Firstly, I have to say that us Manchester United fans owe Sir Alex Ferguson a debt that can never be repaid. What he did during his time here was not only staggering in terms of the success he brought on the pitch but also staggering in terms of what he did behind the scenes – his total, 100% commitment to the club. He ate, slept and lived for Manchester United.
However, it cannot be denied that his last few seasons with us were littered with decisions that were, at best, eyebrow-raising and, at worst, absolutely bloody stupid.
Not one of us Manchester United fans can claim to have a superior footballing knowledge than Sir Alex and whenever we questioned his judgement of a player, we would often end up conceding that he was probably right after all.
We learned some lessons as far back as 1995 when Fergie let Ince, Hughes and Kanchelskis all leave and brought through the likes of Beckham, Scholes and the Nevilles.
We thought he’d lost the plot but it was to become the decision that confirmed his genius. He could have sold Beckham the following year, replaced him with Mother Theresa and not one of us would have been brave enough to question it.
However, towards the back end of his tenure as United boss, us United fans were starting to get a bit baffled by the state of our midfield.
Darren Fletcher was a player who split opinion in the early days. “Not good enough. Why does Fergie persist in playing him?”
As the years went by, Fletcher’s value became apparent. Fergie had been right again.
Michael Carrick has also divided opinion since his arrival in 2006 but, in recent years, he’s been our best midfielder and even our best player a couple of seasons ago. Fergie was right again.
But beyond those two, Fergie seemed to put an awful lot of faith in a miraculous resurgence in form, commitment and dedication from Anderson and an awful lot of faith in Tom Cleverley returning from his various loan spells as the new Paul Scholes.
If rumours are to be believed, Moyes has finally done what Fergie probably should have done a few years ago and is in the process of shipping Anderson out to Fiorentina (one report in the papers today suggests that Anderson has been earning £4million a year here – not bad for doing next to nothing!)
Cleverley’s future is a little harder to determine. Being a local lad, he has obviously been given a lot more rope than he would have received had he been from, say, Crewe but he will be 25 by the time next season starts and it is hard to put forward a case for significant improvement from him after that and he does need to improve, of that there can be no question.
But this isn’t just about the players Fergie has kept. The more baffling decisions have surrounded those he let go.
Like a lot of United fans, I was delighted to see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed the job at Cardiff and was delighted to see that his first major signing was one Magnus Wolff Eikrem.
This is a lad who looked very exciting when he was playing in our youth and reserve teams 6-7 years ago but on becoming a senior player a couple of years ago, his time here was ended and he returned to his native Molde and into the grateful arms of their then boss, Solskjaer where the two of them enjoyed great success.
It is going to be interesting to see how Eikrem fares in the Premier League. Fergie clearly deemed him not good enough and preferred instead to keep Anderson on his pizza pension.
The mother of all cock-ups, however, had to be how Fergie allowed Paul Pogba to leave in 2012.
I don’t know the ins and outs but my understanding was that Pogba perhaps got a little above himself and wanted first team football and a salary to match. Fergie wasn’t prepared to give him either.
Cutting his nose to spite his face is a phrase that was often directed at Fergie during his time at United. Letting players like Beckham, Van Nistelrooy and Stam go were possibly all examples of this (especially the latter) but he was often vindicated as the players he replaced them with were of such quality that we soon forgave him (in the cases of Beckham and Van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo eventually replaced the pair of them!)
Paul Pogba was a different kettle of fish entirely. He’s still only 20 years of age and when he arrived at United in 2009 he was obviously just 16. It was clear to everyone that this lad was a bit special. He obviously wasn’t the finished article at that age and, even when he left, my own opinion was that he needed to bulk up a little but Anderson would be on hand to give him advice in that department.
Anyway, the upshot of all this is that Pogba was not offered the contract he wanted and was allowed to walk away and join Juventus for nothing.
Now, I can understand Fergie’s stance to a degree. This was a young upstart with delusions of grandeur. He needed to let the player (and all other players) know that he was in no position to dictate terms at Manchester United, that Fergie was the boss and if putting on the shirt of Manchester United was not reward enough at the age of 18 then … be on your way.
But this was a special player and I do believe that more effort should have been made to compromise. To allow him to walk away for free was financial and footballing folly of the highest order.
Since going to Juventus, Pogba has been sensational and helped them to the Serie A title last season before receiving the “Golden Boy” award last month (the award given to the best young player in Europe).
To compound the misery of all this, the rumours are that Moyes is currently in meetings with Juventus to bring Pogba back to United for a reported £40million.
I have no doubts that he’s worth every penny and I have no doubts that he would walk straight into our starting eleven but whatever salary Fergie was reluctant to give him in 2011 will look like chicken-feed compared to the salary he will now command.
Good bit of business, that, Fergie…