The retirement of Alex Ferguson spells an end to the greatest era in the history of Manchester United, but with every end comes a new beginning.
The greatest manager of his generation, and arguably of all-time; Sir Alex brought success after success to the club, rebuilding squads, creating formulas for title winning sides and laying a foundation for future success – but he did not always get it right.
We all know it took a fair few years before Ferguson won his first trophy. We all remember the sale of Jaap Stam, which should never have happened. We all remember the apparent forcing of David Beckham out of the club as he was perceived to be getting too big for his boots and far too much media attention. We are all aware of the Djemba-Djemba years in which Chelsea and Arsenal both dominated the Premier League, whilst United lurked in the background, miles behind the two London outfits in terms of ability, team spirit and all round solidity.
Arsenal went a season unbeaten, followed by Chelsea who won back to back titles and a record breaking Premier League points total – not to mention they had the financial backing of a Russian billionaire so could continue to buy the best players… but Sir Alex, again, built a squad that not only won the domestic league title back, but went on to win the Champions League.
The sign of a true winner is how you react when the chips are down. Sir Alex Ferguson was a winner.
Keeping on the topic of mistakes, I am of the opinion Sir Alex made his biggest mistake after his final game in charge against Swansea. Letting the world know that Wayne Rooney asked to leave, in my opinion, simply was not necessary. We all know Rooney requested to leave the club in 2010; it was made public, it was confirmed by both player and club, and it was soon retracted after a bumper contract was offered.
History tells us that Sir Alex Ferguson always gets the final word – and perhaps the proclamation after the Swansea game was his revenge on Rooney. I do not for one second doubt that Rooney and Ferguson had spoken; why wouldn’t they? If I was left out of the big games, I would want answers. If the answers I got were not good enough, I would want to know if I featured in the manager’s plans for the future.
At the time of the conversation between manager and striker, you have to remember Rooney was unaware that Ferguson was retiring. In his mind, he was not getting games and probably thought this is what life would be like at Old Trafford in the foreseeable future. Maybe he asked the question – “do I need to move clubs to get games?”
Again, that is a perfectly acceptable question. The only time it is acceptable to be a fringe player is when you are working hard to break into the squad – not when you are a seasoned professional and former player of the year, knowing the World Cup is just around the corner.
My point is, every professional footballer wants to play week in-week out (except Winston Bogarde) – and if Rooney thought he was going to be a sub for the next 12 months, then maybe he assumed his days at the club were numbered.
In typical Sir Alex style, he was pretty cut throat when he announced Rooney had asked to leave but wasn’t going to be allowed. If this was a lie – Rooney couldn’t challenge this comment. Not on the retirement day of Sir Alex. All he could do was sit and wait for the new manager to be appointed and explain that events did not quite materialise how Sir Alex described.
I am in no way taking the side of Wayne Rooney or calling Sir Alex Ferguson a liar, but I am willing to take a balanced look at the situation – something many fans haven’t managed to do, simply because of the opposite reputations of the two people involved. By telling the world that Rooney had asked to leave, there was only ever going to be one outcome, and that is the fans turning on the England striker.
This chapter in the Rooney saga not only turned the fans against the player, but it has caused problems for David Moyes from day one – and nobody knows for a fact that any of it is true.
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