15 key changes at Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement
It goes without saying that much has changed at Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013. The club's supporters had tried to imagine post-Fergie life for many years, and while there was an expectation that United wouldn't be as strong without him, nobody would have predicted just how far they'd fall in such a short space of time.
United are already onto their third permanent manager in the fourth season after Ferguson's departure. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have all being given the opportunity to step into the Scot’s shoes on a permanent basis, with each making several changes – some intended, others not – in the process.
1. United haven't won the league – or even come close
It's now been three years since they finished in first place, and the Red Devils currently look as far away as ever from regaining top spot
United had gone 26 years without being crowned champions of England when, in 1992/93, Ferguson drove them to the title. In the 21 seasons of Premier League football that followed, United won 13 league titles, while every other team in England won a combined eight.
The biggest change since Ferguson’s retirement is that United no longer win titles – nor do they even come close to doing so. It's now been three years since they finished top, and the Red Devils currently look as far away as ever from regaining that spot.
2. Change in mentality
Challenging for the title was the minimum expectation, whereas under Moyes and Van Gaal, finishing fourth was deemed acceptable
In those 21 Premier League seasons, Ferguson’s United never finished lower than 3rd in the table and even that happened only three times. They spent every other season in the top two, losing the title on goal difference once and by one point on three occasions.
Challenging for the title was the minimum expectation, whereas under Moyes and Van Gaal finishing 4th was deemed acceptable. Mourinho set his stall out when he first joined the club, claiming that a Champions League place alone wasn’t good enough.
“It would be easy, honest and pragmatic for me to focus on the last three years, and the fact we didn't qualify for the Champions League, and to say, 'Let's work, let's try to be back in the top four, let's try to do well in the Europa League'. But I am not good at that, and I don't want to be good. I prefer to be more aggressive and to be more aggressive is to say 'we want to win'.”
Still, whatever he says, if United finish 4th and qualify for the Champions League next season, it will be seen as a success. During Ferguson’s reign, it would have been viewed as total failure.
3. Lack of experience and leadership
Ferguson always had a perfect mix of experience, homegrown, foreign and young players in his squad
Ferguson always had a perfect mix of experience, homegrown, foreign and young players in his squad. The older players helped the others to settle, both on and off the pitch.
Within a year of Ferguson retiring, captain Nemanja Vidic, vice-captains Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand, as well as club legends Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, were no longer part of the playing staff. Now, United’s experienced players are Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, who are both in their 30s and have both spent at least a decade at the club, although neither feature in Mourinho’s first-choice XI.
In terms of longevity after them there’s Antonio Valencia, in his eighth season at the club, Chris Smalling in his seventh, then Ashley Young and Phil Jones, who are in their sixth. None of the four could be called natural leaders, even if Smalling has been chosen to wear the armband in Rooney’s absence.
When you compare this batch to Fergie’s teams in the past – who had leaders all over the pitch – today's United are seriously lacking. They used to have players like Phil Neville, John O’Shea and Darren Fletcher, who may never have been skippers at United but were entrusted to wear the armband at their future clubs; now, there is a real lack of experience and leadership.
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4. Signing midfielders
Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Daley Blind, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Paul Pogba have all joined since Ferguson's departure
Ferguson didn’t sign a single midfielder between Owen Hargreaves in 2007 and Nick Powell in 2012. This would have been understandable had United been overwhelmed with talent in the centre of the park, but that wasn't the case at all: despite crying out for a Roy Keane replacement, United made do with Carrick, an ageing Scholes and an ill Fletcher.
Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Daley Blind, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Paul Pogba have all joined since Ferguson's departure. Not all of these players have been an overwhelming success, but at least an effort has been made to fill the void left by Keane in 2005.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 9, 2016
5. Fear factor
Visiting Old Trafford was consequently the trickiest fixture on most clubs’ calendar, with opponents tending to find life extremely difficult at United's home
Ferguson was a winner and his teams, more often than not, won. Visiting Old Trafford was consequently the trickiest fixture on most clubs’ calendar, with opponents tending to find life extremely difficult at United's home.
"Even when I was playing for Manchester United, you thought you had teams beaten in the tunnel," former striker Mark Hughes said during Moyes' tenure. "That's what Old Trafford can do to teams and players," he said. "That’s not the case now."
Playing in front of 75,000 people must be a great experience for many Premier League players, especially now that they're no longer quivering in fear.