IN the 22 years Alex Ferguson has been in charge of Manchester United, their opponents on tomorrow, Newcastle United, have been through 10 managers plus five more caretakers.
In that period Manchester United have won the European
Cup, nine Premier Leagues, five FA Cups, two League Cups and the Cup Winners’ Cup. Newcastle have won nothing.
Sam Allardyce became the latest to fall foul of the north-east club’s inflated expectations when he left “by mutual agreement” on Wednesday after just 24 games in charge.
The club’s new owner Mike Ashley, who inherited Allardyce from the previous regime, will no doubt enjoy a convivial lunch at Old Trafford and perhaps take a peek at the ground’s creaking trophy cabinet.
It would be unusual if he did not covet what the world’s biggest soccer brand have got — not least the right for their fans to sing “there’s only one United” and know it’s true.
By tomorrow he might have made up his mind who he thinks will turn his club into a force able to challenge for their first league title for more than 80 years, a club whose last major domestic silverware came in the form of the 1955 FA Cup, and a club who were flirting with relegation to the old third division as recently as the early 1990s.
He probably will not spend too much time contemplating how Manchester United stuck by Ferguson during his rocky early days, when the Scot went four years without a trophy and continued to play second fiddle to Liverpool and even Everton as their title famine stretched to 26 years.
He is unlikely to think much about Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, and how the club with the second-longest serving manager in the division are also the second-most successful.
Or Everton, where the next-longest server David Moyes has used his six years in charge to first steady, then develop them into the team most consistently challenging the big four and now punching their weight again in Europe.
With every managerial change this season, and Allardyce was the eighth, Ferguson and Wenger have used their own examples to preach patience, but nobody seems to be listening.
So Newcastle, with two away wins this season and desperately low on confidence, visit a Manchester United side who have won 10 and drawn one of their 11 home games.
Ferguson’s United have 48 points, two adrift of Arsenal, who are at home to Birmingham City.
Chelsea, back in the hunt on 44 after three wins and a draw over the festive period, are at home to Tottenham Hotspur, who have not won at Stamford Bridge for 18 years.
Liverpool, realistically out of the running now on 38 points, complete a rare big-four full house playing tomorrow when they visit Middlesbrough.
Manchester City, fourth on 39, and Everton, sixth on 36, meet at Goodison Park in a battle between the leading aspirants to upset that elite quartet’s grip on the Champions League places. — Reuters.