It would not be a complete English Premier League season without the traditional speculation about whether Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is planning to retire from the game. Every year the English media tries the guessing game to determine if and when this cataclysmic event will take place. I can assure all of you that it’s going to be a while before we’ll see a new face patrolling the sidelines at Old Trafford. Common opinion suggests that Ferguson’s achievements will eventually push him out to pasture but frankly, it’s his lack of achievement that will keep him going.
The Scot has a resume full of trophies including multiple League titles, FA Cups and other less important titles but the one that eludes him the most and provides all of his ambition is the UEFA Champions League trophy. The man himself admits that United have underachieved in this tournament even though he has lifted the trophy twice in 1999 and 2006. His teams have dominated the early rounds over many years but have failed at the final hurdles mostly at the quarter final stages. While his team continue to compete at the highest level, Ferguson will be sure to push on for success and if United should win the trophy again, you can bet that the great man will then, and only then, consider hanging up his managerial boots.
Another strong consideration is that of the club itself. United are not like Chelsea, who have had five managers in just over two seasons, or even some of their continental counterparts such as Real Madrid who have had eight managers in fourteen seasons. Quite a record in both cases.
Success at Old Trafford has come almost entirely in two eras with two managers who led the club for more than 20 years in each case. Sir Matt Busby managed the club for 26 years from 1949 to 1971 and won 5 League titles, two FA Cups and one European Cup, having had to rebuild his team following the Munich Air Disaster in 1958 that destroyed his Busby Babes. Upon Busby’s departure from the club, the managerial merry-go-round started with a stream of unsuccessful seasons resulting in a 26 year gap between domestic League titles. A parade of Frank O’Farrell, Wilf McGuiness, Tommy Docherty, Dave Sexton and Ron Atkinson could not return the club to any kind of consistent success and even Ferguson himself almost got the chop before taking the club on a spree of success that has yet to slow down.
The years following Matt Busby will ensure that when Ferguson finally retires it will not only be his decision, but the club will be a big part of that. The timing will be right to where Ferguson’s successor will be seen as someone who will be at the club for the long term and will certainly continue the tradition of the exciting style of play coupled with producing young talent through their youth ranks.
I don’t think anyone can predict when this will all happen, and even more certain, is that no-one can predict who his successor will be. One thing is clear though, and that is expectations for the new regime will be off the charts.