Sir Alex Ferguson was not just a manager, he was Manchester United.
What do I mean by that? Well, before Ferguson took charge in 1986, United had won the title only seven times, the last being in 1967. Six FA Cups had been won, but no League cups whatsoever were in that trophy cabinet before the arrival of Ferguson. Other than three FA Cups (which is sill not shabby), United hadn’t won anything for almost 20 years.
All the pre-Ferguson trophies counted up totaled 23, including nine Charity Shields. That was over what was already an 110-year history. 25 years and one manager later, that number now stands at 62.
Many players have come out over the years to say how Ferguson was in the dressing room, and I can imagine that if you played badly or were on the wrong end of a result, he would let you know about it. Talks of him getting into it with certain players were backed up by autobiographies.
Personally I really remember the David Beckham incident when it happened. There was a certain realization that nobody was bigger than the club, and the tight hold Ferguson had on all aspects of the club meant he was, and maybe still is, the daddy. When Beckham was hit with the football boot, it wasn’t too much longer before he moved onto Real Madrid.
Roy Keane also had a falling out with the boss and was moved on. The reason given in Ferguson’s autobiography was they both thought they were bigger than Manchester United.
So he won many trophies for United and was there for such a long time, bringing numerous players through to the first team. Is it any wonder that David Moyes, who seems to have a different management style, is struggling?
The senior players have not changed, but are not playing up to their potential for some reason. This could be for a number of reasons, but the one that springs to mind is that Moyes has publicly said he wants to listen and learn from the senior players. After all, they have had success in the league and in Europe.
I think that was a big mistake and allowed the players to lift their heads and look around, whereas some would have been shipped out already under Ferguson. Also, bringing in Phil Neville, who played alongside some of these players, breaks down that barrier a little more and that has not been a good thing. Wayne Rooney is probably the exception to the rule and seems to put a shift in every game. Maybe that comes from Moyes bringing him in at Everton as a young boy?
Who knows, but the players need to have the message firmly reiterated: they are not bigger than the club, and Moyes is the boss.