Sport Soccer

Thursday 22 February 2018

Ferguson must cut cord or risk doing more harm to club

Keane may be bitter but he's right about his former boss, writes James Corrigan

Alex Ferguson
Alex Ferguson

James Corrigan

Just because Roy Keane is completely bitter does not mean he is entirely wrong. Granted, everything the former Manchester United captain says about Alex Ferguson has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Yet, Keane is right about one thing: Fergie cannot let go. And he really should.

Obviously, Keane is overstating it when accusing Ferguson of "still striving for power" at Old Trafford. That does not make much sense, if any at all.

Up until May, Ferguson enjoyed as much control at Manchester United as any manager has enjoyed at any club at any point in footballing history.

He was being credited with hauling an average team to the Premier League title in the manner of AP McCoy dragging one of those unworthy nags at Plumpton to first place in the seller.

If his ego is as insatiable as Keane would have it, then why depart in the first place? Ferguson is not a cat and United are not the mouse and this is not a game. Ferguson knew exactly what he was giving up. That is why it took him so long.

Yet perhaps Ferguson did not understand all that he should give up; not only the hot-seat, but everything. He should have walked away and only ventured back in a ceremonial role for high days or holidays. And if he truly loved the club, Ferguson would do so now.

David Moyes must already be sick of the sight of Ferguson. He is there on that road named after him leading up to the club; in the statue outside the club; in the grandstand named after him.

Even if he was not there, Ferguson would be everywhere. But he is there. In the directors' box; chatting with the tea lady; sharing the old anecdotes with the groundsman. Ferguson may no longer be manager, but he is still 'Sir Alex' and after 27 years it is impossible to separate the two.

Imagine how this makes Moyes feel and imagine how it imposes on his standing, not just within the squad but within the club as a whole.

Of course, Moyes is going to declare how much he values Ferguson's presence and croon about the pricelessness of having such a sage in the background, of having a genius on speed-dial.

What else can he say? Just think of the furore if Moyes piped up: "Well, actually, I'd quite like him to go on a 12-month cruise, because I need to frame my own picture here and it's blooming difficult when he won't get out of camera shot"?

Yet why shouldn't he harbour such a notion? Moyes can but bemoan the lot of a man replacing a god, and an omnipresent and omniscient god at that.

What palpably cannot help is Ferguson looming above him in the stands, peering down with his countenance seemingly becoming redder by the setback.

After all, United is big business and the trend in big business is for the outgoing chief executive actually to "go out" and not merely to become the upstairs-going chief executive.

The UK code of corporate governance recommends that a chief executive should not be appointed chairman of the same company, and the reason for this is to allow the new chief executive freedom to run the business effectively.

No, Ferguson is not the United chairman, he is merely a director and, at least in this regard, United have learned from the mistakes of their turbulent history. When Matt Busby gave up the manager's chair, he became general manager and poor Wilf McGuinness was doomed from the outset.

Busby was back in his office in a year, but still the lesson went unheeded.

Busby was 'only' director when Frank O'Farrell was appointed, but very soon the legend could not resist the temptation of forwarding advice and so again the shadow had teeth. One manager in 24 years, three managers in three years. That is where "continuity" can lead.

Yet with Ferguson, they assured us, it would not be like this. "It's just not his way," said no less than Bobby Charlton. Well, to paraphrase Bill Shankly, if he is not affecting the running of the club then what is he doing on the board?

And therein lies the point. Ferguson is affecting play purely by still being there and it does not really matter if his intentions are good, as most fans believe, or if they are Machiavellian, as Roy Keane believes. In both ways it is damaging.

Ferguson should very quietly and very deliberately take his leave and this time do so absolutely. Until he does he will remain 'The Boss'.

And as Ferguson, and, yes, Keane discovered, there is only ever room for one of those. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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