Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Retirement talk leaves United and Fergie at odds

It's the truth that daren't speak its name at Old Trafford. When is Sir Alex Ferguson going to retire?
It's a question being asked of The Govanator more and more frequently - and his answer is always along the lines of "it's not on the horizon".
It's the measure of true greatness
Seasoned Fergie Watchers know why. Firstly, way way back in 2001, when he announced his retirement with a year's notice, the lap of honour descended into indiscipline, no trophies for nearly three seasons, home defeats by Middlesbrough and three third-placed finishes in four seasons.

Secondly, everyone knows Fergie is deeply affected by the death of his own father soon after his retirement. "Such talk is for the young", and "without work, there's nothing else". If there's one thing uniting Fergie with Arsene Wenger, it's on wearing carpet slippers after 60-years-old.

And since establishing that mentality, doesn't Sir Alex look well and in command? It's a long way from the mid-nineties when he looked vulnerable. His face was blotchy, his hairdryers were powered by Sellafield.

Utd ledge now ex-City journeyman. No chance Sparky.
It's even rumoured that Bryan Robson was packed off to Middlesbrough as player-manager because a poll in the Manchester Evening News had Captain Marvel ahead of Fergie as the fan's choice for manager. How insane does that look now?

Now even his glasses look modern and he's learned not to throw his chewy on the floor at the full-time whistle!

Football, bloody 'ell.

Well, this is all fine and dandy for Fergie - but it's not particularly helpful for the raging multinational, multi-income streamed business model that he helped create.

As time draws on, Manchester United's board and owners will need to defend their market position against the likes of Barcelona, Milan and the Noisy Neighbours with a bloodless succession.

But how can they deny Fergie when he keeps winning? As he nudges 70, isn't this a niggling issue at Old Trafford? Would the board be cynical enough to sack him if United went on a hideous run of results or after a catalogue of player indiscipline?

But who for the toughest act to follow in football? comically, it's been on the news agenda for over a decade and thrown up some names, which in hindsight, look absolutely ridiculous.

Can Jose's reputation outlast Fergietime?
Serious candidates have come and gone: even Roy Keane, Steve Bruce and Mark McGhee were talked of. More recently it was Steve McClaren, Sven-Goran Eriksson (that nearly did happen) and Martin O'Neill. Then Mark Hughes and David Moyes.

Now we're left with Jose Mourinho, who's long expressed the desire to return to the Premier League with United. Trouble is, his tenure at Real Madrid may be exposed to the Latin winds of change far quicker than Ferguson's desire to step aside here.

It's left to speculation as to who might be regarded as a top or available boss in three years time! Moyes is the leading domestic name, although sources on Merseyside reckon he'd only want to be next but one boss at Old Trafford.

So when Fergie does go this time, I predict it'll be a coat and dagger affair. As discreet as United can be, he will go and a new manager will be unveiled - all in 24 hours and probably in June. I'm not even going to predict the year!

But I also believe Sir Alex needs to be remembered as much for the way he stepped down as for his phenomenal success. He owes it to both his successor and the club.

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