It could have been such a perfect ending. Imagine it. Sir Alex Ferguson holds his third European Cup aloft in Madrid, home of the most successful club side, crowning himself as the most successful club manager. Adding United’s 4th European title to the record breaking 19th Premier League title won weeks before. Retiring and ending his United career with a glorious total of twenty eight honours. His friend and rival Jose Mourinho waiting in the wings to take over the reins. The Ronaldo money still waiting to be used at his disposal, to take United into the next era as only he can.
You couldn’t write the script much better. But, back to realty, Sir Alex and United were dumped out of Europe on Wednesday night. The next few weeks will now determine to what extent the last miserable three games will have on their title chances. With the run of games they now have and more precisely the fact that United will kick off their next couple of games before Chelsea do, they have every chance of winning the title. That said, there is every chance they won’t too.
Whatever happens, the 2nd leg against Bayern could well sum up United’s season. Signs of great potential but lacking in areas. The first half, right up until the sloppy goal they allowed Bayern to score, showed the potential the team has to attack teams ruthlessly all over the pitch. The second half showed at times a lack of composure, energy and imagination. It may sound harsh considering they had a man sent off from virtually the start of it but proves the point about composure and that they were and have been missing someone. Considering they were twice in front in the tie, would other United sides of recent years still gone out? It may have been a wonder goal that knocked them out but after it did go in, where was the belief and imagination they could score again? They just looked a bit tired really.
Tired how they did against Chelsea? Unimaginative like their early season form? The lack of composure that has cost them in t
heir higher than normal number of league defeats this season?
If United only finish the season with the Carling Cup then expect Ferguson to want to stay on. Being this close to the record books you can’t imagine being the man he is he is going to walk away. If that’s the case, you can’t see him repeating the summer of 1995 when he got rid of senior players like Ince, Hughes and Kanchelskis and put his faith in the ‘kids’ to write his name in the record books. Gibson has done well in the games he has played. Rafael has bags of energy going forward but inconsistent going the other way- look at the Bayern game. But there has only been glimpses of the likes of Macheda, Welbeck and Obertan this season and nothing to suggest that 1995’s summer will be repeated.
If you want to be the best then surely you have to compare yourself to the best. How many United players would get in Barcelona? Rooney? Maybe an unfair question. How many in anyone else’s side in England or around the world would get in Barcelona’s side? The point is the strength in dept everyone thought United had has been exposed over the last few games- at a time when they needed it to shine the most. They have too many ‘water carriers’. Too many players that will have one really good game and two very average games. The older generation are becoming a ‘too older’ generation.
That Ronaldo money and £100 million transfer kitty United say they have this summer will need to be used. Replacements at United are needed and Ferguson can’t afford to put all his eggs in the basket of youth and wait if he wants his third Champions League winner’s medal.
Back to the Jose Mourinho point. You would have had to live on Mars to know it’s a question of when rather than if he leaves Inter to return to managing in England. You feel he wants to be a club with a bit, maybe a bit more than a bit, of money behind them. Freedom from the board to do things his way and a platform to build the next chapter in his legacy from. Liverpool has been mentioned but the owners and financial problems will put him off. Man. City could take him down the same problem path as Chelsea and the money aspect of City could actually put him off as his legacy in England would suggest money played a bigger role in his success than he did. Him at Arsenal? You just can’t see that happening.
That only really leaves Chelsea and United. Chelsea, well never say never with Mourinho! Mourinho going to United though you really he and only he would realise in following Sir Alex. Anyone else, the likes of O’Neill, Moyes whoever you can just see them crumbling under the weight of expectation and only being given two years if it all starts on the back foot. Mourinho you would feel would spring board United back to probably where they were two seasons ago now.
Ferguson’s successor will probably though all depend on him. When he decides to leave. Can Mourinho wait for this? Will Madrid be too tempting for him as a challenge if the United job doesn’t come up?
United can hide around the Rafael sending off but their defeat to Bayern ask more questions than answers about the club’s next step.
Written by Luke Harrison