Arrival of Jose Mourinho ends power play by the Class of '92
No wonder Ed Woodward, Manchester United's executive vice-chairman, looked so pleased with himself as he showed Jose Mourinho round the club's training base this week.
Not only had he secured the services of a proven winner, he had also secured his own position against the most significant threat to his power. Because one of the consequences of Mourinho's appointment is that it scuppered the forward march of the Class of '92.
In January, the collective of former United players appeared on the brink of world domination. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the brothers Neville had bought their own football club, who were winning live televised FA Cup ties. They had featured in a documentary series and starred in a movie about themselves.
They had parked their commercial tanks if not on the lawn of their former employers, then just across the forecourt, the ringing of the tills from their thriving Hotel Football sounding like a klaxon in the Old Trafford boardroom.
More to the point, when Giggs was publicly anointed the next United manager by Louis van Gaal, they appeared poised to realise their most pressing ambition.
Spool forward six months and the picture looks very different.
From the moment it was announced, Mourinho's arrival made it inevitable that Giggs would leave the place where he has worked with such distinction for nigh on three decades.
Meanwhile, the reputation of Gary Neville has been reduced by a chastening experience in Valencia, leaving him now acting as Roy Hodgson's Phil Neal, nodding in the background at the Euros.
Suddenly, the chances of the group staging a coup at Old Trafford look about as likely as that other Class of '92 alumnus, Robbie Savage, being imminently appointed director-general of the BBC.
Because, make no mistake, a Giggs promotion would have signalled the start of a takeover at United. Butt is already academy director, Gary Neville and Scholes would have been invited into the dugout, Phil Neville would have been gifted a coaching role. From there, the group would have sought to restore much of the culture of the club they had seen diminish in the years since their mentor, Alex Ferguson, retired.
They would have reconnected the place with its roots, reinvigorated the attacking zest, promoted graduates of the youth system in the way they themselves were once championed. And, ultimately, they would have used that power base to make inroads into the administration.
In the end, it is not Salford City they want to run, but Manchester United.
Not that such a romantic outcome found much favour with the fan base. What the majority of United supporters appear to want is an instant turnaround.
The widespread fear was that, even if surrounded by his old team-mates, Giggs' managerial inexperience was too much of a risk.
Thus it is that we are unlikely ever to see the Class of '92 in charge at United. The group's best chance was for Giggs to be appointed in Van Gaal's stead. And with his departure, United missed the best chance they had to make a bold statement of the club's meaning and purpose.
Under the Class of '92, they would have demonstrated continuity, connection, a sense of their own heritage. Instead, with the accession of Mourinho, United have shown that only one thing concerns them: winning. (© Daily Telegraph, London)