The deification has started already - Sir Alex Ferguson is the patron saint of football's moneymen

It was the moneymen behind Sir Alex who constructed Man U's global brand. But they couldn't have done it without his successes

Share
Related Topics

He’s vying with the Queen’s Speech and day two of the half-horrific-half-heartwarming story of the escape of the imprisoned women in Ohio for lead item on just about every news service.

For many, there’s no competition. Ferguson is the only story. He didn’t just build a team, or a club (as he said). He was responsible for the creation of a mega-brand on the back of the success of his side, which has attracted a global fan base that has invested not only its love and loyalty but also cash. And lots of it.

It was the moneymen behind Sir Alex who constructed that brand. But would they have been able to pull it off without Ferguson? Doubtful. Manchester United’s legion of global fans, not to mention the legion of Essex reds who shun their local and even London sides to pile on to coaches to worship at the shrine of their sainted Sir Alex, are buying into success. The success of Manchester United the business is predicated on the club’s success on the pitch.

Buying into the brand is expensive, but it doesn’t matter. Traditionalists may bemoan the dominance of finance in football, but it’s the name of the game today.

The Man U legion will pay through the nose, not just for tickets (the majority of Man U fans have never been within 100 miles of Old Trafford) but in pay TV subscriptions, replica kits, and any number of other souvenirs. Just so when they talk about Man U they can say “we”.

Prior to Ferguson’s arrival, Manchester United had borne the status of sleeping giant. The club still had a huge support and impressive resources. But the team always under achieved.

It took a leap of faith for Man U’s then board to stick with Sir Alex during some difficult years and wait for that to change. They were right to do so. Sir Alex’s first title, the club’s first for 26 years, was also the first Premiership title, and coincided with changes to the top flight and to the top competition in Europe (the birth of the Champions League) that cemented the dominance of the big clubs.

Only oligarchs, whether domestic (Jack Walker’s steel millions) Russian (Roman Abramovich) or from the Gulf (Sheikh Mansour) could hope to wrest the title from his grasp, with the notable exception of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal (and the fans calling for change might care to remember that).

Abramovich and the Sheikh are still around, and thanks to their largesse Manchester United no longer enjoys the financial dominance it had during Sir Alex’s era. It won’t get it back anytime soon. It is a quoted company again with shareholders, and a board which has to produce profits.

In the excellent Why England Lose At Football Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski argue that in reality, and judged on his good-but-not-great record in European competition, Fergie only achieved what he should have achieved given the club’s advantage in resources.

That’s not quite such an easy argument to make today, given the firepower of his rivals. But will brand Man U survive a lean spell under a man without Ferguson’s unique approach and power? That’s the billion dollar question now, isn’t it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: Field Marketing Manage

£25k - 40k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas