Ed Woodward ‘would have rejected Man Utd job if he knew Sir Alex was retiring’

When Sir Alex Ferguson retired as Manchester United boss, the club's ability to win another Premier League title disappeared with him.

A decade has now passed since the greatest boss of all walked out on United to spend more time with his wife Cathy and their family. The curtain also came down on United's chances of being crowned English champions again, because they haven't come close to doing so without the great Scot at the helm.

It's hard to believe Fergie's parting gift of another championship back in 2013 – the 13th title of his remarkable reign – would be the last time United got their hands on the biggest domestic trophy of all. But it's happened.

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And it makes this weekend's 10th anniversary of Fergie's retirement feel even more bitter-sweet for all those connected with the English giants.

His departure left a void so huge it still hasn't been filled – and probably never will be. A total of eight managers, either permanent or interim, have filled the role since Fergie, including big names like Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

But the rot set in from the start of the new era when Fergie's "Chosen One" David Moyes lasted just 10 months. Since then United have had to watch those "noisy neighbours" from across town, Manchester City, become the dominant force in English football.

Heck, even United's most bitter rivals of all, Liverpool, have won a league title in the intervening years.

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But United's demise and continued struggles post-Fergie should come as no surprise when considering how the impact of his departure on the club is described. One of the first people to feel it was former CEO Ed Woodward.

Woodward had just succeeded David Gill and arranged a lunch with Fergie at iconic seafood restaurant Scott's in London's Mayfair. The plan was for them to discuss their future working together, but two hours in and over a second bottle of red wine, Fergie dropped the bombshell he was riding into the sunset instead.

Woodward had the utmost respect for Fergie and was stunned. To such an extent he has since admitted to close friends that, had he known the news earlier, he wouldn't have taken the job.

He had hoped Fergie's power and influence would have made his own transition easier. As it turned out, Woodward had to keep the seismic news top secret for weeks until it was made public.

When Fergie told him his plan, he was just one of a handful of people in the world to know of it, along with Cathy and son Jason.

But it was Fergie's endearing love for Cathy in the first place which helped define his decision to step aside.

Earlier in 2013 she had been left devastated by the death of her twin sister Bridget Robertson – and Fergie knew he had to be there for her, spending more time at home in her hours of need.

"He showed his class even then because he retired for all the right reasons," said one club source.

"Multiple" leaving dos were arranged in the shape of drinks and meals, as the outpouring of recognition and appreciation hit full throttle.

Another senior club source, who asked not to be named, said the abiding memory of when the news became known was of the "general sense of loss around the club, especially on the football side of things.

"The impact was huge and made a lot of people go on to realise, once he wasn't there, just how special Fergie had been when it came to managing people."

And that sense loss continues – all these years later.


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