'New era, same spirit' - Are Manchester United kidding themselves?

Manchester United launched their first official Twitter account last week with the slogan ‘new era, same spirit’ – is that a promise or just wishful thinking?

"New era, same spirit. The season starts here. Let's do this," is the description under United’s official Twitter account. The new era refers to David Moyes’ appointment as manager following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson after 26 years in charge at Old Trafford.

Ferguson wasn’t the only member of the ‘old guard’ to retire – veteran midfielder and undoubtedly the best of his generation; Paul Scholes also retired for good. The only man left from the Golden Age of the treble winners is now Ryan Giggs who, at almost 40 years of age is on his last legs in terms of his playing career.

34-year-old Rio Ferdinand is still there but the he wasn’t a member of the ‘kids’ circa 1998/99. Wayne Rooney arrived in 2004 and there was arguably a generational shift then – a new generation under the same boss.

With David Moyes’ arrival, there is certainly going to be a new era but will the same spirit remain? The ‘spirit’ I associate with the current champions is that of 100 per cent commitment and failure never being an option and that spirit came from Ferguson.

That spirit was instilled in the players from their early teens – they never wanted to let the boss down and he’d always let them know when they had. David Moyes has many similarities to his elder compatriot but he has never won a trophy in England or in Europe (yet) and the players he has in his senior squad are not, predominantly, graduates of the academy that Ferguson’s golden generation were.

Jonny Evans, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, and Darren Fletcher are the only exceptions. The academy has not produced equivalents to Scholes, Giggs, David Beckham or the Neville brothers and subsequently Ferguson brought in the likes of Rooney, Van Persie, Nemanja Vidic, Phil Jones, Shinji Kagawa and the rest. That’s to his credit, of course.

But it has to be acknowledged somewhere along the line that now that pretty much everyone from the Ferguson era has either moved on, or in some cases upstairs, the spirit is not going to be the same.

The fans probably won’t even be the same – since the nineties the club have become a huge globalized brand with fans all around the world, in reality there is a higher percentage of current United fans that weren’t fans until the 21st century than the percentage of those that were.

I have no doubt the club will continue to be successful under David Moyes and that they will continue to be one of the best clubs in the world, certainly the most popular, but the ‘spirit’ of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils remains only in a handful of the coaching staff.

The manager has only just arrived. The spirit is going to change inevitably, if it hasn’t already. What they should be saying is ‘new era, new spirit – same difference’.

image: © Gordon Flood

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