Where do they go from here? As United prepare to welcome Moyes at Old Trafford, how do rivals City and Chelsea try to knock the Reds off their perch and DOMINATE?
By Alex Horlock
PUBLISHED: 10:29, 10 May 2013 | UPDATED: 10:54, 10 May 2013
Thirteen Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions Leagues, one Cup Winners Cup, one Club World Cup, one Super Cup, one Inter-Continental Cup, 10 Charity/Community Shields. What an act to follow.
In August, Manchester United will play their first League game in 27 years without the greatest manager in their history, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Inevitably, after all the formidable Scot has achieved on and off the pitch, he will cast a long shadow over the incoming David Moyes. He might not be at training every day or in the dugout every weekend next season, but his record alone guarantees as much.
Every threat that has come his way in a career spanning four decades – whether it be Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Roberto Mancini, Rafa Benitez, Kevin Keegan or Kenny Dalglish – Ferguson has ultimately had the last laugh and lifted the last trophy.
Moyes, who will swap Goodison for Old Trafford, has worked wonders at Everton but it will be a huge task for a manager who has never lifted a major trophy to hit the ground running in Manchester and sustain the domestic dominance Ferguson first engineered and then maintained for decades.
From a business perspective, news of the 71-year-old’s retirement caused an initial dip in United’s share price on the New York Stock Exchange, as they fell by as much as 4.5 per cent to under the $18 mark on Wednesday.
The Glazer family-owned club last year topped the Forbes list of most valuable sports teams at a whopping $2.23billion worth, but the franchise may yet suffer after Ferguson stepped down.
Time to shine? Sheikh Mansour (left) a Manchester City and Roman Abramovich at Chelsea (right)
Although the share prices recovered by the close of trading yesterday, the power and value of the franchise is all ultimately predicated on the success brought by Ferguson. If that success stutters or halts under Moyes in the seasons to come, the franchise dwindles.
“Remove the head and the body will fall,” their competitors might be forgiven for thinking.
United’s rivals will know that it is high time to challenge their dominance now that Ferguson is gone. There is a power vacuum and Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City and Roman Abramovich at Chelsea will be keen to knock United off their perch and assume the role of the force in English football.
Here, Sportsmail looks at what United’s rivals will be looking to do to depose the Premier League kings now that their greatest asset has stepped aside, and what measures the Glazers will take to prevent United’s stranglehold on English football from loosening.
Dominant: Manchester City (left) lifted the Premier League last season as Chelsea did back in 2010
The noisy neighbours will have been making an almighty clatter again this week. Not only do they have the FA Cup final to look forward to on Saturday, but they saw their greatest foe stand aside after years of being bettered by United.
And this summer – with their squad being shown up in Europe and outshone by a rampant United in the League – the added incentive of Ferguson stepping down is sure to spur the super-rich club to go for the jugular and strengthen in summer to seize upon any weakness the Reds may show without the great Scot.
Roberto Mancini, as he has repeatedly said this season, was disappointed with last summer’s transfer business, and this year he has already stated he wants transfers brought in swiftly after the season’s end so the top targets are his to integrate and work with early on.
Disgruntled: Roberto Mancini (left) was unhappy with the club’s transfer dealings last summer after Scott Sinclair (right), Matija Nastasic, Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell were drafted in
A list of names was handed over at the end of the last campaign. It included Robin van Persie, Daniele De Rossi and Javi Martinez, but instead Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair and Matija Nastasic rocked up at the Etihad.
Although the 20-year-old Serb Nastasic has stood out as a star of the future after developing a resolute partnership with Vincent Kompany, the others have struggled to make their mark.
This time around, City are already making waves in the transfer market and the news of Ferguson’s deposition will further encourage them to dig into their bulging kitty.
The club want to add firepower after Mario Balotelli’s departure in January and Napoli’s prolific hitman Edinson Cavani is seen as an ideal candidate.
Although Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football, reportedly dined with Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini earlier this month, Mancini remains determined to land the powerhouse Uruguayan, despite any uncertainty over his own future in Manchester.
The deposed champions are also keen on Shakhtar midfielder Fernandinho, who has publicly stated he would like to join City to boost his chances of making Brazil’s World Cup squad, as well as highly-rated Malaga playmaker Isco.
The club’s Abu Dhabi owners, fronted by Sheikh Mansour, have steadily built the club up since their arrival in 2008.
Knee-jerk, impulse buys like the £32m Robinho or £17.5m Roque Santa Cruz are a thing of the past, but they will want to strike while the iron’s hot, bring in their targets quickly and take the title back from United.
Prepare to be surprised if the Sheikh doesn’t throw a fair bit of that cash of his around this summer. He’ll want to see his blue moon rise over Ferguson’s setting sun.
Manchester City’s squad was shown to be a little thin on the ground this season. When their star men were out, the understudy’s were deployed and they were unable to deliver when the chips were down.
Chelsea, though, have comparable strength in depth. If Juan Mata is injured, Frank Lampard can play; if David Luiz is out, John Terry steps in; Oscar can’t make it today, Victor Moses will start; and so on.
But Chelsea are a club in a constant state of flux. For every high, there follows a low.
The Champions League-winning squad lost their manager Roberto Di Matteo last November. He was replaced by the derided interim boss Rafa Benitez.
In with the old, out with the new: Jose Mourinho looks likely to join Chelsea and replace Rafa Benitez (left)
Stamford Bridge turned from a sanctuary to a theatre of vitriol as the Blues fans persisted with anti-Benitez chants and banners demanding the former Liverpool manager clear off.
But Benitez won’t be in west London next season, not at Chelsea anyway.
The messianic Jose Mourinho is being prepped to return from Real Madrid and win Chelsea the League for the first time since 2010.
Chelsea fans’ beloved Mourinho may have left under a cloud after a fall-out with Roman Abramovich in 2007, but his record in the English top-flight was immaculate.
Now he is set to take up the mantle once again and it appears as though his squad will be strengthened over the summer.
Bayer Leverkusen forward Andre Schurrle is in line to join the Portuguese, with the deal already in its advanced stages.
Like his Abu Dhabi counterpart up in the North West, Abramovich knows the opportunity is there now that Ferguson has gone.
Sportsmail yesterday revealed that Chelsea’s appetite was whetted by the news of Wayne Rooney’s desire to start afresh elsewhere and the west London club are seriously considering making a move for the wantaway striker after the season is finished.
They have also been linked with the clinical Radamel Falcao of Atletico Madrid, who could leave the Spanish capital after La Liga finishes. But United are also interested in acquiring the Colombian’s services and, should their move for Cristiano Ronaldo fall through, they may try to lure Falcao to Old Trafford to partner Robin van Persie up top.
Chelsea always looked as though they were going to spend big this summer, but Ferguson’s retirement changes everything.
With Rooney’s future in the balance and Ferguson finally out of the way, Abramovich will feel, if he can do the right business in summer, that this is his chance to topple United, not just for a season or two, but for many years to come.
…and finally MANCHESTER UNITED
Sir Alex Ferguson and the United board will be desperate to guard against a similar decline that occurred when Sir Matt Busby first retired in January 1969.
Ferguson’s career has drawn many parallels with Busby’s magnificent 24-year reign. Busby created the greatest United side ever assembled, reaching its peak when Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law – among others – helped the club to the European Cup in 1968.
But five years after he left, the unthinkable happened: they were relegated. Of course, United are as good as certain to be safe from that kind of fate, but the board and Ferguson are acting to ensure they don’t slip off the pace set by the 71-year-old.
Essential: After Sir Matt Busby departed in 1969, Manchester United went into rapid decline and were eventually relegated in 1974 (below). David Moyes (right) will hope to guard against any slip in standards
Ferguson knows his history at this club, and he’ll continue to work behind the scenes to guard against a slip in standards having seen how wrong things went after Busby stood down.
Moyes will also be backed to the hilt by the Glazer family, who are ready to splash some cash to build on Ferguson’s latest outfit of League winners.
Sportsmail understands that United have already set the wheels in motion for an ambitious bid to sign old boy Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid. They are also trailing Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League hero Robert Lewandowski, but the Pole appears to be Bayern Munich-bound.
The 50-year-old Moyes is also hoping two stars will follow him from Everton to Old Trafford. Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines will cost around £40m, but the Scot has shaped them into formidable Premier League stars over the past few seasons at Goodison.
Regardless of potential signings and Moyes’ lack of silverware, he inherits a squad that has just romped to the Premier League title with proven pedigree at Europe’s top table.
Ferguson’s win-at-all-costs philosophy is everywhere at United. From the stars on the pitch to senior coaches like Rene Meulensteen and Mike Phelan, losing is not an option, and Moyes can only benefit from entering such an atmosphere.
Ferguson has moulded this side into a winning machine and it appears the board are more than willing to strengthen over the summer.
Star turn: Robert Lewandowski (right) and Cristiano Ronaldo (left) are both targets for United
But Moyes’ first task is to persuade Wayne Rooney to stay at the club – if he wants him, that is. Two weeks ago, the striker – for the second time in his nine-year stay at United – told Ferguson he wanted to leave Old Trafford. United have since moved to say that the England international is not for sale but the striker has become unsettled having seen Robin van Persie take the lead role up front this season.
At Everton, Moyes had to economise, working with the limited resources he had year after year because there wasn’t enough in the kitty to splurge on new recruits. Instead, he and his staff had to polish rough diamonds like Baines (£6m), Tim Cahill (£1.5m) and Phil Jagielka (£4m).
But United is a different beast. They have vast wealth, a fearsome reputation and the Old Trafford faithful have grown accustomed to success, year after year, thanks to Ferguson.