“Three years of excuses and it’s still crap. Ta ra Fergie.”
These were the words scrawled on a banner proudly held aloft by an incensed Manchester United fan in December 1989.
Super fan Peter Molyneux has admitted never living down the banner after Sir Alex turned round United’s flagging fortunes to go on and become the most successful football manager of all time.
Yet perhaps unsurprisingly Molyneux is not about to jump the gun on Fergie’s replacement.
In fact he is giving David Moyes his backing and believes the Scot is the man to get it right at Old Trafford.
Molyneux has been shocked by the number of people who have asked for Moyes to be axed.
“I’ve got no plans to resurrect the banner just yet,” said Molyneux. “Although I have been surprised at how many people have been calling for his head this early on. I guess social media has intensified all that kind of stuff.
“It’s a bit like that Beautiful South song ‘It’s Funny How Quick The Milk Turns Sour’.”
With United seventh in the Premier League, out of the FA Cup with a whimper and sent packing by Sunderland in an embarrassing Capital One Cup semi-final, a beleaguered Moyes can only fight for a trophy on the continental front.
Molyneux, who released a book ‘Ta Ra Fergie: Full time from the Man who held up the Banner’ chronicling his journey following the Red Devils in June 2013, believes it is not out of the question that they can win the Champions League once they get past Olympiakos in the last-16.
“It shows my confidence in them that I’m saving my money for the next round. We should beat Olympiakos,” he said.
“The Champions League has always been the biggest one for me. I was at Wembley in 1968 when my dad took me to see us beat Benfica and it’s the absolute pinnacle of club football for me.”
Of course, current United stars may not live up to the ’68 vintage of George Best, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton (or ‘The Holy Trinity’ as they are dubbed on their statue outside Old Trafford) but that might not stop them from grabbing European glory.
“You never know who might win it,” Molyneux said.
“The best team doesn’t always win; look at Liverpool in 2005 or Chelsea, who didn’t win it with their best side. Moyes would certainly get a lot of leeway then (if he won), wouldn’t he?”
When Molyneux raised that infamous banner at a protest in December 1989, Sir Alex was three years into his Old Trafford career and struggling to reach the heights set by Sir Matt Busby in the ‘Busby Babes’ era of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
The parallels between replacing Sir Matt and replacing Fergie are all too visible for the author.
He said: “I remember when Wilf McGuinness took over from Matt Busby and we went down pretty quickly then. Busby had a presence that was hard to replace and so did Fergie.
“The Moyes appointment itself was a surprise. I thought (Jose) Mourinho was nailed on for the job and he definitely has the presence to manage what was effectively a team of champions. But I think Moyes will ultimately be a success.”
Success may come at a cost, however, as Moyes’ style of play has also come under severe scrutiny.
The 2-2 draw against Fulham in recent weeks has raised fans’ ire as United set a record for the number of crosses in a Premier League match, firing in 81 crosses.
So what would Molyneux want to see change from the under-fire Scot?
“The biggest crime has been not just failing to win but the performances,” he said.
A hallmark of United’s play, among many, over the last 20 years has been being able to get from one end of the pitch to another in the blink of an eye.
“He needs time to rebuild the side, at least one or two years. We need to give him the time and the money to rebuild. But the main thing we need to see as United fans is progress.
“We need to strengthen the midfield and give him the chance to get some players in who will play for him. But what I would say to him if I was sat next to him right now is raise the tempo and keep the football attractive.”
If Moyes can do that then Molyneux won’t be reaching for his banner, which the police confiscated at the original protest. He won’t even be reaching for one of the replicas that were produced for the 1998 Granada documentary ‘The Fergie years’. He won’t even be reaching for green and gold.
“It took a lot to do what I did (hold up the banner). At that point it was blacker than it seems now. It’s not exactly a disaster at the minute,” he said.
“I went about ten seasons without missing a game between 1971 and 1980. That included every game in 74/75 in the Second Division.
“I even went to Millwall on a Monday night. That was like Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s the first time I’ve not cheered when we scored!”
Image courtesy of RedNumber9 via YouTube, with thanks.