Sir Alex Ferguson is, and was always going to be, considered a Manchester United legend, an iconic figure at at one of the greatest clubs in football. The manager, though, who ran one of the tightest ships in football, has left his successor David Moyes with an almost impossible battle to fight as the former Everton manager looks to appease a silverware thirsty fan base with a squad filled with players that Sir Alex helped people to believe, are world beaters.
"He's arguably the best defender in the country," was how Sir Alex described Jonny Evans back in 2012, putting the United youngster's performances above those of the Premier League's worlds class defenders that included an in form Vincent Kompany, Tottenham's shining new signing Jan Vertonghen and Chelsea's John Terry. While the United manager's words may only have been used to describe Evans' recent performance, Ferguson frequently hailed the young defender as a fantastic player who, along with Phil Jones - a player who, "could be our best ever player," in the future according to the former manager - was meant to solidify and lead United to future glories long after Sir Alex's departure.
Neither, yet, has discovered the regular, world class form, that Ferguson predicted from either player. Neither has Chris Smalling, bought from Fulham for £7 million back in 2010, while Alexander Buttner's arrival has done nothing to fill the void at United's fullback positions, nor has Tom Cleverly shown the ability to replace the gap left in the heart of midfield after the departure of Paul Scholes. Why else did the ginger maestro return from retirement two years ago to play regularly in the heart of the pitch?
Ferguson has been able to convince his United followers, and many others, that United's young, rising stars will be world beaters, but none have reached their potential or shown often enough that that potential will ever be reached. Ask a United fan two years ago about the prospect of Evans, Smalling and Jones holding three of the four spots in United's defence and the answer would have been far more positive than the one they would give today.
Upon reflection, Ferguson was happy to let his stable group of elder players - the likes of Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra and others - grow older and older, providing experience and solidity to a side that had streaks of youth and inexperience running through it. United fans were happy to listen to the praise and acclaim that rained down on those young guns that Ferguson began to mold and embed into the starting XI, and why not, Sir Alex had done it before and United had always battled competitively for trophies since the early 90s. His words were lapped up and engrained into United's mentality, "oh him? He's going to be a great player for Man United in the future, he's got great potential," was the response that the Red Devil faithful often came out with when questions were raised about their young prospects. The players, though, that came through, were not, and are not, the class of '92, despite many making comparisons that these players could achieve the similar heights that Giggs, Scholes and co. achieved at such a young age.
Robin van Persie's signing last season paved over many of the tracks in a side that was, argueably, the worst United team to place its hands on a Premier League trophy, but now a typical RVP season - one that sees the Dutchman struggle with injuries once again - means that the cracks in United's side are once again beginning to open, and with a new manager at the helm, the finger is being pointed straight at David Moyes.
In his good bye speech to Old Trafford Sir Alex hinted that times ahead would be tough, asking for patience form the fans as their new manager got to grips with his role at the club, but Sir Alex did nothing to steady the ship for Moyes, despite the obvious signs that United were on the wain, an unsurprisingly selfish move from a manager that had little time for those who disagreed with his methods and actions.
It's said that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. The greatest trick that the Red Devil, Sir Alex, ever pulled wasn't the 1998/99 treble winning season, nor was it the mental prodding and probing that led to Kevin Keegan's near emotional breakdown in 1996. No, it was the ability to convince Manchester United fans that their club was strong enough to compete for trophies and titles after his departure.
World Football Daily