Is United’s current situation a product of Fergie’s selfishness?

2014-03-22 00:00

IT has taken long enough, but Manchester United finally gave their ardent supporters something to cheer about on Wednesday night when they battled their way into the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a win over Greek giants Olympiakos.

“Greek” is the word here that should stifle any over-the-top Red Devil celebrations, and should remind the club’s minions that they have, in fact, achieved nothing.

When you go from English Champions to celebrating European success over relative minnows in the time that it’s taken David Moyes to do just that, then you know it has been a season to forget.

It would be foolish to criticise Moyes too much. The task at hand was always mammoth and replacing perhaps the greatest manager of all time was something that was never going to be done with any immediate success.

The responses of “he needs time”, and those comparisons to Fergie’s first few years at Old Trafford will always be there. But with United now out of the race for a top-four finish and unlikely to go all the way in the Champions League, one has to question whether or not Dear David has what it takes to turn United competitive next season. Missing out on Champions League football is okay once, but do it twice in a row and, at a club like United, you’re surely on your bicycle.

An interesting point on the curious case of United was highlighted by a close friend of mine — an Arsenal fan to the point where you would swear that he was born slap bang in the middle of the centre circle at the Emirates. He wasn’t, though. He was born in the greater metropolis of Pietermaritzburrah, but you certainly cannot fault his knowledge and love of the Gunners.

As one might imagine, he has been quite chirpy this season, even to the point where he had the audacity to label Sir Alex Ferguson as “selfish”. A ridiculous statement, surely, about a man who lived and breathed the football club that he served for so long. But upon closer inspection, and introspection, it appears that our Gooner friend has not completely lost the plot.

He argues that Ferguson, in his final season, was more concerned with going out on a winning note than he was with preserving the future of the club. The emergency signing of an ageing Robin van Persie gives this notion credibility. Was Ferguson so obsessed with wresting the title back from Manchester City that he lost sight of what would happen after he left? Was he building a squad that would only compete for one year instead of future years? A look at some of the first team players makes for scary reading. Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick and Van Persie are all the wrong side of 30 and, more importantly, they were all instrumental in Fergie’s success last season.

Ferguson’s class of 1992 groomed the likes of David Beckham, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Giggs and Nicky Butt — players who went on to achieve great things for the club. He was a manager who always had one eye cast on the future and how he was going to win trophies beyond the season he was in.

But, maybe just this once, Fergie sacrificed the future for immediate success, so that he could go out with a bang. Nobody can argue that after 27 years he had earned the right to go out however he wanted, but Moyes might be a lot better equipped had a class of 2013 been prepared for him.

He will have to groom his own students now, with the talented Adnan Januzaj leading the way.

If Moyes is to make United competitive once more, he must surely do it with a new breed of players. And this is where the doubt over his capability arises.

Does he have what it takes to do what Ferguson did and mould a young, inexperienced group of players into title winning machines? And, if he can, then how long will he be given to do so? It didn’t happen overnight for Ferguson, and it certainly won’t for Moyes.

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