Opinion: The Titans do not always clash

When one talks about Manchester United they cannot skip it’s most beautiful and inspirational chapter, the one of Sir Alex Ferguson. Ferguson has been instrumental in achieving United’s dream of toppling Liverpool of its perch. It is not just the results but the way in which they were achieved is what makes the Ferguson era so special for each United fan. When such a contributor leaves the stage it is pretty obvious that his shadow will be cast on the team and its organisation on the whole for a very long time.

This must have been one of the factors which David Moyes found difficult to cope with. He was the immediate successor of Ferguson and was personally chosen by the legend himself. Moyes could not deal with the pressure that came with being “Ferguson’s choice and successor”. In spite of him being Ferguson’s personal recommendation the relationship between the two had soured towards the end of Moyes’s United career.

Things have been different with Louis van Gaal though. Even though when Van Gaal was going through a lean patch with the United team, Ferguson only had good things to say about him and was supportive of him. Even Van Gaal in his first press conference was pretty vocal about the comfortable nature of their relationship when Ferguson called him to wish for his appointment as the manager of Manchester United.

With such a rich legacy, the person taking over always has a difficult task at hand. Moyes always spoke about speaking to Ferguson like a starstruck teenager which made things difficult for him. However the equal standing that both Van Gaal and Ferguson has makes it easier for both to connect. One can see that this does have an overall influence on the team. With 27 years at the helm it is obvious that every staff member at Old Trafford and majority of the senior players in the team look at Ferguson as a head of their family. When the new chief comes in it is critical for him to connect with his players and staff and it would have been an improbable task if Van Gaal and Ferguson did not have an amicable rapport.

When Van Gaal, who himself have won several titles and tournaments and Ferguson speak highly of each other it only indicates the admiration they have for one another. Such gracious behaviour only gets you more respect from your players. One cannot expect the players to follow the novel ways of training and playing unless there is some level of admiration and trust for the new manager. Ferguson speaking highly of Van Gaal and Van Gaal reciprocating was an important step for him towards getting accepted at Old Trafford.

Van Gaal himself did not have a smooth sailing in his first season however he had something which his predecessor Moyes did not; fan’s support. Ferguson in his time had understandably tremendous fan following. If there would have been an ego tussle between Van Gaal and Ferguson, fans would have had hard time taking sides. However a simple gesture of mutual politeness and acceptance by both the parties, especially Van Gaal, helped building the belief within the fans immensely.

Ferguson in his interview last year mentioned that Van Gaal drops by his office for a talk once in a while but for a casual talk. He however also emphasises on the fact that he is open anytime Van Gaal needs him. This in itself is an indication at how dedicated he is to help Van Gaal or the team if need be. But the person Van Gaal is; strong, self-made and with sharp footballing acumen, it won’t be very natural of him to call Ferguson for footballing guidance. This is not an exaggerated self-esteem but mere self-respect. In the same interview Ferguson instilled his confidence in the Dutchman to take United to the heights that it belongs while correlating Van Gaal’s phase with his own.

Responding to the question from the media with regards to the Ferguson interview, Van Gaal admitted that getting Ferguson’s approval helps in working easily but also brings the pressure of living up to the expectations. This support from Ferguson and the reciprocated conviction from Van Gaal is one of the factors that must pacify the fans this season. They had a manager for 27 years who even after retiring is willing to support whenever needed. On the other hand they have a new manager who in spite of being a veteran in this field accepts the authority and praise of his predecessor only to turn it in to a catalyst to help him do better.

Sometimes bigger the two personalities difficult their association gets. But the supportive and cordial relationship between these two stalwarts proves that for both the priority is crystal clear; and that’s Manchester United.

This article was researched and written by Chinmay Padhye. You can follow him on Twitter.


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