by Rob Shepherd.
Sir Alex Ferguson has regrets over how David Moyes was sacked and the manner of his fellow Scot’s dismissal should be a warning that his own days at the club may be numbered…
Ferguson’s role as an influential director and ambassador is now likely to be downsized at the very least in the wake of Moyes’ departure. Fergie might have argued Moyes deserved the dignity of a bit more time but if he did offer such advice it fell on deaf ears.
The Glazers, United’s American owners, may be ready to sideline Ferguson as they look to rebuild the club and perhaps should have addressed the situation sooner.
After choosing Moyes as his successor, Ferguson didn’t do him too many favours and not just in terms of leaving an ageing squad behind.
There is a feeling among the Glazers and some board members that Ferguson’s Long Goodbye lasted, well, too long, and sections of the support are of the same opinion.
Mistakes that were made in the early 1970s after Sir Matt Busby stepped down have been replicated despite assurances there would be no repeat and Ferguson cast a shadow over Moyes the way Busby did to Wilf McGuinness and then Frank O’Farrell.
Ferguson did not have as much direct involvement in the day-to-day running of the club after his abdication compared with Busby but he has been sitting in the stands, often caught on camera grimacing as his old empire crumbled before his eyes.
You get the impression that some of the players were just waiting for him to scamper down the steps, storm into the dressing room, turn on the hair dryer and get things back on track. No doubt on days when players bumped into him they would still refer to him as the gaffer.
There can be no doubt Ferguson’s physical presence around the club had a psychological effect on the players, many of whom appeared to stop playing for Moyes.
Then of course there was the high-profile impact of Ferguson bringing out his autobiography so soon. Why couldn’t he have waited a year or so rather than cause such disruption and controversy in the early days of Moyes’ reign?
Then there’s the frequent public appearances for lucrative fees. It’s not as if Ferguson needs the money or has anything to prove and basking in his past glories surely intensifies the pressure on his successor.
At a time when Manchester United needed the manager who had brought so much success to the club for 27 years to be selfless, the golden farewell engagements went on and on. Surely it would have been better all round had Fergie melted into background. Stayed away even, in the way that Pep Guardiola did after leaving Barcelona.
That is what must happen now and in all likelihood a new manager will demand it. Certainly it appears Ferguson will have a limited influence on an appointment the club must get right if they are to avoid going into the wilderness.
It was only when Tommy Docherty managed to make sure Busby was pushed firmly into the background that the club started the long process of re-inventing itself after relegation from the top flight.
‘Relegation’ from the Champions League this season is in many ways more of a blow to the club now than it was dropping out of the old First Division in 1974. Certainly from a financial point of view with the loss of up to £80million in revenue equating to annual interest payments the Glazers pay on financing the debt.
It’s a massive call for the club to make as they seek to attract over £200million worth of new talent and it will be done, rightly or wrongly, with the Glazers putting on their corporate hats.
There is no longer any room for romance in seeking Fergie’s counsel in the guise of the Godfather from Govan.
Indeed, one suspects the board will prefer to see Ferguson spend most of his time in the coming months lecturing at Harvard business school again, not loitering around Old Trafford.