Should Manchester United fans be overly concerned?

Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson

In recent comments to a national newspaper, Manchester United’s Brazilian midfielder, Anderson, revealed the fears he has for the club once Sir Alex Ferguson eventually decides to retire from football management.

He told the Daily Star: ‘Manchester United is Alex Ferguson. When he leaves, the club will lose 30 to 40 per cent. So much depends on him.

‘He’s a father to all the players, a very respected person and when he retires, the football world will really feel his loss.

‘He always helped me, and I have a great affection for him. He lives for training and always wants to know how his players and their families are.’

So should United fans be concerned when Ferguson leaves; and how will the club continue the trend of success with a team arguably performing better than the sum of its parts?

Ferguson’s reputation of getting the best out of his players is second to none; with some believing that the Premier League title winning team of 2010/11 would have struggled to challenge for honours under a less capable manager.

There would ultimately be a period of transition once the 70-year-old calls it a day, with perhaps a season or two for the new manager to gain the trust of the players and implement his own style.

But he should not need to change things around too much, as Sir Alex has been planning for his departure for some time now.

The tradition of bringing players up through the academy and into the first-team has been entrenched into the Manchester United psyche over the past 50 years or so, long before the celebrated Scotsman; and was first introduced by Sir Matt Busby.

Ferguson has carefully adhered to this policy by nurturing players like Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley into England internationals; and helped to extend the careers of both Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs well into their late-thirties.

The likes of Scholes and Giggs have been the nucleus of Ferguson’s teams, certainly for the last ten years, with players only brought into the club if they can match the duo’s commitment and professionalism at the club.

Both players are likely to retire within the next couple of years; with Scholes likely to end his career permanently next May. Therefore, the new manager would be wise to follow in the club’s traditions and build a team around the likes of near-veterans, Wayne Rooney (barring a contract wrangle two years ago) and Rio Ferdinand, using them as examples of their commitment to the club.

Having players in the squad who understand the history of the club and its significance around the world is crucial to United’s success, meaning a radical overhaul of personnel is not something which should be considered by a prospective new manager.

It will be a very daunting prospect for anyone taking over from Sir Alex; and there may be a few parallels to draw upon from the period in the early seventies where United struggled after Busby’s departure as manager.

However, I would not be surprised if Ferguson is already in discussions with David Gill over his potential successor to avoid any last-minute, panic-stricken appointment.

It is this meticulous planning and adapting to the constant changes within football that has seen Manchester United become so successful in the past twenty years; and does not just rely on the quality of players on the pitch.

The club will want someone who can commit long-term to the club, with David Moyes being an obvious choice; but those with European pedigree such as Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho would surely relish the challenge of taking up the reins at Old Trafford, although it is hard to see either man staying longer than  three or four years.

But as Ferguson will testify himself, no one man is bigger than a football club; and fears that the team will plummet into mid-table mediocrity once he leaves are not those which I share.

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