Sir Alex Ferguson sits in the dugout at Old Trafford as an immovable protector of one of the great empires in world football. It’s hard to shake the fact that someday he will step back for good, leaving a huge number of question marks over his successor’s head. The legacy that Alex Ferguson will leave with Manchester United is one that has launched the club into almost unparalleled territory. And despite pretenders to the throne, United have established themselves as the face of the Premier League and modern English football.
Ferguson’s actions and calculated risks have allowed himself to separate from those who were once equal. The challenges laid before him were swept aside almost effortlessly, and yet there has never been a time when the manager seemed to rest on previous successes.
The introduction of Eric Cantona helped establish the club as the dominant force in English football, while the successes of the youth graduates headed by David Beckham took the club one step further and into glory in Europe. Despite the exciting arrivals and heartbreaking departures of some of the world’s finest talents, there is a comfort in knowing that Sir Alex is more than capable of overseeing a new era of success at United.
Arguably that creates problems for whomever is chosen to replace Ferguson. The pressure will be unthinkable and the weight of expectation will equal that of Old Trafford. But success and the arrivals of great players has become a tradition thanks to Ferguson. There will be pressure for the new manager, but the legacy left behind will ensure that United remain among the elites of European football, never faltering and becoming a second-rate parody of themselves.
Like with Real Madrid and Barcelona, and among a select few of Europe’s greatest clubs, United are able to stand proudly as a club who are a draw for any of the world’s best players. Modern footballers aspire to play for the club, but not because of the manager, rather the name that has been built up over the past number of decades.
It should be safe to say that Sir Alex has and will continue to operate in a manner that is suited to the best interests of Manchester United. As with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, there is a faith that the manager will continue to safeguard the future of his club—a club that has unofficially been handed over to the man in the dugout.
However, problems have arisen and are still currently present. The issue with the Glazers is one that won’t go away, with Ferguson taking on a supporting role to those in unnaturally higher seats of power. While Manchester United is viewed as Sir Alex’s club, it’s necessary to understand that there is a greater hand that rules above his.
The supporters are naturally unhappy with the state of the club, and the debt seems like an unshakeable burden placed upon them by these outsiders. The astronomical fee raised through the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo has not been properly used to re-strengthen the squad and, perhaps for the first time, there are questions as to how much the club is offering the manager to create another powerful, title-winning squad.
But the problems remaining are not of the making of the manager; the owners are rightly seen as the uninvited outsiders who are damaging the club.
Yet, at this stage in his career, Alex Ferguson has ensured that the playing squad is youthful and with plenty of potential to do more. The income the club receives is also an indicator that Manchester United are a global brand and not just a leading light in a sports arena—a position that Ferguson’s success has helped cement.
Football, both in England and Europe, will change once Alex Ferguson decides to step down. But there should be little doubt that a new arrival can continue the tradition and success of the club.