And so, Sir Alex Ferguson this week marks 26 success-filled years in charge of Manchester United.
With that milestone comes the annual and inevitable debate about who can succeed him if—and when—he does decide to call it a day.
His Van Persie-refreshed squad will again inevitably be challenging for the Premier League, FA Cup and quite possibly Champions League honours this season.
So, could another double or possibly treble be the catalyst for the Scot to signal the final curtain?
If so, I believe there’s truly only one candidate with the mettle, charisma and trophy-winning DNA who could possibly be considered to take over.
But first let’s examine the two other names (pretenders?) frequently mentioned in connection with the most seminal inheritance that football has to offer.
Few can deny that since Moyes arrived at Goodison Park from Preston as a relatively low profile managerial candidate, he’s done an admirably solid job at a club seemingly destined not to be among the cash-rich elite.
From nurturing the burgeoning career of Wayne Rooney through to recent gems like Joleon Lescott and Jack Rodwell, Moyes has regularly ensured the Toffees team is flowing with exciting young talent that’s been brought through their system.
But for how long?
All too frequently bigger clubs have arrived with potent cash offers and promises of pastures greener for his stars.
Moyes has struck the obligatory tough bargaining pose, talked the talk and then waved his starlets goodbye. All of which has branded Everton with a permanent and currently inescapable label as “a selling club."
And what of trophies? What indeed?
One memorable fourth-placed finish followed by instant expulsion from the Champions League and some good Wembley “days out” in the latter stages of the FA Cup.
In truth, not much else. So, talk of Moyes acceding to the Old Trafford hot seat is a little like a regular winner of a point-to-point circuit and lining them up against Frankel, Secretariat and Desert Orchid.
Verdict: challenge too big.
Other than brief playing stints in Italy and Qatar, Guardiola’s life in football has known little other than the Nou Camp. Having been a player in Johann Cruyff’s “Dream Team”, he took over as manager in 2008.
The record shows how he accumulated numerous honours, but has begged this question: Managerial genius or “right man, right place, right time”?
Guardiola inherited a team with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and others all reaching their playing peak, while the flair and inspiration of Lionel Messi was starting to bloom to its fullest flower.
Some said Guardiola merely had to put the team in the field and success would follow. And so it did, with closest rivals Real Madrid regularly held at bay.
Even when Jose Mourinho first arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu, the barricades were again successfully manned. That was, until season two.
Mourinho then fashioned a true dream team, dripping with goals and with Christiano Ronaldo more than rivalling Messi for the world’s top player berth.
The title went Real’s way as they collected record tallies of goals and points along the way. With Real also collecting a Copa Del Rey for their cabinet it was time for Guardiola’s “sabbatical” and the Nou Camp changing of the guard.
Verdict: needs a longer CV in the wider football world.
Mentioned above, it would seem as if fate has been somehow beckoning the Portuguese native back to EPL and Old Trafford during his European trophy-gathering odyssey.
Manchester United fans want silverware. It’s their currency; their reason for being; their everything.
In all reality, who better to inherit that legacy and more importantly, burnish it?
With Chelsea in the EPL he almost overnight ended the annual Manchester United/Arsenal title dispute, and despite his bizarre sacking, packed his unique brand of managerial acumen and inspiration and headed for Italy to replace Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan.
The Scudetta was won by ten points, and Inter won the Champions League on their first visit to the Final for 38 years.
And so, back west for perhaps the most demanding challenge of them all, that of Real Madrid. With Guardiola’s Barcelona seemingly sweeping all before them, all trophies were seemingly tied up for years to come.
Or were they?
Mourinho quickly won his first Spanish trophy beating Barcelona 1-0 for their first Copa Del Rey triumph in eighteen years.
Yet again he assembled a collection of astutely blended ‘horses for courses’ and lower profile world talent to further his and the club’s burning ambition.
This all the while as he moulded Christiano Ronaldo from thrilling maverick to arguably nose ahead of Lionel Messi in the World rankings.
And so, with seeming inevitability the League title followed bringing record numbers of goals and points with it.
Despite the quiet start to the current league campaign, Mourinho has without doubt a steely gaze set upon returning the ultimate prize of the UCL to Real’s grasp.
He’s stated an unequivocal desire to return to the EPL, has never talked United down or entered hostile pursuit for one of their players, whichever club he’s been at. Clearly As ever when this subject’s raised, it all depends on when Sir Alex goes.
Verdict is: no other possible choice. If you were the Glazers, who would you choose to succeed Sir Alex?
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