It was the day that all Manchester United fans were dreading but none could actually contemplate thinking about. In truth, there was never going to be a good time for Sir Alex Ferguson to retire. But, all great things must come to an end.
After 26 years and 38 trophies, the Ferguson era will be over in just ten days and as he has always insisted since taking over the reins in 1986, no man is bigger than the club.
United must, somehow, move on.
Emotions will be running high on Sunday as Sir Alex Ferguson will take his seat in the Old Trafford dugout for the final time and indeed over the coming weeks as United fans bid farewell to the man who has brought the club so much success.
For a generation, next season will mark something they have never previously experienced: Manchester United without Sir Alex Ferguson as manager. However, as much as the footballing world will remember and pay tribute to the old and a tactician who was quite simply the best, the club and fans must look ahead and support Sir Alex’s successor.
We now know that his successor will be fellow Glaswegian David Moyes, who will take over the reins from the 1st July. The 50-year-old’s appointment as Manchester United manager represents a step into the unknown not just for his new employers but also for the former Everton boss.
Many are sceptical over the decision to opt for the hard-working Scot but the Red Devils are one of the very few clubs left in world football to value loyalty, stability and longevity. It’s the only way they know.
Moyes’ record on Merseyside can be described as solid and consistent rather than spectacular but successful nonetheless. More than a decade of hard-graft at Goodison Park with limited resources might not have brought any silverware but the former Preston boss steered the Toffees to regular top eight finishes, to the 2009 FA Cup final and Champions League qualification in 2005.
After landing club football’s biggest job, Moyes will have the daunting task of continuing Sir Alex’s Manchester United empire and legacy. It’s an enormous change from merely being satisfied with finishing above your fierce rivals come the end of the season.
Fourteen years after passing up the opportunity to work alongside Ferguson, Moyes will now find the 71-year-old Scot watching him closely from an upstairs boardroom in his new role as a club ambassador but it’s imperative that he stamps his authority rather than living in the shadows of his predecessor.
Ferguson’s presence is so deeply embedded at the club that his influence, just like Sir Matt Busby’s, will be felt beyond his retirement and lifetime. The statue which now dominates the entrance to the newly renamed “Sir Alex Ferguson Stand” is just an example of how his legacy will be remembered.
However, his physical presence at Old Trafford may just be a hindrance to the new boss and all at the Theatre of Dreams. Inevitably, Ferguson will offer advice to Moyes but it’s vital that he lets his young pretender to get on with the job in hand. After all, it’s the beginning of a new chapter at the famous club.
David Moyes is a hard-working, committed, ambitious and confident manager and with Ferguson’s DNA still embedded in the club, Moyes will have to try and ease into the job and leave his own mark on the club.
It’s important to remember how big an input Sir Alex has had in ensuring Moyes was the man to take over from him – and also, of course, to remember that Ferguson will still be there at Old Trafford as a director. Ferguson isn’t going away completely. He’ll be a club ambassador and director, and he wants United to carry on in that image he crafted over the better part of three decades.
Moyes brings his own unique qualities to the job and with the backing of United fans, the transition should be a smooth one.
And that’s the key: United must move on from Ferguson, but they should never move out of his shadow.