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Manchester United's Era of Dominance Is at a Make or Break Crossroads in History

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Manchester United's Era of Dominance Is at a Make or Break Crossroads in History
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Pessimism is not something that I usually like to encourage in any aspect of life. It's never a bad thing to have confidence in yourself, a friend or even a sports team that you follow, but there are times where an overtly optimistic viewpoint can genuinely cost you.

Manchester United fans have, for the better part of two decades, been able to fall-back on this sense of self-assurance, with the Red Devils usually prevailing either against or with the odds to achieve success.

However, for the first time in a very long while we are now at a crossroads, with one path leading to continued glory for the tablecloth army, and the other steering dangerously towards an avenue that the likes of Liverpool and Leeds United have tread before.

Certainly I'm not suggesting that United will be relegated within the next 50 years or so, or even that they will fall outside of the top four on a regular basis, but the continued Premier League dominance that fans have enjoyed for the past 20 years may soon be coming to an abrupt end.

It's easy as a United supporter to naturally assume that the club will always battle on and win trophies. Without doubt, the team will more than likely never lose their status as one of the top sides in world football, but then the same could be said of an Arsenal squad that have gone seven years without a single trophy.

This year, things are very different.

With the ever-increasing likelihood that Sir Alex will be retiring at the end of either this year or the season after that, things will instantly be thrown into short term chaos at Old Trafford.

Let's face it, we all knew the day was eventually coming, but now that it's on our doorstep we have to wonder: Is the club really ready for this loss?

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Is Sir Alex soon to be leaving Old Trafford?

From what I've seen so far this season you would have to doubt it—or at the very least, harbor deep concerns about their continued stability at the top.

Offensively, the team are relatively secure, with the likes of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa all still carrying England's most successful club forwards to a world class standard.

However, defensive frailties have been, to say the very least, highly alarming at the start of this campaign.

Without doubt, the young crop of players, who have been either sidelined through injury or as a result of a lack of experience this year, do have the potential to resolve these issues under a coach like Fergie.

But there in lies the problem.

With Sir Alex more than likely absent from proceedings in the near future, will Manchester United continue to raise up these supreme young talents season after season?

Perhaps what is most alarming of all, in regards to United's future, is the spending powers that some of their closest rivals have to combat United with.

Manchester City and Chelsea play beautiful football, but it's easy to when you have an effectively bottomless pit of cash to spend on players.

United aren't exactly minnows when it comes to splashing the cash. This summer alone, for example, Fergie spent £24m on the 29-year-old van Persie.

But with Chelsea making outlandish bids in the region of £40m for the 21-year-old Eden Hazard, one has to wonder how a side like United can compete in the transfer market.

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Eden Hazard has impressed, but cost Chelsea a small fortune

This ties in perfectly with the youth system that has been implemented under Sir Alex. United have always been able to cope because of the young players that they have developed in the world class athletes we see today.

If the youth system is lost, how will the Red Devils cope?

So is it all doom and gloom for United?

Certainly not.

Sir Alex is no idiot, he will more than likely see the reality of the situation and will have taken steps to prevent this mini "collapse" in the years to come.

Reports (Mundo Deportivo) have strongly linked former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola to the United job as Ferguson's possible successor.

The split between Jose and Pep fans is something that will ramble on for generations to come, but what is certain is that if you want a manager who focuses on the development of players and not just bringing in stars from other clubs, Pep is your man.

The likes of Christian Tello, Isaac Cuenca, Thiago Alacantra and Andreu Fontas, to name a few, are a selection of future world elites that Pep has had a more than critical hand in the progression of.

On top of this, there are stars who are already beginning to reach to the standard that has come to be expected of United players over the past 20 years in the squad already.

Tom Cleverely, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and the recently acquired Alexander Büttner are just a handful of players who Fergie has brought in for his successor, whoever that may be, to build into the future class of United legends.

What happens over the next few wills will determine whether or not United are able to keep up their reputation as the most lethal team in England, or be forced backwards at the convenience of their bitter rivals City or Chelsea.

Will Manchester United continue to compete for the top honours in years to come?

Yes.

Will they end up on top as regularly as they have done since the Premier League began?

That question is what remains to be answered.

Follow me on Twitter @Eddie_Edmonds

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