So Fergie's staying on, hip, hip hooray! Peter Kenyon, Manchester United's chief executive, has continually promised us that the manager next season would be the best possible candidate. That he would have the necessary experience at the top level, in Europe and of winning trophies. Last November he even told supporters gathered at a meeting of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association: "You won't be disappointed." Perhaps it is time we gave the much-maligned plc some credit because, although it may not have been what it had in mind, it has not let us down.
The most immediate concern now is what to do with all the champagne and party poppers ordered for the European Cup final in Glasgow in May. On second thoughts perhaps they could still be put to good use. Fairytale ending turned pantomime? There are still some questions to be answered.
Some fans feel that the saga of rumour and speculation surrounding United post-Ferguson is only being postponed for another season. The candidacies of the élite contenders – Fabio Capello, Martin O'Neill, Sven Goran Eriksson – will still remain an issue, even if they have made it clear, for now, that they are unavailable for consideration. That is the calibre of manager Kenyon is seeking, not someone he might be forced into appointing after a venture into the flea market. That is why it is warmly welcomed that Ferguson is staying. Who had seriously want the bleating David O'Leary, the boring George Graham or the legendary but unqualified Bryan Robson to jeopardise the dynasty the incumbent has created?
However, there is also now the unwelcome spectre of the so-called "Coolmore Mafia" casting a menacing shadow over M16. Ferguson's racing associates, JP McManus and John Magnier, have already started buying up shares in the club, although not yet to a degree that gives them much power. Given their purported friendship with the manager the likelihood of them stepping up their rumoured intentions to seize control at Old Trafford is surely increased. How ironic that should Kenyon offer Ferguson a contract extension it may just cost him his own job.
Another who may not exactly relish the cancellation of Ferguson's retirement party is David Beckham. Rumours are rife that apart from image rights and contract negotiations the main issue on the player's mind is his ambition to adopt a more central role on the pitch, a move that Ferguson has thus far resisted. Perhaps Beckham's own contract extension has been left unresolved for so long as he waits to see if Ferguson really does leave in the summer. And then there's Fabien Barthez and Juan Veron, another pair whose post-World Cup futures have been the subject of speculation. Who knows what affect Ferguson's extension will have?
As for something constructive on United's future, how about this: If Ferguson is to pledge his future to the club for another two or three years, the board could do a lot worse than instruct him to groom someone already at the club to eventually takeover. Roy Keane, 31 in August, is a long way from retirement but who better to consider as United's future manager? He already commands the utmost respect from his colleagues, has the requisite desire and fierce hunger for success demanded by Ferguson and would not encounter a problem in suddenly having to view team-mates as subordinates. He already takes on an imperial role within the squad and with Ferguson's continued involvement at the club would not have to travel far to seek out the best possible counsel. But then nothing is ever that simple at Old Trafford, is it?
John-Paul O'Neill is the editor of the online Manchester United fanzine, redissue.co.ukReuse content