Manchester United fans of a certain age have led a charmed existence in supporting their team. Whereas many supporters of lower league clubs, sleeping giants, the tediously mid-table and the consistently mediocre would lust after a trophy, many United supporters would regard it as a birthright.
The current travails of David Moyes’ side have provided mirth and merriment to the club’s foes. While I don’t have much emotional investment in whether United succeed or fail, it was fairly amusing watching the Bt Sport camera pan around Old Trafford in the aftermath of the defeat to Swansea, capturing the seemingly collective dropping of jaws in the stands.
Fans from the diverse groups who make up the club’s support – die-hard former Stretford enders hewn from the streets of Salford who remember the dark days of the 1970s and 80s to the hysterical youth, termed “plastics” on occasion by the former – have reacted in different ways.
The end of any great era rarely passes without incident. Ferguson’s legacy at Manchester United was of course success and its subsequent sense of entitlement to many United supporters. His legacy on the football side was a lop-sided squad in clear need of renovation; the potency of Van Persie and Rooney is counterbalanced by deadwood like Anderson, while old stagers such as Rio Ferdinand, recently compromised by injury, needs replacing. Why United did not allow David Moyes to rebuild the team as he saw fit does remain a mystery ; their naivety and cack-handed working of the summer window was more befitting a team glad to be in the Europa League not the champions of England.
To edge out of the shadow of the man who made the modern United will be a difficult and time consuming progress for David Moyes, yet it is not that unusual a path for the club to take.
When Ferguson arrived in Manchester following his departure from Aberdeen he was confronted with a tremendous rebuilding job. Taking over following the sacking of Ron Atkinson in November 1986 with the club languishing in 19th in the table, Ferguson faced an uphill task. Not only did the club’s immediate predicament require addressing, Ferguson had to address decades of decay which had set in following the departure of another United hero, Sir Matt Busby. The club had not won the league or a European title in over twenty years, even suffering the ignominy of relegation in the mid 1970s. Such malaise was personalised in an underachieving squad which was, a tad euphemistically, unprofessional.
It took Ferguson several seasons to perform the necessary surgery to reinvigorate Manchester United. It was however, a helter-skelter; 2nd place finishes and the 1990 FA Cup win contrasted with 11th and 13th placed finishes in the initial part of the Ferguson era. In that 1989/90 season, with growing discontent amongst the supporters ( an impromptu bed sheet banner at Old Trafford read “Ta ra Fergie, time to go”) , the man who would later become Machiavelli, the Godfather and the master of all he surveyed was faced with a must win game. The rest as we know now is very much history.
While many now question whether Ferguson’s chosen successor can succeed, the more reactionary amongst United’s following would be wise to acknowledge their own past, for it will be several seasons before we honestly know the answer to whether David Moyes really is the man who will be king.