In May of last year, Sir Alex Ferguson made the decision to finally retire from his position at Manchester United after an unprecedented managerial reign spanning four decades.
Having avenged the previous campaign’s heartbreaking conclusion by reclaiming the Premier League crown from ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City, Ferguson decided that enough was enough and the time was right for him to finally step down, eleven years after his u-turn on the matter.
The record 20th Premier League triumph for the club confirmed that he had achieved his well documented goal of knocking Liverpool ‘off their perch.’ Over his tenure the Scot oversaw a number of cycles of domestic and European success interspersed with the occasional fallow years.
From the Eric Cantona-inspired United of the 1990s right through to the last title success spearheaded by Robin Van Persie, Ferguson successfully masterminded the re-generation of multiple Manchester United sides. Each and every period of difficulty encountered under his reign resulted in years of sustained success.
With his successor David Moyes enduring a very difficult start to life at Old Trafford, it is apparent that this current Manchester United side has run its course and requires major re-developments if any success is to follow in the near future. It is hard to say for sure whether he foresaw the problems that have come to light in this campaign, but Ferguson definitely retired and got out of the game at the right time.
That isn’t to excuse Moyes from the many mistakes that he has made. A team doesn’t decline from Champions to 7th place without some level of blame being attached to the management. Moyes’ tactical insistence on using the width of the field has come under great criticism. The recent 2-2 draw at home to Fulham saw United fire in an astounding 81 crosses, with visiting defender Dan Burns saying he had not “headed that many balls since the Conference.”
With Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young failing to provide the quality required from these areas, the team’s attacking threat has diminished significantly as a result. The Scot is failing to get the best out of his creative players such Shinji Kagawa, Juan Mata and even Wayne Rooney. Although hindsight is a wonderful thing, it would appear at this stage that Moyes made an error in changing the club’s entire backroom staff upon arrival.
Familiar faces such as Rene Meulensteen and Mike Phelan may have been able to ease the transition for the new manager. Instead, Moyes chose to replace his predecessor’s most trusted lieutenants with his own in the likes of Steve Round and the recently retired Phil Neville.
The logic behind the former Everton manager’s decision is understandable, but it may have proven to be unwise, judging by the team’s performances this campaign. The pressure has also mounted upon Moyes due to the club’s actions in the previous two transfer windows. Mata and Marouane Fellaini arrived in big money moves but, so far, the Old Trafford faithful have yet to see the best of the pair of them.
High profile pursuits of Cesc Fabregas and Ander Herrera both ended in failure. For one reason or another, Moyes has failed to address the fundamental failings of a side that has quite obviously reached the end of its lifespan.
There is a lot of deadwood in the current squad that needs to be moved on. Players that have failed to make the grade consistently, such as Anderson and Young, need to be sold in order for the club to make the necessary acquisitions to re-develop the squad. Players like Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Nemanja Vidic have clearly had their best years for the club and efforts need to be made to replace such formerly influential figures.
Moyes would also welcome at least one new central midfielder. United have been crying out for reinforcements in this area for years now and only Carrick has performed consistently well enough in this role for the club. But even he is 32-years-old and plans need to be made for the future. Only a brief look at the current playing squad reveals the level of investment that Moyes requires if he is going to return the club to the summit of the Premier League.
Ferguson’s final United side has definitely come to the end of its cycle. Bearing all of this in mind, it is difficult to determine just how far Moyes is to blame for the club’s current malaise. The Scot has inherited a squad that is essentially past it and full of squad players that are just not good enough. For one reason or another, individuals that shone in the previous campaign have failed to recapture that level of form this year, and a certain proportion of the blame should be levelled at these players.
In light of this season, perhaps Ferguson’s final title triumph should be regarded as one of his greatest achievements? In a side that was much derided as one of the weakest United teams of recent years, Ferguson masterminded a record 25 victories in their opening 30 Premier League fixtures to coast to the title.
Considering the massive surgery and re-building work that the club need to press on with over the coming years, Ferguson most definitely got out of the game at the right time. On a record high with a crop of players that he recognised he could take no further.