Even while accustomed to success, Manchester United F.C. realized just how reliant its unprecedented dominance was on the managerial mastery of Alex Ferguson.
"Any successor to our current manager may not be as successful,'' the club's American owners warned potential investors in 2012, a year before Ferguson's sudden retirement after delivering 38 titles.
With David Moyes not even completing a full season in charge, what an understatement that now seems. Manchester United F.C.'s first managerial transition since 1986 has been a calamity, with unwanted records set and mounting disillusionment where once the club was the byword for stability in the mad world of football.
What a costly mistake it was entrusting Ferguson with hand-picking his successor, allowing him to overlook more accomplished candidates on continental Europe with resumes befitting a club of Manchester United F.C.'s stature, and turning to a fellow Scotsman who didn't win a major trophy in 11 years at Everton.
"His appointment is a victory for common sense and stability,'' the club trumpeted at the time. "Manchester United F.C. are in safe hands.''
But Moyes couldn't grasp the biggest job in English football, it quickly transpired. Even with a six-year deal, Moyes was constantly on edge as a side that ran away with a 20th English title by 11 points in Ferguson's final season went into freefall.
Out of his depth tactically and looking increasingly haunted, Moyes was not backed publicly once by the club. Vice chairman Ed Woodward, blamed by many fans along with Moyes for the club's failure to strengthen the squad after he assumed transfer responsibilities last summer, maintained a noticeable silence as discontent grew. Manchester United F.C. became an object of ridicule, particularly over Moyes' increasingly far-fetched assertions of his team's supposed strengths after losses.
Old Trafford was a fortress under Ferguson's command, but six teams have won there this season in the league.
Ferguson's mission after taking charge in 1986 was to knock Liverpool "off their perch.'' He succeeded, with Manchester United F.C.'s 13 championship successes under his tenure taking the club past Liverpool's record 18 to 20. How galling must it be for Ferguson to now see Liverpool on the brink of its first title since 1990, 23 points in front of Manchester United F.C.?
It must be just as irritating for Moyes to see Everton, the club he left for a supposed upgrade on the managerial ladder, sitting in fifth, 12 points and two places ahead of his team,