Ferguson's Defence Of The Glazers Is A Blot On His Legacy

Despite his success, some Man United fans have never fully forgiven Ferguson for his backing of the Glazers' debt-laden regime
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Despite his success, some Man United fans have never fully forgiven Ferguson for his backing of the Glazers' debt-laden regime

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Has someone died? It's just that it feels like someone has died. Someone BIG.

In a way Ferguson's retirement is almost like that; his career has spanned a short lifetime (his stint at United could join the '27 Club') and as eulogies flood in from around the world, you get the feeling you'll never see anything like it again.

But as we sat in the pub on Tuesday night, the tweets bearing the rumour of his retirement rolled in.  Reading them out to a friend- a lifelong United fan and season ticket holder- he responded casually “Yeah, he's meant to announce it on Sunday”, then cracked on with his pint.

There was further discussion on Man United that night- but from my pal, nothing more than measured comment on a potential replacement.

As a Blackburn fan-a club who have had 4 managerial changes this season alone- it was incredible to see such acquiescence to the scale of the news.  I thought back to the day Mark Hughes left Rovers after four years and two cup semi-finals; I think I kicked a treadmill... This was Fergie though. The end of a 27 year era; two decades of dominance; the juggernaut finally rolling to a stop. I wanted tears, wailing; at least one object broken.

The fact is that some United fans, while still enjoying the silverware he has brought to the club, fell out of love with Ferguson some time ago.  His defence of the Glazers has presented many supporters with a quandary.  On the one hand he has delivered unparalleled success; on the other he has repeatedly turned his back on dismayed supporters who have witnessed their club laden with debt and their ticket prices hiked following the Glazers' leveraged buyout.

For the die-hard 'green and golds', the steady flow of champagne over the past 20 years has tasted a bit sour since 2005.

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I suspect though that even the most staunch anti-Glazerite will feel sadness to see the back of him.  His achievements since the buyout in 2005- including five league titles and a European cup- have not just deflected the spotlight from the owners but softened the blow for supporters too .  Had Fergie retired sooner, there's no telling whether the accomplishments on the pitch and the commercial success that has brought would've been possible.  Without Ferguson, the £500m gamble the Glazers made with Manchester United is an entirely different prospect altogether.

With the huge commercial deals blossoming from United's dominance under Ferguson (the Chevrolet sponsorship alone reportedly worth £300m), the club are said to be out of hot water. However, as of last year the debt remained at almost £400m; hardly a drop in the ocean.  It seems as though success is pivotal to the business model that the Glazers have inflicted on United. Whether Ferguson is as crucial to United's success we can only wait and see. Tellingly however, Man United's stock market prospectus makes clear: “any successor to our current manager  may not be as successful as our current manager”

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Ferguson's ability to win while papering over cracks left by lack of squad investment make his achievements all the more impressive.  Without him, can frugality and an emphasis on youth remain fruitful while the money of Chelsea and City scour Europe for world class talent? What will be the financial implications for United if success does dry up?

Those are questions that will face the new manager as he attempts to fill one of the biggest voids ever left by a manager. Because of the Glazers, these are questions that United supporters are having to face too. 

It is Ferguson's defence of the owners that blots his near perfect tenure. For most it wont matter; his legacy is set in stone. It is one of transformation, enduring success and- after 27 years- loyalty.  For others though it is the latter that he has betrayed and to some, that is most important.