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?