David Gill is wrong, replacing Sir Alex Ferguson is the impossible task
Manchester United chief executive David Gill probably knows Sir Alex Ferguson pretty well. He’s been at the club first as a director and then as chief executive since 1997 (not as impressive as the Scotsman’s stint but a decent knock nonetheless) and his son Oliver was a promising youngster under Fergie before leaving to attend university in the summer.
In February 2010, Swift got to interview Gill when he visited the University of Birmingham for an alumni event. And to everyone’s shock, whether out of naivety or stupidity, he seemed confident of replacing the greatest British manager to ever have lived.
Gill says ‘our culture’ as if Manchester United has an gene, a constant, a common component, that is present and detectable in each player and employee and fan as a matter of course.
What he actually means is ‘Fergie’s culture’. Because football clubs rarely have cultures of their own (Barcelona may just be the exception to that rule). They take on the culture put in place by the manager of the first team and it filters down to everyone else, the players, the employees, the fans. A club is a sponge, a manager the water that it holds. And we all know how important water is to function.
At United, that culture is success built on belligerence, Ferguson’s belligerence to be precise, in which he asserts eternal warfare against anyone who thinks about criticising Paul Scholes or Wayne Rooney or any of his famous proteges. That’s how he has won so many trophies.
Once Ferguson retires, that culture will disappear. A new manager, such is human nature, will want to put his own stamp on Manchester United and assert a new culture within the corridors of Old Trafford. So, as much as Gill thinks it might be easy to find willing suitors to take over from Sir Alex, he must realise it’ll be much harder to find someone able to emulate the culture that the Scotsman has stoically created over the past 25 years.
I’d go as far as saying it’s an impossible task.