If history has taught us one thing, it’s that cult of personality is never a good thing long-term.
Liverpool have been, in the past at least, completely suffocated by their own trait of failure within the Premier League. Countless clubs perform to their expected levels because they accept they’re the weaker side in their city and some teams, upon promotion, simply resort to sitting in and trying to pick up the odd point in self-preservation.
But there’s one team who have been paralysed by their success levels rather than their shortcomings. There’s one club who, inadvertently, submitted to one man and completely undermined their own credibility as a club bigger than any one person.
After the Manchester derby, both Neville and Roy Keane sat down to discuss where it’s gone wrong for Manchester United – both of whom were disciples of Alex Ferguson’s trophy-laden era at the club. They pointed towards the players not doing enough for their manager and resorted to the fact that these players need to respect Manchester United for the club that they are.
But that’s not what they really meant to say. What they meant to say is that players should respect who Manchester United were.
Alex Ferguson is the greatest manager in Premier League history. But his presence defined so much of what both fans and the brand thought they represented, that upon his departure, nothing has been good enough. The worst thing you can do now is to bring in management who will play up to that idea. Do not ask someone like Paul Pogba to best represent your club simply because Alex Ferguson won the treble when he was six years of age.
Yes, Ferguson’s overbearing, hard-hitting nature worked for an era but in a generation where player power is prominent no matter what you do, and nobody will sack a £50 million footballer over a manager, you have to cater to your audience. Respect is earned. Solksjaer was a good player. He wasn’t a great player. He definitely doesn’t have the wow factor, and his managerial track record won’t command that either.
Jose Mourinho didn’t give a toss about Ferguson’s legacy and that arrogance won him trophies.
If the likes of Neville and Keane – who are possibly trying to position themselves to get a job at Old Trafford again – actually believe you can invoke the spirit of Ferguson and use that energy to entice the Snapchat and Instagram demographic, they’re going to fall flat.
Solksjaer might be pandering to the crowd and getting them onside by using Ferguson’s legacy as his benchmark, but instead of utilising the things Ferguson showed him about management, he’s just embracing the possessive nature of the man – the methods that won them trophies, but also the fear that doesn’t relate to the new breed of footballer.
If Man United fans taunt Liverpool fans about living in the past, they might want to look closer to home for an example of obsession with thinking back on glory days.
Alex Ferguson was the best thing that ever happened to the club, but his legacy is now the one thing that’s holding them back from moving forward as an entity no longer in his shadow.