751: PREMIERSHIP: The end of the ro
by : Chris Sherrard
Every generation comes to end. Every good thing has a conclusion. So is this the end of Sir Alex Ferguson’s run at Old Trafford or will he bounce back next season in the same way he has so many times before? I can’t help thinking that it’s time he came down from his throne and declared his reign over.
There comes a time for everyone when they have to say enough is enough. Manchester United need to shed another skin if they are to come back at Arsenal next season. Every United fan would like to think that Fergie is the man to lead that comeback, there are fewer and fewer convinced that he is.
This season, relatively speaking, has been a forgettable experience at Manchester United. Not only has the team failed to impress but off-field distractions in the form a feud between the manager and a major shareholder have done little to augment an increasingly divided club. Manchester United had, at one stage, became Manchester Divided.
And, while Ferguson’s dispute with John Magnier over a racehorse has dissolved somewhat of late, there can be no doubt that it played a big part in the club’s inability to be as one. On the pitch they suffered from the manager having his eye somewhere else. Infact, there have been very few occasions this season when Manchester United have looked like a brilliant team at the top of their game. They have been able to find themselves in the top three of the table due in part to other teams cancelling each other out and because of their multitude of experience at the top of the Premiership.
The reason they’ve struggled? Well there are some who will argue it’s Beckham’s absence. Others will point to Rio’s forgetfulness. But a strong case can be made for the manager genuinely reaching the end of the line. He is arguably the greatest manager in English football’s history. No one can take away all the league titles and FA Cups and that glorious, unforgettable May night in Barcelona. His past is not in question but his future is. And so it should be. He is at the top to be hit at. Time and time again he has responded in kind.
But it’s different now. Before, when challenged by his rivals, Fergie could throw out a team containing players he knew would not let him down. Slowly and gradually those players are no longer players he knows can do the job. Gone is the English captain, gone soon will be Nicky Butt. The Nevilles and Ryan Giggs have not lit up the league in the way their counterparts at Highbury have. Rumours of a rift with his right-hand man, Roy Keane, have left him even more vulnerable.
Of the players he has brought in of late, the ones to look worthy of playing for the great club have been few. Tim Howard and Ronaldo from the last batch of signings could be deemed a success. And while Forlan, Kleberson, Bellion and Eric Djemba-Djemba are undoubtedly talented players, they are not good enough for Manchester United. Simple as that.
The Manchester United manager will, if you believe the reports, be handed a significant transfer war chest this summer. If Fergie is coming to the end of the line then why not give a new man with a new set of ideas the money? That way the next Old Trafford generation will get the best chance possible.
The ideas in Ferguson’s United this season have been scant, save for the dynamic and clearly blessed touch of Cristiano Ronaldo. The team can’t progress without an injection of freshness, whether that be from a new manager or a lively number two for Fergie.
The era of Sir Matt Busby came to an end. Likewise that of Georgie Best, Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona. The club is, and always will be, bigger than any one individual. Fergie is not a stupid man. His mistakes since he docked at Old Trafford have been few, but they have become more conspicuous in recent years. The biggest mistake he could ever make would be to outstay his welcome. I’m sure he’ll know when the time is right to go. Hopefully, it won’t be because they have become so far behind Arsenal that United fade to obscurity because that really would be the worst way he could leave the club.