The obvious answer would be the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson – his management style and force of personality have been missed. If you look the stress that Pep Guardiola is enduring from Yaya Toure’s agent at Manchester City and how it’s winding him up, Ferguson would have handled that in a tougher way. But that kind of management is harder to deliver these days because those kinds of people are harder to deal with, as Jose Mourinho found out at Chelsea.
So their first problem was replacing him. Their former managing director, David Gill – who had a hotline to Sir Alex and worked very closely with him - quit at the same time. That left Ed Woodward as the footballing brain of the organisation and it was obviously asking too much of him to manage Ferguson’s successor. I felt Ferguson himself should have been involved much more in that process.
The decline had started before his departure, though. For example, some of the young players he’d handed on, such as Adnan Januzaj, didn’t turn out to be as good as everybody expected. Ferguson would have known there was trouble ahead. And when David Moyes took over the job he encountered the same situation that Wilf McGuinness, the successor to Matt Busby, had experienced when he’d taken over in 1971: fierce resistance from the players who were already there and looking out for their own interests. Moyes’ predecessor, Louis van Gaal experienced a similar situation, too.