Can Man United ever move on while he remains?

Louis van Gaal or Ryan Giggs? If the recent reports are to be believed, it appears that its the 62-year-old former Bayern Munich manager that is being lined up to replace David Moyes at Manchester United.

That is despite the recommendation of Sir Alex Ferguson. Having played an integral role in the selection of the “Chosen One”, the legendary Glaswegian was apparently looking to play the role of kingmaker once more by suggesting Giggs should be given the role on a permanent basis.

But can United ever truly move on while Ferguson continues to loom so large?

Speaking about the Welshman last week, Ferguson stated: “I think that he  is the one man they should go to, really.”

“He’s got 20-odd years of experience at Manchester United. I signed him as a kid at 13 years of age. He’s gone through the gamut of emotions at the club – he’s experienced all the highs and lows.”

With  Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes at his side, Ferguson is confident that his former winger is more than capable of managing the Red Devils.

The Glaswegian has often spoken highly of the model employed at Bayern Munich, where legends who understand the culture and value of the club occupy numerous prominent backroom positions. And Ferguson believes that the retention of the Class of ’92 could be United’s first steps towards replicating their German counterparts. At Bayern currently, the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeness, Sepp Maier and Gerd Muller all hold prominent positions.

But does the presence of such legends always hinder the man in the hotseat?

The current situation at Bayern would suggest it does indeed. In recent weeks, Pep Guardiola has come under frequent attack from Der Kaiser. Following the first leg defeat at the Bernabeu, Beckenbauer criticised the Spaniard’s tactics by saying “possession doesn’t mean anything when your opponents create the better chances.” And after knocking Arsenal out of the Champions League, the Bayern President complained that his side were “going to end up being unwatchable like Barcelona”, despite the result.

Obviously some will argue that these legends on the sidelines serve an important role in protecting the identity of the club. Beckenbauer is simply vocalising the concerns that many have with Guardiola’s attempt to reshape Bayern in his own image. But is this really healthy for the manager or the football club?

In Munich, Guardiola can never compete with the opinions of a figure as respected as Beckenbauer. The same can be said of Ferguson’s influence in Manchester over any of his future successors.

At United though, it would appear that events leading to and following Moyes’ sacking are attempts to finally free the club from Ferguson’s grip. Reports suggest that the “Chosen One” believed he retained the full backing of the former manager right until the end of his tenure at the club. It was Chief Executive Ed Woodward that  took the steps to dismiss the Scot, unconvinced that he was the right man to take the club forward.

By sacking Moyes, Ferguson’s chosen successor, and seemingly overlooking Giggs, Ferguson’s preferred candidate, it would appear that Woodward is doing all he can to reduce Sir Alex’s influence on proceedings at Old Trafford.

And while it may sound harsh, it is ultimately for the good of the club. United owe a great deal to Ferguson for the unprecedented success he delivered during his twenty six years at the helm. The Scot upheld the club’s traditions whilst breeding a pervasive culture and winning mentality.

But the time has surely come for this legend to take a step back. There was always the sense that the former manager’s continued presence was a distraction that Moyes could have done without. By reportedly moving for Van Gaal, Woodward is clearly searching for a man big enough to essentially break free from the shackles of Ferguson’s legacy and imprint his own ideas on the role.


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