to succeed the Great Scot? I have two preferences. Each couldn't be more different. The first, is Jose Mourinho. As controversial as he may be, he has a proven track record. He has tasted success in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain. After all the club jumping, could he be looking to settle down and achieve long term success, to build an empire similar to what Sir Alex has achieved? Maybe. The second is David Moyes. He almost joined Man Utd to become Sir Alex's assistant, so Sir Alex obviously thinks he can do the job. Unlike Jose, he also knows what it's like to be at a club for a long time; he's been at Everton for 11 years. However, he has never been tested among the elite of European football. How would he react to matches against Bayern or Barcelona? Appointing Moyes would be a huge gamble, but it was also a gamble to hire Sir Alex back in '86.

 Image: Facebook

No matter who takes over at Old Trafford, the millions billions of Man Utd fans around the world including me will continue to love and support the club. Sir Alex always said no man is bigger than the club, that unfortunately includes himself as well. Sir Alex's legacy will forever live on within Manchester United, but the club, and the supporters must move on.

Glory Glory Man Utd!

EDIT 9/5/2013: David Moyes has been confirmed as the new Man Utd manager. He will start serving his 6-year contract on the 1st of July. Welcome to the best club in the world.