Alex Ferguson’s final season with Manchester United has often been talked about as one of his finest campaigns, largely because he captured the club’s 20th league title with a squad who, against previous squads, would not be deemed the strongest.
It was Ferguson in the dugout who strengthened the weaknesses in this United team, giving them the necessary mental tools to overcome their shortcomings. It’s the aura he exudes and the expectation he places into his team. You could go a little way into arguing that Ferguson was one of the few managers in world football who could have turned this group into champions, regardless of the quality surrounding them in the league.
After such a long time in charge, the transition to Ferguson’s successor will obviously be important. There is comfort in the fact that Ferguson is ‘moving upstairs,’ but it is absolutely fundamental for future success that David Moyes is offered full control to shape the playing squad and ethos of the club in his own image. Fortunately, that image isn’t too dissimilar to what we’ve come to know under Ferguson.
It’s a new era in the history of Manchester United and it needs to be treated like one. There is always a fear that any club experiencing difficulty could simply revert back to what they know best as a means to sail out of stormy waters. There will be a presence over Old Trafford and over Moyes’ shoulder that only adds weight to the expectation. It’s not an exploration of the idea that it would be best if Ferguson removed himself completely from the club – there is actually plenty of good that can come from this, look at Barcelona, Bayern and Ajax – but it is an acceptance that inadvertently the old manager may ‘get in the way’ of the new man in charge.
What you’d like to see is Moyes come in and make changes in areas where he feels essential. That means pulling up parts of the squad that may not be seen as long-term components of the team and enforcing his authority to the fullest extent. That includes having all the freedom to bring in his coaching staff, rather than having those left by the previous manager forced upon him. There should be no comparisons where comparisons aren’t necessary. How much will it undermine Moyes if the shadow of Ferguson continues to hang over him through the unnecessary and potentially damaging talk of years of gone by?
There should be a sense of excitement rather than trepidation. Manchester United and Ferguson wouldn’t have chosen Moyes if they didn’t believe him to be up for the job. The lack of silverware doesn’t matter, just as it didn’t to Barcelona when Pep Guardiola took over. This is a job that has been highlighted and treated as something exceptional. Yes, it is an exceptional club that wants to maintain its incredibly high standards in football, but this remains simply a football job like all others.
It’s important to remember that Moyes was appointed in an act that went against the grain. There was little to no chasing of European-classed managers and those with experience in the Champions League. Specifically, United chose not to go for the short-term option and rather opted for a man they’d prefer to be in place for many, many years. And while Moyes and Ferguson have plenty of similar approaches to the game, it’s not to say that Moyes can run United in exactly the same manner as Ferguson. It means allowing the new manager to make changes on the pitch and behind the scenes which he feels will bring long-term stability under his stewardship. This is no longer Alex Ferguson’s team, and that is the most important factor to remember.
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