It’s time to accept your part of the blame, Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson was known for the exceptionally high demands he made of his players, for the standards that absolutely had to be met week in, week out. And so, he should also expect the same demands to be made of him. To expect otherwise would be hypocritical.

While Ferguson can never destroy the illustrious legacy he built over a trophy-laden period of over two decades at the helm of the club, he certainly can be charged with tainting it at the very end of his tenure.

How much is Ferguson to blame for United’s current failings?

Fergie’s judgement on a number of key issues before he stepped down as manager is certainly questionable, but nobody has dared to really delve into the issue up to now, as to criticise him borders on the sacrilegious in the eyes of many supporters.


Let’s look at the facts, which I’m sure Rafa Benitez would be more than happy about.

1. The playing squad

Ferguson has vehemently defended the squad he left, keen to emphasise that the quality was there. This is simply not true.

He left a gold standard club with a team of mid-thirties players and tin cup recruits. For the massive contribution that they made to the club, Ferdinand, Giggs and Scholes were relied upon far too much in the twilight of their careers.

Ashley Young, Rafael, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Tom Cleverley and Chris Smalling: these were the young recruits whose hands, or rather feet, the future of the club was left in. Then there’s also Anderson and Nani.

While the jury is still out on Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, few would argue that the rest need to go. They are not of the standard to challenge for the Premier League, let alone the Champions League, which a club of United’s history and ambition should be challenging for every year.

While United were out purchasing these players, Chelsea and City were out buying the players that have made them a cut above everyone else in the Premier League.

Then there’s Anderson, who has managed to stay on United’s books for 8 years. Even Moyes was said to have been alarmed at the sub-par quality of the squad he inherited.

And speaking of the man himself…


2. David Moyes

Moyes is a capable coach, but the step up from Everton to United was just too much, with all due respect to Everton. He is a capable coach, but he was not for Manchester United. Mourinho on the other hand, would not have allowed United to sink so low. With Mou, as the Madrid press affectionately called him before turning on him, in charge last year, few would have doubted that United would have at least got into the Champions League places.

The mind still boggles – choosing an unproven coach over a trophy-winning machine of a manager. Watching Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa rip through teams this year puts paid to any notion that the Portuguese would have brought a defensive style of play bereft of attacking guile.

3. The gaping hole left in midfield

Roy Keane has still not been replaced at United in ten years. Of course he is one of a kind, but surely the club could have found another midfield enforcer. Ten years since Keano left. Paul Pogba will probably go to one of Europe’s top guns for over 60 million pounds by the summer, even back to United potentially.

And we had him in our ranks. Oh the irony.

To search and scour to find Roy Keane’s rightful heir. And we had him all along, but let him go.

Ferguson wouldn’t give him a chance. And ahead of who? Darren Gibson? Anderson? Now he’s said to be the best in the world in his position. It’s enough to make any United fan sick to the stomach. Ferguson levied accusations of disrespect leading to his departure which if true, may well have been grounds for him to be given the boot. Most recently though, Juventus’ goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s, has questioned Ferguson’s stance and reasons for letting him go.

Whatever happened, it will always be a tough one to accept for many a United supporter that we let such a talent go.

There is a theory that Ferguson, whether intentionally or subconsciously, left the club in a bad state on purpose. After all, does anyone really want their successor to do better than they did? Of course no one will never know for sure.

There are of course other fundamental reasons for United’s poor record since Ferguson left. Ferguson’s departure was always going to rock the club. The club itself can be to blame for allowing Ferguson to appoint his successor, and to allow David Gil, the former chief executive, to depart at the same time.

Be that as it may, the fact of the matter remains that Ferguson still has a lot to answer for.

Should Ferguson be held more to account for United’s shocker since he left? Has he largely been left off the hook?

About Timothy Woods 1 Article
Been a Manchester United supporter since I can remember thanks to an older brother's love for the club. I'm from Enniskillen originally, though I lived in Manchester for five years and worked behind the bar at Old Trafford in my student days. Favourite player is Ryan Giggs as a left-footed winger myself (or at least, I try to be). I write opinion pieces on the first team.

12 Comments

  1. my friend you are spot on. how many times were we told that there was no value in obtaining better players to improve a squad that achieved what it did on guts and determination ( an obvious quality that money can’t buy ) but who were only battlers when sheer skill and ability were a commodity that was required if the club was to progress at a rate which supporters expected. it wasn’t only in the last year of SAF reign where this situation was apparent. i reckon it was happening 2 years earlier, and i feared and sometimes suspected that the great man had become a YES MAN for the GLAZERS??. well the chickens have come home to roost and the money which is now being spent on some quality signings in areas that were sadly derelict is really only catchup payments.

  2. Spot on mate… I have said this for a long time with my mates and the theory that he would like to shine by himself is found in his own biography where he takes on d Beckham just because he belives Becks is thinking he is “bigger than the club” reason just means that Becks questioned Sir Alex….
    he thought he was bigger than sir Alex and that was not possible for anyone!!!
    So many mistakes MORE than the ones You mentioned
    -Wilfried Zaha was not even good enough for Cardiff
    -Bebe????
    -Forlan, Stamm, Keano, Pogba and Tevez going despite beeing fantastic…footballers/players
    -And why has sir Alex never bought a German player despite their dominance in world football for so long?? In stead he kept Evans, Fletcher

  3. blaming fergurson is just retarded. he is literally man united. he has given united an unbelievable financial pedigree and we spent 150 mil but we still struggling due to lvg and stubborness

  4. All this efforts and building we are no mickey mouse team we are manchester united in africa asia america europe we have the biggest and best fans every game we fill 80000 seater so why are we rebuilding when the structure is there….i think he should have given us a seasons notice and trained giggs for that season but no he just left all of a sudden stumping alot of players progress as well as shocking most fans…i love saf but ii agree with the writer playing rafael and not pogba has lost us one of the most gifted players in the world

  5. My father would never miss a home game he loved the way Sir Mats team would
    play i am talking about the 40s he would die rather than miss a home game and i grew up with the same blood in me Man Utd are the greatest club in the world
    and i still say today if Sir Alex did not advise the club to employ David Moyes
    then i think we would not be in this mess i felt Sir Alex should accept part of the blame for helping David Moyes get the managers job and the players Sir Alex left behind were his players and the players should take alot of the blame to because they didnt want to play for David Moyes.

    As an old Man Utd supporter i can offer the club my utd training by looking for top players in Ghana football that will one day play for this great club as i watch alot of football here in Ghana.so the club can contact me by useing my email i can also go and watch players training or my phone number +233577304794

  6. saf got one thing wrong in Paul pogba that’s all its not his fault that David m didn’t add to the squad, maybe saf kept Rio in the team a bit too long but I think that’s because of what he gave the team off the pitch so I don’t blame him for that ether

  7. I couldn’t disagree more.

    With Ferguson, we won the league 5 out of his last 7 years. In the other two years, we lost the league by a combined total of 1 point! You can’t really get much better than that. The squad was good enough to win the league, year after year.

    Regarding the playing squad — the author forgets that the likes of Rafael, Cleverley, and Phil Jones were considered to be huge up and coming talents. When Fergie bought those players, we all thought he was planning for the future. Smalling, Welbeck, and Evans were also very highly thought of. RVP and Ashley Young were older players when Fergie left, but thought of highly.

    About Moyes: I think any manager following Fergie would have struggled. The exception to this – though I’m glad we didn’t select him — is Mourinho. My understanding is that the board didn’t want Mourinho because of all the baggage he brings. Also, he tends to employ a scorched earth policy. The clubs he manage tend to implode severely post Mourinho.

    About replacing Keane — why does everyone still talk about Roy Keane. He was an excellent player, but we’ve done alright since he left the club, haven’t we? Football has changed since Keane retired. Our own playing style has changed since then also. We don’t need another Keane. Having said that, I was as puzzled as everyone else that Fergie didn’t bolster the central midfield area. I was also sick when Pogba left, and that feeling is only getting worse as he continues to improve each year.

    The problem is two-fold:
    1. Fergie’s successor was always going to struggle, whether Moyes or someone else. When a manager of 25+ years leaves, it’s inevitable that there will be a drop off.

    2. Woodward. The squad was mismanaged after he left. Woodward’s failure to recruit in the summer of 2013 was key — we needed an injection of talent to bolster squad belief and counteract the inevitable drop off in playing levels after Fergie’s departure.

    Woodward further mismanaged the squad in summer 2014. He let 3 of our most experienced defenders leave. I understand that he couldn’t do much about Vidic, however why wouldn’t he insist Evra stay for a year to help guide us through a transition. Evra would have had lots of playing time this year.

    But it was idiotic to go after Falcao when we needed centre backs and full backs.

    Anyway, my rant is over. I just hate to see people slating Fergie. I didn’t think he was perfect (e.g., Pogba), however you have to accept people in their entirety. Fergie had his flaws, but he also had us winning the league, playing nice football, and competing in Europe year after year.

    • Yes Henry, I completely understand what you are saying. Thanks for adding to the debate. Ferguson was brilliant, while he was at the club. And that’s the whole premise of the article. He was great while there but I’m not talking about while he was at the club, I’m talking about what he left behind. The club is still trying to recover and will be until at least next season, and it really does raise a lot of questions about his judgement and his motives.

  8. SAF definitely built the legacy of man utd, but did nothing for the future of the club. The younger players aren’t premier league callibre and moyes and van gal were left with an inexperienced team (minus some key players). I love SAF as he is united and built this club, but he just didn’t leave a future.

  9. I think SAF managed the team (and to a large degree, the club) in a specific way which entirely suited him. It was completely bespoke to him. It became his empire and his dynasty. The players responded to his style of management in a very precise manor which was embedded in the attitude and style of football that Manchester United played. Towards the end of his reign, after Ronaldo left, the average-quality players who were brought in were done so as they were deemed to have the ability to suit SAF’s player preference, no one else’s, and it worked, 2 champions leagues finals, 2 league titles and league cup pay tribute to that. The downside to this is the process to get out of the mindset which is now so embedded within the club. Both Moyes and LVG will wish to run a football team in their own style. This in itself would take time to implement, but to change key aspects of a previously successful empire of a club which had effectively been rebuilt in Ferguson’s mould will always take a huge amount of time. It took SAF 6 years to really get United working to his preferred style. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took LVG and his possible successor a similar amount of time, regardless of the money spent.

  10. I think people have to accept that anybody in a job for like this for 25 years is going to make mistakes. Players are always going to slip through the net (like Pogba.) We all knew he had potential but I don’t think we quite envisaged the speed in which that’s occurred. Let’s not forget he emerged at a similar time to Ravel Morrison who was equally lauded as being a potential star of the future. Ferguson clearly felt there was an issue with both of them so they left, he was right in one instance and wrong in the other, we weren’t to know that. He wanted the correct attitude from his players. Bigger names than those two have left the club for similar reasons in the past.
    As for the squad in general, I remember the optimism after the Real Madrid game (Nani red card season) when we went away to them and drew 1-1, thoroughly deserved to go through over the two legs, and many felt felt these young players were the future of the club. 2 years later and many or surplus to requirements. Fergie leaving has almost certainly afrected their development, many of whom were at a crucial point in their careers last season when everything started going wrong.
    My squad issues lie with the way in which the club has been run since 2005, and to what extent was Fergie an accepting part of that? We are by far and away the biggest club in England, and therefore generate the largest revenues. We’ve never been a club to needlessly go out and spend stupid amounts of money every summer (like city and Chelsea have done prior to Ffp) but prior to 2005 we were a club that, if needed, would go out and do what it takes to improve the squad. If we had a hole in the team we fixed it, regardless of cost. Think big name singings, Rio Rooney Cole Stam Veron (ok we know it didn’t work out) Van Nistelrooy. When we needed someone we got them and they improved us because they were proven quality. Remember the famous line ‘you don’t win anything with kid’s’ well does anybody remember the previous line that Mr Hanson said to that ‘the key is to buy when you’re strong’ and by god was he right on that one. We unearthed a gem in Ronaldo, and when he left we made no attempt to replace him with anyone near his level. Along with Barcelona we were the best in Europe. Manchester United pre Glazer would have replaced a Ronaldo with a Di Maria, not a valencia.
    If Fergie was genuinely happy with our transfer activities post 2005 then fine, after all we were successful. But I wonder how successful we could have been if we’d acted in the way pre 2005 united did in the market, and I also wonder where we’d be now. I doubt we’d be needing to have this debate.

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