Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson retires at Manchester United

One more shot at the big one, but no way Jose at United
Sir Alex Ferguson will retire at the end of the season. May 19th will see Fergie manage United for the last time against WBA, 26 and a half years after taking over from Ron Atkinson in November 1986.

But he's not leaving the building. He'll become a club director and ambassador. Where that fits in with his successor remains to be seen.

United have planned for this. Believe me, this hasn't caught them on the hop. This has been on the cards for a decade. The new manager will be unveiled in the coming days as soon as he's resigned his current post.

When Sir Alex announced his retirement TWELVE years ago, it was an orchestrated procession lasting an excruciating whole season. The countdown to it reduced United from treble-winners and perennial champions to 3rd placed also-rans – 3 times in 4 seasons in fact.

Fergie's extraordinary volto-face all those years ago, signalled continued, uninterrupted success right up to now. He's just claimed his thirteenth Premier League title.

But his decision to carry on wasn't about his own private concerns about dying soon after stepping away from the limelight. His own father passed away shortly after retiring. It was about moves afoot on the United board which he couldn't abide.

Then chief executive Peter Kenyon went out on a limb to get then England manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson without buy-in from the rest of the board.

And when Sir Alex found out he said, "He's not going to inherit my bloody team!". Fergie stayed.

That’s why all talk of his retirement this time has been reduced to wee news conference nuggets – about carrying on as long as his good health allowed it – or I’ll go in two or three years time.

David Gill, 10 years United’s chief executive, who privately said he’d never quit while Sir Alex remained manager did just that. He goes in June. The idea being his departure wouldn’t overshadow the great man’s own announcement when it came.

David Moyes, for many the lead successor to Fergie is thought to be in the frame.

But even though the stand out candidate, Everton's manager doesn’t entirely fit the United board’s criterion to be manager. Substantial Champions League experience is missing from his CV. Privately, Moyes expressed reservations about succeeding Fergie immediately anyway.

Given the immense job of replacing such a huge character, United's choice of successor is tough one. Everton's chairman Bill Kenwright said he'd personally drive Moyes to Old Trafford to succeed Sir Alex. (I bloody wouldn't).

So the surprise is after all the talk and posturing over many years, as the United job becomes available, Jose Mourinho's not in the frame, despite all the years he coveted it.

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