What would Fergie do? 7 big changes Sir Alex would make at Man United today
Sir Alex Ferguson took Manchester United out of Liverpool’s shadow and turned them into the most successful club in English football history during his 26 years at Old Trafford, establishing himself as one of the best managers of all time in the process.
However, despite the fact that Fergie always had a core of academy graduates in his first-team squads, some believed United's success had more to do with the money they spent than their manager's contributions in the dugout. The Red Devils' travails since his retirement in 2013 rather disprove that theory, though. Sheikh Mansour bought Manchester City seven years ago and proceeded to outspend everyone, yet United have been crowned champions as many times as their neighbours in that time. Leicester won the league last season.
United have spent a fortune since Ferguson's retirement, but it hasn't got them very far: the club have finished 7th, 4th and 5th in the Premier League and won one FA Cup. It would be interesting to know what the 74-year-old makes of the problems United have encountered since he called it a day. David Moyes, his handpicked successor, was an unmitigated disaster, Louis van Gaal bored fans to tears and even Jose Mourinho – supposedly a member of the managerial elite – has endured a troubled start.
What, then, would Ferguson do differently to help United escape from their rut? Examples from history might tell us...
1. Drop Paul Pogba
Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney are among the big names Ferguson left out of his starting line-up when they were playing poorly
There’s not a chance that Ferguson would have been tempted to bring Paul Pogba back to the club following his falling-out with the player's agent, Mino Raiola. Reports claim that the final contract negotiations between United and Pogba in 2012 ended with Ferguson calling the Italian a “t**t”, so there surely would have been no going back. Ferguson had too much pride, even if he probably knows he made a mistake in letting Pogba leave.
Even if the Frenchman had returned to Old Trafford, it's hard to imagine that he would have started every match under Ferguson, as he has for Mourinho. Pogba's not been awful – he'd probably have received more praise for his performances had Zlatan Ibrahimovic not spurned a number of excellent chances he created for the striker – but he still hasn't been good enough.
While some of that can be explained with reference to the fact he didn't have a pre-season and is still adapting to a new league, his reputation and price tag shouldn't guarantee him a place in the XI. Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney are among the big names Ferguson left out of his starting line-up when they were playing poorly; Pogba would be just another superstar on the list.
2. Play Michael Carrick
Mourinho claimed Carrick was “phenomenal” in a recent press conference but his words don't correspond with his actions
If Ferguson did demote Pogba to the substitutes' bench, Carrick would be the man to replace him. The Scot was a huge fan of the deep-lying midfielder when he was in charge at Old Trafford, and was still singing his praises long after he retired.
In December 2014, when Carrick was 33 years old, Ferguson labelled him “the best central midfielder in English football” and “the best English player in the game”. In his final season at the helm, only Robin van Persie made more appearances in all competitions than the England international.
Mourinho claimed Carrick was “phenomenal” in a recent press conference but his words don't correspond with his actions: the former Tottenham man has seen just 12 minutes of action in the Premier League this term, coming off the bench when United were 4-1 up against Leicester.
Given Carrick’s age, there’s no way he could be expected to play 90 minutes twice a week, even if Ferguson was still around. Surely, though, there would be a spot in the team for him if Mourinho really rated the player as highly as he claims to.
3. Banish Marouane Fellaini
Fellaini has at times been unfairly treated as a scapegoat by United fans, largely because of his strong association with Moyes. That said, the Belgian does himself few favours by making more mistakes than most of his team-mates, but despite his clumsiness only David de Gea, Eric Bailly and Ibrahimovic have started more games under Mourinho.
Ferguson simply wouldn't have tolerated his poor performances; even without senior options available – which there are with Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger – he would have delved into the youth ranks to find a solution. Tim Fosu-Mensah has been almost entirely overlooked by Mourinho up to now, but it wouldn’t have been a surprise had Ferguson promoted him ahead of Fellaini.
Next: Remembering who's boss...