The impossible job: Manchester United face monstrous task to replace Sir Alex Ferguson
Bidding goodbye: Sir Alex Ferguson has called time on his Manchester United career
In his glowing tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson, one of so many that came flooding in across the footballing world , David Gill hinted at the problem Sir Alex Ferguson’s exit presents for Manchester United.
‘What he has done for this club and for the game in general will never be forgotten,’ said United’s long-serving chief executive, who will also step aside at the end of the season.
‘It has been the greatest experience of my working life being alongside Alex and a great honour to be able to call him a friend. We knew his retirement would come one day and we both have been planning for it.’
Ferguson and Gill’s planning will have been meticulous and all the signs are the transition to a new man, seemingly David Moyes, will be as smooth as it can be.
But the new manager will take over a club shorn of its most significant asset – Ferguson.
The tributes to the Scot flowed thick and fast yesterday and, as well, praising Ferguson the man, two of his greatest players also underlined his influence on their careers.
Writing on Twitter, Rio Ferdinand said: ‘The bosses work ethic, his desire to win + to make us better players were unrivalled. Thanks boss.’
David Beckham, a man who has had his differences with Ferguson, and has the scars to prove it, was equally effusive, saying his old boss was: ‘not just the greatest and best manager I ever played under he was also a father figure to me from the moment I arrived at the club until the day I left.’
Perhaps the impact of Ferguson on not just United but also the wider game came from Richard Scudamore, Premier League chief executive.
‘No one has made as great a contribution to the Premier League than Sir Alex Ferguson. His drive, skill, passion and vision have not only shaped Manchester United, but in many ways the game of football as we now know it.
‘Whatever the Premier League has become, Manchester United is its standard bearer and Sir Alex their talisman.’
Manchester United is not just a football club, it is a business, and when shares were floated on the New York Stock Exchange last year, the ‘risk factors’ section of the listings prospectus made Ferguson’s importance to that business’ future prosperity very clear.
‘Any successor to our current manager may not be as successful as our current manager,’ it stated.
How could they be?
Sir Alex Ferguson took charge of a famous club living in Liverpool’s shadows and trading on past glories and made it relevant again, turning United into the most successful, richest and all-powerful football club in the land.
After the early teething troubles the first flush of success – from 1990 to 1999 United won five league titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League – was remarkable.
That Ferguson, after shelving premature retirement plans, regrouped, rebuilt and made a further assault on the record books, ensured both he and the club made history.
For Ferguson – the architect of that success – the journey is over, the legacy complete and unlikely ever to be challenged.
For United, still in the business of winning trophies and making money, the journey goes on.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the greatest manager of them all, created a monster.
How will it cope without him?