By Mark James
As a longstanding visitor to Old Trafford, I would like to see Sir Alex Ferguson go on forever. His appetite for the game has never diminished, he never loses his determination to lead teams to victory and, for more than two decades, he has continued to prove pundits and fans wrong in their assumptions that Manchester United must be in the first stages of a downward spiral.
This age of Old Trafford cynicism is nothing new. One could argue that it began on the day Alan Hansen sat in his ill-fitting suit and declared that, “You can’t win anything with kids.” According to the former Liverpool skipper, the trick in winning the championship was to have strength in depth and Manchester United just didn’t have it.
To this day, Hansen remains widely ridiculed for that remark. However, you may recall that his was far from being the only objectionable opinion to Ferguson’s new approach to adding yet more silverware to the trophy cabinet. The United manager clearly knew something we didn’t and, throughout the remainder of the season, we saw this come to fruition. What he already knew was the strength in depth and new youthful input we were about to be blessed with, as Beckham, Scholes, the Neville brothers and Nicky Butt all defied their age to lift the title at the end of the season. John O’Kane did his part as well (for those counting on me leaving any of the ‘kids’ out).
It never ceases to amaze me that fans and pundits alike refuse to believe that Fergie may just know a lot more than we do. As with the recent backlash against Arsene Wenger, I still hear the constant murmurings of supporters suggesting that the legendary manager has lost his way or that, since the departure of Carlos Queiroz, we have never had the tactical awareness needed to compete at the highest level. I am never one for blind faith. I need the facts to backup my beliefs. Yet, regardless of your opinion of United’s inferiority in comparison to previous Alex Ferguson sides, there can be no doubt that he has continued to deliver the one thing that counts, major trophies.
Perhaps this latest round of dissatisfaction comes from the fear of our ever-flushed rivals. No doubt the emergence of Manchester City as a genuine competitor is a catalyst for our desires to sign the very best in the world and keep them from arriving on the other side of the city. I still return you to the same reassuring point, Sir Alex Ferguson will always know what he is doing and he certainly won’t be cracking up like Robbie.
Sadly, the one thing which is in demise is the time left to enjoy the reassurance of the greatest manager of the modern era. The laughable tone and downplaying of retirement has all but disappeared in recent months and, more than ever before, I believe that Sir Alex is now building a young team to pass on to his successor. But, as always, it seems that he again knows something we don’t; Pep Guardiola will be the next manager of Manchester United.
During a recent interview with Yahoo! Sport, Ferguson was quizzed as to his opinion of the likelihood that the former Barca man would be returning to the game the following season. Perhaps it was the certainty of the interviewer which gave such prominence to Fergie’s retort, or perhaps it was a man letting slip what he knows for sure, as he responded, “I spoke to Pep a while ago and he said he has no interest in getting back into management at the moment.” Of course, why would he, the job he wants is yet to be vacated.
When you have won it all in such a short period in management, what becomes your next true challenge? We all know that Guardiola seems intent on managing in the English Premier League and the realist would suggest that, at this time, that leaves just 3 probable destinations. Is there a challenge in having all the money under the sun from two cash-rich owners who will not allow him to build a legacy if results start to diminish? I would suggest not.
The greatest challenge in football will be to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson and this will be the challenge Pep Guardiola will take up, as the Old Trafford leader gives one final glance at the watch and waves goodbye.
About the Author: Mark James attended his first Manchester United game in the mid 80s. He has been a regular visitor to Old Trafford for more than two decades and has developed a passion for sports writing since leaving University with an Honours Degree in Media Studies. As a dedicated writer, Mark has been published in UN sponsored business magazines on behalf of International Tourist Boards, dramatically boosted the online present of e-commerce companies around the world and continues to share his love of Manchester United with blogging communities across the internet. Available via a number of freelancer hire sites, Mark can be contacted through his leading online profile available here..