It’s the thing that United fans have been dreading for twenty-odd years. The thing that most of them had convinced themselves, against all rationality would never happen. It’s the thing that they thought the power of metaphorically whistling in the dark would prevent. It looks however that reality may be about to knocking on the door.
When, some 26 years ago, plain old Alex Ferguson, as he was in those days, rocked up at Old Trafford, no-one could have foresaw that he would create a series of teams that would dominate English football like no other in modern times. Now, if the swirling rumours are to be believed, the era may be coming to an end. Looking at it in cold logical terms, here’s a man, although blessed with an indomitable spirit who is now 71 years old, having had a heart pacemaker fitted some five years ago and now lined up for hip surgery. He’s also the guy that aid he would keep going so long as his health allowed him to. It may be that his body has said it’s time to go.
With Manchester United’s responsibilities to the New York tock Exchange following the glazers’ partial flotation of stock there, the club is required to make formal announcements of any significant nature. This certainly falls into that category, so news outlets trying to get comments out of the club will – should – end up empty-handed. The club is probably more than a little embarrassed that the rumours are out and about, whether they are true or not. If they are, the odds are that the club will already have in mind the person that they want to fill those mighty big shoes.
Talk is, and betting patterns reflect that popular opinion has Everton’s David Moyes at the head of the queue. The Scot has so many similarities that he could almost be a choice that will minimize the overall visual loss of Ferguson. A cynic might say that it also suggests a reason why Moyers has not pursued a renewal of his contract at Everton, preferring to wait until season’s end. The Everton manager has always seemed to be a ‘stand up’ guy, so I’m inclined to think that’s not the case, but there are doubtless others who will.
Down in west London, the seemingly regal reappointment of Mourinho to Chelsea may now not be so serene. It has often been rumoured that the ‘Special One’ covets the Old Trafford role above any other, and if the offer was dangled, he may choose that, and kick Chelsea to the kerb, like some old girlfriend, usurped by a prettier alternative. Doubtless over the next couple of weeks, Mourinho will be batting his eyelids coquettishly in the Direction of Old Trafford, all ‘come hither’ etc, etc. At the very least, this will be a bargaining chip to increase his hand in negotiations with Chelsea over salary, transfer funds and autonomy. At most, he’ll simply want the Manchester United job.
It would of course be entirely within character if, when any announcement arrives, it is merely to clarify Ferguson’s intention to plough on for another period. The rumours appear to be too widespread for them to be merely fabrications however, and it’s difficult not to give them at least a measure of credence. No matter how good a manager you are. No matter how strong your spirit and determination is. No matter how eternal you appear, not even ‘Fergie-time’ can beat Old Father Time.