Manchester United are set for their highest Premier League finish since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement this season under Jose Mourinho, and it's no secret how difficult a challenge it's been to get back on track following the Scot's departure in 2013.
Ferguson announced he was stepping down after sealing his 13th Premier League title that year - a far cry from Arsene Wenger's current situation at Arsenal - and his decision, while expected for a long time, came as quite the shock when it was made public. He'd clearly learned from his first retirement announcement 12 years before, which he'd reversed following a change of heart.
But Ferguson appeared to be planning as normal for the season to come in his final weeks, as revealed by former right hand man Rene Meulensteen in an interview with M.E.N. Sport this week, as transfer plans for the new campaign were in his mind. Meulensteen has lifted the lid on his experience of Fergie's final weeks, and named three players he was looking to sign before leaving.
Wilfried Zaha ended up being Ferguson's final signing at United, but a current Manchester City star could have ended up at Old Trafford had Ferguson not decided to step away at the time.
"We had very normal staff meetings regarding pre-season. That year we were going to Australia. Sir Alex even mentioned taking us to one of the best vineyards out there. I was looking forward to that! We had possible scouting meetings, possible players we were looking at in terms of trying to build a picture of what we think we need. All that was ongoing.
“We looked at a few German players like (Mats) Hummels, who went to Bayern Munich. I think we looked at (Ilkay) Gundogan and (Marco) Reus, too. There was a number of players but we never got that specific to really target them.”
The Dutchman then shared his experience of what happened when Ferguson informed him and United's coaching staff of his decision.
He added: "
"We had already had a couple of hours to digest the news as it broke the night before. At some point, the manager had to make the decision to retire. He was pushing 70 years of age. It is normal. These things happen in life.
"He left a well oiled machine and Sir Alex mastered the highest level of management, through his knowledge, many years of experience and what he achieved. He was so good in delegating to other people without ever losing his grip or control.”