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We’ve been extremely lucky as Manchester United fans, we’ve had stability for over twenty five years in the management of our club. Whilst we have had changes in ownership, playing staff and coaching staff, the man at the helm has been there through out.
Sir Alex Ferguson is a managerial anomaly, there will not be another manager who commands a club at the highest level for as long or in the ways he was allowed.
This means that when he does step down in the foreseeable future it will bring in an era that a generation of Manchester United fans will have never experienced.
A new manager.
What sort of manager will we see replace Sir Alex and will we be able to avoid the problems that blighted the search for Sir Matt Busbys replacement?
Sir Alex rules the roost with an iron fist when needed and can also protect a player when required. Perfect examples of this are the ways he wrapped Ryan Giggs in cotton wool as he slowly became a first team regular and also how he convinced Cristiano Ronaldo after the World Cup in Germany that he could still flourish as a United player. Yet, when players such as Roy Keane, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and even Beckham have stepped over the line he has dealt with them and removed the issue from the club.
The whole club moves and does as Sir Alex says, from the youth teams all the way up.
Will a new manager get that sort of free reign from the Glazers once Ferguson steps down?
It’s become a given that when a new set of owners take over a club the manager is usually ushered out the door sooner rather than later. The owners then attempt to put their own structure in place which is normally different to the current setup. Recent examples of this include Blackburn, QPR and Man City, the manager was gone fairly quickly and a new structure in place.
The structure at Manchester United is tailored exactly to how Ferguson works and the results he wants to get. When the Glazers took over they were unable to make any major changes to the footballing structure as Sir Alex is seen as a God at Old Trafford and any attempt to change him would have led to chaos with the club suffering a decline.
Would the Glazers use a change in manager to make amendments to how the club operates? It’s not a far fetched idea when you look at the likely replacements for Ferguson when he leaves.
The way of managing a club in the way that Sir Alex has managed Manchester United is no longer a viable option for most chairman/club owners. Many club owners now like to have a man in the boardroom advising on football affairs and keeping them in the loop. Is it likely that we would see Ferguson upstairs in a director of football role? Or could this cause problems for the new manager coming in?
Will we actually see a new ‘manager’ come in or will he be a coach with all off field and transfer issues taken out of his hands?
The style for many clubs at the moment is to remove the player buying aspects from the manager. At certain clubs the manager either gives a list of players he wants to the director to try and buy, or he might even be given players that the chairman/owner fancies. Whilst this is unlikely it cannot be ruled out at Manchester United once Ferguson goes so its another consideration when discussing a new man taking over.
What about the fans?
How long will the fans allow a new manager to bed in? It is unrealistic to expect that the good times will just roll on regardless when a change in manager occurs. The new man will want to do things his own way and this will inevitably lead to a transitional period. What is a transitional period the fans would allow? 6 months? A season?
To demand instant results is asking too much surely? it’s not like every other club that has seen managerial changes ever has seen instant results.
A good example of the problems that United may face are currently going on at Chelsea. Whilst United do not what is considered an old squad we do have players in certain areas that will see less playing time and need long term replacements. We have younger players in the squad who should step up but this is by no means certain and a new manager coming in will want to change the side to avoid the claim he’s just winning with Fergusons team. This is in much the same way managers at Chelsea after Mourinho were accused of winning with his team and now that Villas-Boas is trying to develop his own team its apparent that this needs time.
This scenario is highly likely at United as well as a new manager becomes his own man and moulds the team in his image.
Another issue that will crop up in discipline in the squad. Ferguson has generally kept a lid on most of the issues at the club with exceptions of Giggs infidelity, the Ravel Morrison issues and Rooneys several scrapes. Would the new man be able to keep the squad unity that has become a hallmark of Manchester United teams? With Scholes, Giggs and Ferdinand likely to be done in a few seasons its unlikely we will have a true elderstatesman for the younger squad players to look up to. How will a new manager affect that and keep the drive forward for more glory?
With the impact and legacy that Ferguson will leave behind it sure must be imperative that when Ferguson steps down he leaves the footballing side completely otherwise the new manager may have to deal with Ferguson looking down on high, from the directors box.
The fans would probably still sing of ‘Fergies Red and White Army’. What chance would a new manager have going against the shadow of the greatest manager in the clubs history?
Going forward the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson will raise many more questions than just who replaces him.
Do the Glazers change the structure?
Does the managers role change?
Will the players respect a different approach to management?
Will fans accept a different style of play and likely transitional period?
Will Ferguson be able to stay away from the touchline?
It’s a situation that many Manchester United fans have never experienced and will raise many questions about the long term future of the club. Ferguson has helped rebuild the club but when he departs how easy will it be to keep the foundations and structure in place?
Another important question is how is the new manager going to deal with the financial restrictions that SAF quite obviously but very privately has to deal with?
For example Mourinho wouldn’t keep his mouth shut whereas Guardiola may do… Surely the Glazers would have to consider this – which means are they definitely going to go for the best options, or the safest options?