Changing Of The Guards


“People normally die before they get a statue…I’m outliving death.”

Certain sections of tinfoil-hat wearing, mainly internet-based, rival supporters have long since bandied the opinion that once Sir Alex Ferguson vacates the manager’s seat at OT, they’ll finally be able to compete on some sort of level playing field. According to this species, as the elder statesman of the Premier League, Fergie has everyone in his pocket: Referees are terrified of him; the FA likewise and his hand-picked, old-boys network of fellow managers remain so in awe, out of sheer deference they don’t even bother to give us a game.

Well that’s a load of bollocks, surely? And yes, it’s easy to laugh it off and dismiss such notions as the embittered ramblings of deluded cranks, but then you stumble across a comment like this from Sam Allardyce: “It was good to catch up with Sir Alex on Wednesday… I popped in to have a quick glass of wine with him before I left. His enthusiasm and drive never dims and he was in good form, which is why he’s the best manager in the world.”

Oh pur-lease. That was actually the real Big Sam by the way, not the similarly smitten twitter parody, speaking after West Ham’s visit to OT a couple of weeks ago. Now let’s be brutally honest here, would you be happy to hear stuff like that coming from your team’s manager following a defeat? Me neither. It goes beyond mere flattery and instead enters the realm of blatant arse-kissing. Turn it in, for christ’s sake – it’s embarrassing.


After clocking 25 years at United last November, this year’s anniversary saw the unveiling of the promised statue (it’s no Ted Bates, at least) complete with the obligatory round of gushing tributes, tv spots and celebratory lunches. Call me a miserable bastard for pointing this out, but the whole thing just smacks of overkill now…how much more does Fergie’s (of course, immense) contribution need to be recognised? The testimonial, the North stand re-named, the statue…never mind “outliving death”, he’s not even retired yet.

It’s now over a decade since his aborted departure and Fergie cannot of course, go on forever. Unlike 10 years ago, it’s fair to assume that the gap between the announcement and timing of his farewell will be brutally swift this time out – and we’ll have a pre-ordered replacement waiting in the wings as opposed to embarking on a public game of kiss chase. One would hope that discussions are already underway, knowing as we do that the man himself has met with both Mourinho and Guardiola in recent weeks. It would surely come as a major surprise to learn that one or the other hasn’t already been sounded out re: future plans and their thoughts on taking over at United.

Of course this is all speculation and there remains the very the distinct possibility that he’ll stay on beyond next summer – but I’m not going to be surprised if this proves to be Fergie’s final season. Following his health scare in the summer, remember that another of his supposed cronies, Dave Whelan let slip (or was misquoted…whatever) to ESPN, “after next season, Sir Alex will call it a day.” The volte-face of the Van Persie signing (a premium price paid for an ‘over-age’ player) was a clear relaxation of the previously employed transfer policy, and smacked of a ‘shackles-off’ attempt to sign off on a high. Perhaps most tellingly of all, and at the risk of sounding unkind, at times he really hasn’t looked well in recent months.

As things stand now, there could well be managerial vacancies at each of the top four clubs at the end of the season. Roberto ‘one twitch away from a straightjacket’ Mancini’s position remains as perilous as ever – given City’s failure in Europe, even repeat Premier League success may not be enough to save him this time out. Wenger’s job has always been secure enough, but murmurs of discontent at Arsenal are growing louder by the week. Meanwhile at Chelsea, our old friend Rafa Benitez will be doing well to survive beyond Christmas given the catastrofuck of a start he’s enjoyed.

Once it occurs then, the announcement of Ferguson’s retirement may well kick start a seismic series of managerial manoeuvres. Given the modus operandi at Chelsea, its difficult to see what appeal lies there (beyond a bottomless pit of money) for Mou or Pep, namely due to the fact the club operates on the whims of a perma-dissatisfied, billionaire control freak. It’s become clear that Abramovich will never be truly content until he abandons the pretence of employing a stooge to carry out his wishes, and instead takes on the gig himself full-time.

City meanwhile, in true City fashion, are almost certain to sit tight whilst attempting to second-guess United’s next move… before no-doubt offering double the salary to our preferred candidate. Whatever noises they make about Mancini’s job security, they would surely be ecstatic to appoint Mourinho or Guardiola next summer, either would do – and even better if their man appeared to snub United prior to being appointed.


Despite not being able to offer the biggest wedge in transfer kitty terms, one senses that United would be the preferred next stop for both Iberian kings-in-waiting. There’s the prestige of the job, the history, the tradition…and despite what we feel about the Glazers, there’s little evidence to suggest major board-level interference in the day-to-day running of the place. Given the daily politicking behind the scenes at other big clubs at home and abroad, United must appear blissfully stable in comparison – as stable as you can be whilst owing £400M to various creditors, anyway.

As well as the two current front runners of Mourinho and Guardiola, David Moyes remains well placed. Despite not being quite sure why though, the thought of him at OT just makes me think ‘Dave Sexton’ – not that I’m craving a Big Ron-style showman who’ll deliver ‘antics’ on cue (nailed on if we went down the Maureen route), but he just strikes me as a man who’s already found his level. I know he’s done well at Everton but is it enough to take on the United job having merely ‘done well’? Surely we should be looking for someone who’s done ‘fucking brilliant’? Finally there’s Ole Solskjaer…or even Giggsy. Fergie could move upstairs and oversee things whilst they do a Wilf McGuiness – hopefully with better results and without suffering early onset alopecia, of course.

Merry Christmas all.

Copyright Red News – December 2012

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