Sir Alex Ferguson will wave and smile as he makes an emotional return to the Old Trafford dug-out on Sunday afternoon for a match to mark the 20th anniversary of his best hour as Manchester United manager – the Champions League final victory in 1999 against Bayern Munich, which completed a historic treble.
But behind the backslaps and bonhomie, the people closest to arguably the greatest figure ever in British football will know that the appearance of the 77-year-old will be tinged with grief and a sense of pain that the club he helped to settle no longer appeals to his council.
The general perception is that after six years of decline since the retirement of Ferguson in 2013, the decision of Manchester United to appoint & # 39; 99 hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager had the hand of Fergie everywhere and that the knight of the empire another strategic player at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson will wave and smile as he makes an emotional return to Old Trafford
The truth is a bit different. Like Gary Neville, whose anti-Ed Woodward statements on television are frequent and sincere, Ferguson believes it is the duty of a club like Manchester United to get the very best available, in this case Tottenham & Mauricio Pochettino.
While he is not holding back anything against Solskjaer, someone has met Ferguson a few times for a cup of coffee at his home in Wilmslow, but the truth is that the couple is not as close as the statue. Ferguson indeed feels more and more isolated and has no feeling for what has happened at United since he left.
Although he has graciously recovered much better than expected from a brain haemorrhage and subsequent emergency operations in 2018, there are some consequences in Ferguson's life that have made him less independent, such as being unable to control.
He never wanted to be a backseat driver at United – he knew all about the problems the club had after Sir Matt Busby – but there is frustration that his advice is rarely sought.
The power brokers Woodward, Richard Arnold and Matt Judge never answer the phone.
Ferguson believes that Manchester United had hired Tottenham & Mauricio Pochettino
Solskjaer will endeavor to come and watch on game days as Ferguson relaxes in one of the company's lounges, but will not visit him to ask for advice on players or philosophy.
Today, Ferguson, who won 38 trophies at United between 1986 and 2013 and is based at Old Trafford, relies on scraps of information provided by his friend Mike Phelan, who has returned to the club and now the assistant manager from Solskjaer. .
& # 39; Sir Alex feels in conflict. He sees the irony that he still spends time thinking about United when he retires. But he loves the club and feels a little hurt that his opinion is never sought, & # 39; says a good confidant of the League Managers & # 39; Association.
& # 39; He knows he is no longer in charge, but it would still be nice to ask him. & # 39;
Ferguson appreciates the naming of the stand and the way in which it is cared for at home and on the road during match days. He would never let the boat swing in public or knock someone down, after all his goodbyes he was shot at the United supporters: & # 39; Your job is to be with our new manager. & # 39;
That concerned David Moyes and since then Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and now Solskjaer have also been tried without United coming close to the 13 Premier League titles of Ferguson. They finished sixth, 32 points behind Manchester City this season.
Ferguson met Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a few times for coffee at his home in Wilmslow
Marcel has often made it clear where he thinks the blame lies the most. & # 39; I think they should bring the people in charge of the club back to the club's business, back to London. & # 39;
Ferguson would agree. He is skeptical about the club's global scouting network and believes that too many chefs are spoiling the broth and that it ends with compromise purchases such as £ 52 million Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk.
One thing that particularly upset the Glaswegian is the idea that he somehow sowed the seeds for the decline of United by leaving a poor team behind in 2013.
He would argue violently. Not only were United champions with 11 points in his last season, he also presented the club to a raw boy who he believed could lead the next generation, Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace, for £ 15 million. He also believed that Wayne Rooney had done his utmost and the club should cash in with Chelsea & # 39; s £ 50m offer and United should use the money to rebuild, as he had always done in the past when Mark Hughes , David Beckham and Roy Keane all left behind. time.
Ferguson believed that the signing of Wilfried Zaha could be a spearhead for the next generation
Instead, Moyes and Woodward picked up the Fergie rulebook of the first day. Phelan, who had worked alongside Ferguson, was sent away. Zaha was ignored by Moyes who chose Adnan Januzaj as the better prospect – a judgment that was not confirmed by history with Zaha & # 39; s current transfer value four times what Fergie paid for him.
Instead of thanking Rooney for his services and packing his bags, the new leader of United gave him a £ 70 million contract that helped them with valuable funds in other areas.
Ferguson will be back at Old Trafford on Sunday, back in the dressing room and the dug-out with Peter Schmeichel, David Beckham, Andy Cole and the other & # 39; 99 heroes for their reunion match against Bayern.
But then it will be back at Wilmslow's home, catch up on the latest club news on MUTV and wait for the phone to ring.
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