Leading article: A lesson in loyalty

Click to follow
The Independent Online

By virtue of leading Manchester United to their 10th League title under his managership, Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday cemented his reputation as the greatest club boss in the history of the English game. Even given the huge commercial power that United wield as a worldwide brand, it is still an astonishing record in an era when those charged with bringing success on the football field have never had to work under such unremitting pressure. It is also testimony to the wisdom of giving a manager time to establish himself.

Ferguson joined United in 1986. They had not won the League since 1967, when the feted Matt Busby was in charge. Yet it wasn't until 1993 that a United team finally emulated that achievement. Since then Ferguson has built, and re-built, a succession of great teams, and the trophies have rolled in. Would a manager in similar circumstances today be given seven years' grace? It seems unlikely.

Which brings us to Chelsea, the team that chased United so hard this season and only succumbed on the final day. Few gave them a hope of doing so well when the charismatic Jose Mourinho was controversially ousted from the manager's chair in September, and the little-known Avram Grant took over. Many Chelsea fans remain in mourning for Mourinho and have refused to give Grant credit for keeping the show on the road. Indeed, he is expected to be replaced next season, irrespective of whether Chelsea avenge their disappointment in the League by beating United in the Champions' league final in Moscow next week. Between them, Ferguson and Grant provide a lesson in footballing loyalty.