Before you scroll down -to the bottom and type a furious rant at me for going insane by stating that United would be better off without Fergie, let me clarify that I’m talking about when he retires as our manager and is offered a role ‘upstairs’ – wherever that is. I am an enormous supporter of Fergie and think the man is a legend – even prior to the double winning season last term.
What this post will hopefully explore is the comparison between Fergie and Busby in terms of the expectation level both managers set of the men that will proceed Fergie and the managers that proceeded Busby. Firstly, you may find the greatest manager of all time (written by Mancunian Red – a former contributer to Stretford-end.com) a very interesting read that discusses a number of top managers such as Busby, Fergie, Clough, Shankley and Paisley.
Ferguson has been in charge at Old Trafford for 22 years now, since he took over from Ron Atkinson on 6th November 1986. Sir Matt was in charge of United from 1945 to 1969 and then for one season in 1970/71. Combined, post war (so 63 years) Busby and Ferguson have occupied the Old Trafford hot seat for 47 years. That is quite phenomenal considering all the challenges that have faced both managers over the years.
Ferguson had the tougher task of living up to the reputation that the ‘old man’ set at Old Trafford. Assisted by Welshman Jimmy Murphy, Busby looked to create a United side build upon youth and searched the British isles for this talent. Duncan Edwards was his most notable capture, under the noses of Wolves managed by Stan Cullis at the time. Others, such as Cliff Birkett in the late forties, didn’t really work out, however the youth system setup by Murphy and Busby was extremely impressive and many other clubs were envious of the system.
In the 24 years Busby was at the Old Trafford helm he won the following honours:
Thats a pretty impressive record, especially when you consider the League cup wasn’t introduced till the early sixties and the lure of financial gain wasn’t as extreme as it is today – since the power lay very much with the clubs. Busby had to come through many challenges, Munich being the most documented and obvious tragedy. However, the boss found the ambitions of some of the players too demanding for what Old Trafford could offer in the early fifities. This was never more evident that how Charlie Mitten left Manchester. It is believed that Mitten was being paid £750 per year at Old Trafford – he received an offer of £5,000 per year and a lucrative signing on fee to be setup in Colombia for Santa Fe. Mitten informed Busby of his decision to leave Manchester on a tour of the United States. The move hurt Busby, who liked Mitten, unlike Johnny Morris who left for Derby County, with Busby suggesting some tapping up had occurred. However, Busby knew that breaking the wage structure for players at Old Trafford wasn’t the way forward and his belief in youth was excessive.
Fergie, on the other hand, came to a club who hadn’t won the League Championship for 19 years – something that was made even worse by the dominate forces in Liverpool and Everton during the 80’s. Fergie was very different from Ron Atkinson, who Fergie replaced. It was said that Atkinson used to have regular drinking sessions in his office and preferred to be seen as ‘one of the boys’ rather than the manager the club was crying out for. Fergie caused a stir when he sold Paul McGrath and Norman Whiteside, whos excessive drinking was a concern. Bryan Robson has been quoted as suggesting the drinking culture was ‘no more or no less’ than any other British club at the time – although the gaffer had different ideas.
Analysing Fergie’s record over time, it appears even more impressive than Busby’s:
|1990/91||Cup Winners Cup|
|1991/92||Super Cup, League Cup|
|1993/94||League Championship, FA Cup|
|1995/96||League Championship, FA Cup|
|1998/99||European Cup, League Championship, FA Cup|
|2007/08||European Cup, League Championship|
Fergie’s record speaks for itself – it is quite phenomenal and the next United manager will have lot to live up to. Which leads us onto the main point of the article – what type of atmosphere will Fergie create if he oversees the United manager in an ‘upstairs’ role?
McGuinness, O’Farrell, Docherty, Sexton and Atkinson all came and went in the fifteen years between Busby and Fergie – will Fergie, who argueably has a more impressive record, have a similar effect on the next United manager?
Fergie once told a story that in 1991 when the players and staff were getting off the coach in Rotterdam the fans were going mad. Chanting, cheering and smashing the coach, all ecstatic that United had reach a European Cup Final (Cup winners cup). Fergie got off laughing and joking with fans, then all of a sudden this old figure of man scurried down the steps of the coach – it was Busby. The fans, who were banging and shouting all of a sudden stopped and there was a hush of respect as this great figure entered the scene. Fergie states that he always found the relationship with Busby helpful more than a hindrance – as some previous managers felt.
So when Fergie finally decides to hang up the managerial reigns at Old Trafford we will enter a new era at the club, something we haven’t seen since 1986. Mourinho, Lippi, Keane and Bruce have been branded around as possible replacements but will they have the same problems as Atkinson, Sexton, O’Farrell and Docherty between the Busby and Fergie era if Fergie remains at the club? Or is the argument that those managers weren’t quite as good as the two men that have dominated the Old Trafford hot seat since 1945?
Both men believed in youth and both men realised the importance of European football to test the football club and players. It is these two things that place both Busby and Ferguson together in terms of footballing philosophy. Both men defended their players impeccably over the years, whilst behind closed doors gave certain players a kick up the backside if needed. These two men gave a vast amount of the life towards the progression and evolution of Manchester United football club. Fergie said that he became obsessed during the mid-90’s, turning up to the club on a Sunday and ringing around other managers – a bit like Jimmy Murphy and Busby nearly half a century ago.
There is no doubt that once the gaffer steps down it will have an enormous impact at the club. Will United want to keep Fergie at the club in some capacity in order to oversee the development of the new manager? Or will, if reports suggest, someone like Mourinho want to have a legendary manager overseeing the transition? Since 1986 Arsenal have had three managers, Chelsea have had twelve and Liverpool have had six. Fergie has seen off challenges from Liverpool, Leeds, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Arsenal and Chelsea. He has seen and done it all but will his presence at the club benefit the new manager or hinder the potential progress he could be making?
For me, Fergie is the greatest manager of all time. In terms of man management, transfer dealings, tactical awareness and drive and determination – he has it all. Ok, he might not be ten out ten for all those attributes i’ve mentioned but in his twenty two years since his appointment he has shown on numerous occasions what a superb manager he is. However, when he decides he has had enough of football management, whenever that may be, he should leave the club once and for all knowing that what he achieved in his time at the club was quite simply, magnificent.