That long shadow has vanished. The influence is shattered. It’s official. Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United is no more. Manchester United odds
It’s taken three managers – and three years – to make it happen. But Fergie’s dominion over United has collapsed. There’s a new sheriff in town. The buck now stops with Jose Mourinho. And he couldn’t care less what the old man thinks of those he does business with.
Need proof? Just consider Mourinho’s welcoming into the fold of Mino Raiola. The Zlatan Ibrahimovic deal was one thing. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, something else. But now it’s Paul Pogba and Juventus. A one-two-three knockout for Fergie’s hold on how United operates – and with whom.
“There are one or two football agents I simply do not like, and Mino Raiola, Paul Pogba’s agent, is one of them,” Ferguson wrote in his book, Leading. “I distrusted him from the moment I met him. He became Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s agent while he was playing for Ajax, and eventually he would end up representing Pogba, who was only 18-years-old at the time. “He and I were like oil and water.”
It’s claimed Fergie doesn’t do grudges. Which would be news to the countless journalists he’s banned over the journey. Some who’s reporting had nothing to do with United. Just ask the BBC. Or, indeed, away from the media, just ask Jaap Stam…
Ever since Raiola ferried Pogba away, United have refused to do business with one of the most influential men in football. That was four years ago. Today, with Mourinho’s name now on that office door at Carrington, everything’s changed.
And on Monday, Raiola will meet with Beppe Marotta, Juve’s GM, to consider United’s willingness to pay a world record €120 million for Pogba.
He may be abrasive. Outspoken. Flamboyant. Whatever you like. But what Ed Woodward, United’s vice-chairman exec, must be realising today is that it’s much better to have Raiola inside the tent.
Another agent. Another personality. And the Mkhitaryan negotiations would never have reached first base.
If deference was still being shown to Fergie, the Armenian would be packing his bags for London – not Manchester. It’s now been long forgotten, but Mkhitaryan was deciding between Chelsea and Arsenal before Mourinho’s call to Raiola.
It appeared a foregone conclusion. Mkhitaryan had visited London. Been happily snapped by alert photographers. Arsenal – and possibly Chelsea – appeared to have a deal all but signed away. But this occurred before Louis van Gaal’s sacking and Mourinho’s arrival. Remember, this is the United of the Europa League.
BVB, like Arsenal, will compete in the Champions League next season. United were coming from a long way back in this race. But things have changed. More specifically, personalities have changed. And with that comes new relationships.
Which is why the prospect of Pogba turning down Real Madrid and returning to United is now gathering pace. Raiola is now an ally. In Turin, they’re saying he’s already settled on a broker’s fee with United. Woodward is effectively doing what Marotta pulled off on United four years ago.
Florentino Perez, the Real president, and coach Zinedine Zidane would love to take Pogba to Madrid. But Juve’s €100 million asking price is deemed too rich. In contrast, United are willing to go as high as €120 million to help Raiola convince Juve to sell.
After failing with even greater bids for Barcelona star Neymar and Florentino favourite Gareth Bale, we know such money has been burning a hole in Woodward’s pocket for over a year.
To land Pogba – and ahead of Real Madrid – would not only send a statement to the rest of Europe that United are back, but also strengthen Woodward’s position with Mourinho, who let it be known through the local press last week he was becoming ‘concerned’ over the lack of progress in the transfer market.
Including wages, we’re talking a €200 million-plus spend by United on three players. Three genuine, top class players capable of lifting United from a top five team to a title challenger. And three players handled by a man deemed as toxic by Ferguson.
The message could not be any clearer. The Fergie era is over. The influence is gone. And the United of 2016 is better for it.