'Sir Alex Ferguson's influence continues to hover over and hold back Manchester United'

By David McDonnell

He turns 80 next month and retired eight years ago, but Sir Alex Ferguson's power and influence at Manchester United remains as strong as ever.

Managing in the shadow of Ferguson has proved an impossible job for David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Solskjaer's successor, United's fifth boss since Ferguson stepped down in 2013, will also have to work with the spectre of the club's most successful manager hanging over him.

Ferguson remains on the football board at United and retains a huge say in major decisions, notably managerial hiring and firing, his wisdom still sacrosanct to a hierarchy in thrall to him.

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He personally selected David Moyes to succeed him and was consulted on the decision to sack his fellow Scot after just 10 months in charge at Old Trafford.

Ferguson also endorsed the appointments of van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskajer, as well as rubber-stamping the decisions to jettison them when their tenures began to unravel.

Despite having brought the curtain down on his glittering tenure almost a decade ago, Ferguson remains a permanent fixture at United games, home and away, unable to walk away.

Before he stepped down, Ferguson insisted he would not make life even more difficult for his successors by maintaining a presence at United, but he has done just that, to negative effect.

Solskjaer always came across as a 'mini-me' Ferguson, frequently paying deference to his former boss and seemingly more keen to copy his blueprint that carve out his own image as a manager.

United have been here before with a former manager casting his influence on the team and the club, long after he has left the dug-out.

Sir Alex Ferguson (CameraSport via Getty Images)

Sir Matt Busby initially stepped down in 1969, only to return 18 months later for an interim spell, United taking several more years to finally escape from his huge shadow.

The same can now be said of Ferguson, whose legacy and achievements is the impossible yardstick by which all of his successors will continue to be judged.

None can hope to repeat the success Ferguson brought to United – 37 trophies over 26 years – but until his influence recedes, few will have a chance of any kind of achieving sustained success.

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