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"Ferguson retiring, confirmed"

I went into work that morning genuinely barely thinking about it. Reports from the day before were widespread that Ferguson was to announce his retirement, but these kind of reports were, at this stage of his career, a recurring theme as the season winded down. Other times, Ferguson would swat the questions away within two minutes with a stern, "nonsense, nonsense" - or if particularly tetchy - a significantly pronounced, "LIES". Today, we are truly submerged by the internet. But at this time - for me anyway - the ease of access wasn't quiet to the levels it was now. Should a topic as striking as Ferguson's retirement find itself trending, you'd probably know the details minute by minute should you look for them. But I left for work, honestly not thinking about it because as I mentioned, nonsense.


The first four hours dragged - as they always did - and finally, a 15-minute break to live the sweet life out in the break room. Chicken fillet roll purchased, a cheese and egg mayonnaise madness. Coffee poured, no milk no sugar - this is the good life. At the till ready to pay, greeting the cashier as an old friend. I was too smug, too confident. At this point my phone buzzes in my pocket to read the dreaded sentence - "Ferguson retiring, confirmed". I don't know why it seemed so impossible at the time. The man was getting on and had won everything there was to win at this point, bar the Europa League - 'but who'd be arsed winning that?' I told myself at the time. Immediately your brain kicks into overdrive and once the "Jesus Christ!" statements allow themselves to naturally slow to one every 20 seconds, you allow yourself to ponder what happens next. I ate the chicken fillet roll, and to this day I'm still convinced someone in the break room text into Today FM to play Chasing Cars to see if I would break.


Hiring a new manager. A new Manchester United manager. The last thing you wanted as a Manchester United fan but when the initial head-spin settled, I remember feeling a little bit of excitement about it. Chelsea and maybe a little bit of Liverpool post-Benitez had immersed themselves in the manager merry-go-round but United, never. Not to say by any stretch that you wanted this to happen but after Ferguson had decided to go on his own terms, it was exciting to welcome a new era. The United machine would go on. David Gill was leaving at the same time - potentially dangerous to lose these figures at the same time but United were too big to fall, weren't they? We'll go through a wobbler until Christmas. By this stage the new manager would have found his best eleven, Toni Kroos and Gareth Bale would have well and truly announced themselves as Manchester United players, and normal procedure would resume. We had just won the league at a canter for Christ's sake.


"What's that? David Moyes? David Moyes. Ok then."


I remember wanting Mourinho - but that's not to say I wasn't happy with Moyes being hired. The Man Himself had recommended him and he had done a stellar job with Everton for the decade prior. But that charisma, the Hollywood of Mourinho, alongside his record with every club he had been with was something that captivated me. [Funny - I got sick of that media circus sharpish when it fell on United's door years later, but that's for another day.] José was fairly well on with returning to Chelsea but his years of public flirting with United made his future ambitions to manage the club fairly clear. Not many opposition managers give their time to MUTV and José had given United a full sit down confessing his admiration of the club in the lead up to Champions League fixture against Real Madrid that February. Pep was also speculated at the time - as was Klopp - but not long after Ferguson's announcement was the news of David Moyes' impending arrival. Not to say it didn't exist at the time, but I personally can't remember a single Manchester United fan that turned their nose up at the appointment. The show was to go on, and United set their fate in another Glaswegian - committing him to a lucrative 6-year contract and begin another dynasty with a Scottish man at the helm.


Oh how wrong I was. 'You don't know what you had until it's gone', is an old saying that comes to mind, but probably only semi-correct in this instance. MUFC fans did know what they had. In Sir Alex, United fans knew they had the greatest manager in the history of football and long may that have continued. What a lot of United fans probably didn't know they had - me included - was that alongside being Manager, Ferguson also filled these glamorous, more specialised roles like Director of Football and Technical Director, roles which United fans have been crying out to fill in years gone by. I couldn't tell you exactly the synopsis of these roles, but I imagine experienced heads to spread the load from the manager's shoulders, keep the club's philosophies on recruitment or style of play consistant, or to keep an Unnamed Banker away from footballing decisions. Whilst other clubs rolled with the times and gradually recruited for these positions, United underinvested and hired David Moyes to succeed the greatest ever. Losing Ferguson meant a huge pillar of what made United United had been no more, and so the club fell behind.


Looking back - especially in a time of great change - Moyes probably shouldn't have done a clean sweep of the coaching team and kept at least some of that staff together to ease the transition. Phelan and Meulensteen, for example, were just two with years of trophy-laden experience - replaced with an unproven Phil Neville and Steve Round. But hindsight is a great thing. He obviously believed in his own men and wanted to roll out his own mark on the club, and in doing so brought his own boys with him. Steve Round was with him for half a decade prior and funnily enough sits alongside Mikeal Arteta in the Arsenal bench nowadays. It was his decision to go with these men and if it didn't work out, it was on him. Despite that image of a gleaming Moyes at the computer with his Manchester United mousepad, he got the backing of the match going fans from day one - with at one point 'David Moyes' Red & White Army' ringing the Old Trafford terraces every fortnight. How humorous that statement reads now.


The times rolled on, the job indeed proved too big for Moyes who found himself at Real Sociedad a year into his initial six-year Manchester United contract, and I never acted so smugly buying a chicken fillet roll again.

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