Succession planning is never easy. Especially at a club like Manchester United. According to the Manchester Evening News, Sir Alex Ferguson was the master of knowing when to move a player on. He would plan a few years in advance and ensure their replacement was ready to go.
As David de Gea says goodbye to Manchester United, he is another great example of Ferguson getting it right. He lasted 12 years as number one after replacing the great Edwin van der Sar.
De Gea was not always guaranteed to be an instant hit. There were teething problems in his first season as Man City snatched the title.
But the in-depth scouting paid off. Ferguson only missed three matches as United manager, one of them was to scout the Spaniard at Atletico Madrid.
Being a United number one takes a certain personality, as well as ability. You need thick skin to take the heat and media glare at Old Trafford.
Whilst Ferguson got it right with De Gea, he would be the first to admit he was learning from previous mistakes. Finding Van der Sar took longer than it should, following Peter Schmeichel’s exit.
United initially recruited Mark Bosnich to be the Dane’s successor. We all know how that turned out. Massimo Taibi, Fabien Barthez, Tim Howard and Roy Carroll all followed before they eventually landed on the right man.
“We had a bad period trying to replace Peter Schmeichel,” Ferguson admitted. “It’s maybe not my strong point.
“It wasn’t until we brought in Edwin that we got back to the level we had with Peter. Edwin was a great buy for us, absolutely brilliant. Looking back, I just wish we’d got him when Peter decided to leave.”
Erik ten Hag has his sights set on Andre Onana to replace De Gea. Despite the Spaniard’s decline over the last two years, he won’t be an easy figure to replace.
MEN Sport has reported that United are optimistic about securing the Cameroon goalkeeper’s signature. However, no deal was imminent as of Saturday evening.
With United haggling with Inter Milan over the fee, a reminder of Ferguson’s troubles should be in the back of their mind. Of course, they don’t want to overpay, especially to a club in known financial troubles, but they must get Ten Hag’s first-choice.