Former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen has accused the Old Trafford club of failing to prepare for the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. The legendary manager quit football at the end of the 2012/13 Premier League season which was also the last time United lifted the title with almost seven seasons passing since that day marked the end of an era.
Meulensteen was a member of Ferguson’s coaching staff, rising from the youth teams to the reserves, eventually joining the first team in 2007, six years after arriving at the Old Trafford club. Ferguson guided United to the clubs 20th league title in his last season, his 13th Premier League title, a record still today.
Since Ferguson left United, the club has stuttered to continue the feats the former manager delivered as if United were set to win things each and every season and falling out of the UEFA Champions League regularly with the club seeking this season to win a place in the group stages for the 2020/21 season, which is still possible at this moment in time.
Meulensteen has admitted that he never saw Ferguson’s retirement coming, stating that the day the announcement came was just as big as a shock to him as it was to everyone else. David Moyes replaced Ferguson and he himself was out of a job ten months later. Meulensteen holds the hierarchy of the club responsible for it’s decline, saying:
“I wasn’t aware of it [Ferguson’s retirement], like many others and then obviously the news broke.
“I still remember getting text messages from somebody saying ‘it’s true’ – and I still had no idea what he was on about.
“Then obviously we got pulled in the next day, think it was a Wednesday, and the manager told us that he’d made the decision to retire at the end of the season.
“Yeah it did come as a bit of a surprise, because not long before that we’d sat down with all the staff discussing the new pre-season. And I was fully focused on the day-to-day of the job.
“It was obviously a shame, but Sir Alex had all the right to announce his retirement when he wanted as he wasn’t getting any younger.
“But he was such an instrumental person within the club and what the club had built under his guidance over 26 years. That is very hard to replace. It was never going to be the same.
“And it’s easy to say in hindsight that things could have been done differently, but you would think, for a club the size of Manchester United, that they would have thought about it thoroughly to have a really good contingency plan in place.
“Could it have been done differently with phasing his resignation in over the period of one or two seasons? There were two ways to manage it from my perspective.
“One was to do it from within and make Sir Alex very much a part of his own departure and look inside the club that he thought could be brought to the fore over time.
“That would have meant you kept the same culture and used people who understand the philosophy, and keep the stability and continuity of the club. That was one track they could have gone for.
“The other track was bringing someone in from outside, which means change and almost certainly means it will have an effect on the club. It was obviously up to the powers-that-be at the club, who made that decision.”
Meulensteen was a good coach for United, which contributed in some of Ferguson’s achievements greatly and it was a shock to see Moyes come in and bring his own coaching team, which clearly did not help him during his turbulent period as United manager. In fact, not keeping Ferguson’s coaching team was the main thing that committed him to failure.
The Dutchman was part of the coaching staff which helped United win four Premier League titles, two League Cups, five FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup, so he has experienced it all. Moyes’ coaching staff just were not good enough for United with them not coaching top quality players before arriving.
Meulensteen is right about what he has said about the club not preparing for Ferguson returning. The legendary manager was not getting any younger and it was always going to happen sooner or later. When you look at the manager’s that could have been available if a plan was made, United could have had Jose Mourinho immediately or even Pep Guardiola, if a plan was in place. That might have changed everything?