Moving on from Sir Alex Ferguson has proven difficult for Manchester United, and nine years on from the great man bidding farewell to Old Trafford, the club are still searching for a way to do so.
United are of course set to usher in yet another new era this summer as Erik ten Hag arrives from Ajax. The fact that the Dutchman is the eighth man, including caretakers, to take his seat in the dugout tells you a lot about the club’s struggles to replace Ferguson.
The man himself knew how tough the job could turn out to be for his successor when he addressed the Old Trafford crowd following his final game in charge. Having beaten Swansea in his last outing at home, Ferguson took the microphone to deliver his instructions to the fans.
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“I’d also like to remind you that when we had bad times here, the club stood by me, all my staff stood by me, the players stood by me,” he said. “Your job now is to stand by our new manager. That is important.”
We all of course know what happened to that new manager. David Moyes arrived at Old Trafford on a six-year contract, but he would not even see out the first year of that deal as he departed after just 10 months.
Since then, it’s been a procession of managers as United have tried, and failed, to find a true successor to Ferguson. Ryan Giggs, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Michael Carrick and Ralf Rangnick have all had their opportunity, and none have delivered what the legendary Scot was able to.
Such was Ferguson’s impact that even his players had to remind themselves of the need to move on following his departure. Rio Ferdinand was among the senior group of players in the dressing room at that time, and recognized the challenge United had.
“To win at Old Trafford, the man’s desire to win football matches, to keep bringing success to the football club, he deserves a win in his last home game,” said Ferdinand. “It’s obviously a personal thing between the squad and the manager. It’s emotional. For us to hear it was devastating but it’s a big club and we have to move on. He wants that.”
United though have failed to hear Ferdinand’s words. As much as the club needs to ‘move on’ from Ferguson, it hasn’t even come close yet.
During his long tenure at Old Trafford, Ferguson amassed a remarkable 1,500 games in charge. Since his departure from him, Solskjaer has come the closest to equaling that tally, and even he only managed 168 games in charge.
Ten Hag will hope he can be the man to finally give United their chance to move on from Ferguson. The 52-year-old has perhaps the toughest job of any of the great man’s successors over the years as he takes over with the club at their lowest ebb since 2013. But with a chance to rebuild and mold the squad in his own image, perhaps the Ajax boss can be the man to finally succeed where others have failed.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.