History often shows us how the mistakes of yesterday will be repeated in the future.
As the shadow of Sir Matt Busby acted as a noose for a succession of Manchester United managers, there is a fear that the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson could have a similarly toxic effect on the tenure of David Moyes.
Steve Bates of The Mirror reported that Fergie had a "summit meeting" with Moyes in the days leading up to the team's 2-0 home win over Swansea, to reassure the under-pressure United boss of his personal backing and to inform him of the funds and support available from the Glazer family.
Ferguson's actions are not a surprise, but is his direct involvement a hindrance to the new regime? Will it eventually lead to a catastrophic failure for Moyes and his staff?
United have been here before. As Busby walked away from a job that took the Red Devils to the top of the European food chain, Ferguson has almost taken the exact same path in accepting his place on the football club's board.
It is widely believed that Busby's presence as a director stopped United from finding a new way. Instead, the club parachuted out of the top league and attained its status as a sleeping giant—one which lasted two decades and beyond.
Fast forward to 2014, and as Moyes struggles to pick up the pieces of a crumbling empire, Sir Alex observes with the cameras firmly fixed on him. As the goals shoot past David de Gea, Moyes stands alone in his technical area, with a despondent face like a piece of shattered glass. The Napoleonic figure of Ferguson sits behind him, surveying the carnage beneath.
Indeed, the differences between the retirements of Busby and Ferguson may be less obvious than the glaring similarities, with the general feelings of apocalypse that huge transition brings.
The man who followed Busby, Wilf McGuinness, recently said to The Mail Online:
I can see the comparisons, David Moyes and I followed great managers. Sir Matt Busby was the greatest of his day and Sir Alex Ferguson was the greatest. It’s not a handicap but I can see why people might think it’s difficult. David Moyes has more experience than I had and I’m sure he’ll handle it far better. He’s a great manager. As long as the fans stick by him he’ll be fine, and that’s what they should do.
For Fergie to clear out completely would have been wrong. He’s there if needed to give the right sort of advice. I would take it as an asset. Looking back, it took a while for the club to get it right after Sir Matt. It was my fault for not going to him more. He was generous in his advice and I should have gone more when things went wrong.
I was only 31 and Sir Matt had marvellous experience but he didn’t want to interfere too much and kept out of the way. I’d prefer him to have been closer.
McGuinness' words counter the argument that the presence of a godhead in the stands is one of the reasons for United's downward spiral.
Moyes could well need Ferguson's involvement more, rather than less. The changes at the club should be stage-managed, rather than allowed to happen organically. The previous organic approach saw a team that were crowned kings of Europe in 1968 go into an uncontrollable decline.
This cannot be allowed to happen once again. History should teach United what happens next if you do.
There is no doubt that Moyes must be allowed to make the decisions about transfers, selections and tactics, but Ferguson could be utilised more, at least for the next year or two. Taking over United is not the same as taking over any another club.
Moyes is only the ninth man since 1945 to run "the world's biggest football club." This task requires United to pool their resources and use Ferguson's experience to physically assist the new manager, dealing with the issues that clearly lie within the football team.
Moyes recently said, per The Mail Online: "Sir Alex is not about the place. He comes to the games, but he’s a director now, so he’s entitled to do that. He doesn’t come into the dressing room. A lot of the directors do, but Alex keeps away from it."
Maybe Ferguson's presence should be more prominent? It is clear that many members of this squad need to be reminded of the traditions he created.
Former United boss Tommy Docherty also experienced the pressure of a post-Busby football club, but his perspective and words should be ringing in Moyes' ears. He said, per The Mail Online:
When I was there, the old players who were past their sell-by date used to bypass me and speak to Busby. That’s where a lot of the trouble can start, but it’s nice to have Sir Alex there. If David says, “I want to see Sir Alex, because it is my choice not his, there is a lot of knowledge and advice there...” Why not pick at it if it’s good information?
We know the relationship between Moyes and his predecessor is a good one, but the events of the past six months suggest that United have not executed their "succession plan" correctly.
As United hunt for superstar replacements to supplement their aging squad, it should be Sir Alex who is sent out on a private jet to charm these talents. If the two Scotsmen can work in tandem together in the short term, then United's long-term ambition would surely be realised.
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