When Sir Alex Ferguson finally relinquishes the Manchester United hot-seat, and the frightening prospect for supporters of that happening in the next few days will be the biggest talking point in world football until the stock-exchange listed club make a formal statement, the greatest manager of all time must not be allowed to walk away from Old Trafford.
The Empire built by the Governor from Govan needs ongoing input from the man who created it, whatever the pundits and outsiders will have you believe. My firm belief is that there has to be a pivotal role for Sir Alex at the club once he steps down as manager.
The popular view among many so-called experts is that Ferguson will not want to replicate the disastrous scenario that followed the retirement of Sir Matt Busby. A catalogue of errors resulted in United being relegated to the old Second Division just six years after becoming the first English club to win the European Cup.
Not until well after Fergie’s appointment in 1986 did the Red Devils finally end a 26 year wait to become champions of England for the first time since Busby’s success in 1967.
But there is no comparison between the massive club that Manchester United have evolved into with the set-up that existed back in Sir Matt’s day. What Fergie has created is a complex multi-layered pyramid that is too big for any mere mortal to walk into and take over single-handedly overnight.
At United’s Carrington training ground Fergie has assembled a support system that is second to none. From the coaches and backroom staff to the top-secret medical science department that has helped guide players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to extended careers setting new standards in longevity.
The scouting network and youth academy that continually churns out youngsters with the pedigree, character and education to make the grade at the highest level are integral parts of the Empire that has consistently given United the edge in tackling all challengers, no matter how much money they invest in trying to conquer Fergie’s Kingdom.
There is also a big difference between the strength and depth of the current United squad assembled by The Boss compared to the ageing team in need of re-building handed over to Wilf McGuinness by Busby in May 1969. Even with George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton all still at Old Trafford, the squad that narrowly failed to retain the European Cup in 1969 was wafer-thin at a time when the club did not have the resources or the financial muscle that exists today.
Much will depend on whether Fergie’s successor is an established manager with the stature and aura of Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho, who the media have already told us is heading back to Chelsea, or an upcoming long-term leader with the potential to build a new era at Old Trafford.
Personally, I would like to see a former United legend like Ole Gunnar Solskaer, who understands how Old Trafford and Carrington ticks, to be moulded into the role for the long haul. Equally the highly rated David Moyes, once previously shortlisted as Fergie’s No.2 before he left Preston for Everton, has the pedigree and the potential to faithfully follow in Fergie’s footsteps.
But I also think there is an essential short-term role for a top coach with the high profile and experience of competing at the highest level to keep the ship steady while the apprentice is prepared for the top job.
Either way, there is a key role for Sir Alex to sit in the background and oversee the transition of power to the next generation because there is so much more to managing Manchester United than handing over the responsibility for coaching and team selection.
That is why, should the rumours turn out to be true that age has finally caught up with Sir Alex and the news that he faces a pre-season hip replacement will certainly restrict his involvement come August, I expect we will not be seeing The Boss walk away from his Empire – even if he does hand over the responsibility for managing the first team.