There are various theories floating about right now about why The Premier League seems to have been knocked off the top of the pile. They include bad investment and the complacency which sometimes comes with pre-eminence.
But, for us, the reason for the declining standards of The Premier League is most closely linked to the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. The Manchester United legend has not only left his club searching for an identity but also lead to a general drop in quality and competitiveness in this fabulously wealthy league.
For most of the 25 years that he managed the club, Manchester United set the height of the bar. In England, at least, they represented the standard to which every other team aspired. It was a remarkable feat and we can only really see how remarkable since he has left.
With his departure, a vacuum has been created. With the king gone, rivals like Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City have scrapped for supremacy – but their superiority has a temporary feel to it and no one is quite sure what the future holds.
What we do know is that Sir Alex set standards that not only made Manchester United dominant but also improved the general standard of The Premier League. When Chelsea or Manchester City dared to defy Fergie he simply raised the bar again to retake the throne – so no opponent was ever comfortable. If they stayed still they went backwards and so there was a constant forward thrust created by the brilliance of Sir Alex.
Manchester United may of course return to the top. But with Louis van Gaal now 63, he won’t be the man to build another long-term empire. He may succeed for the next couple of years but then the reins will be handed over again, allowing others back into the running.
The fact is that Fergie not only made Manchester United great. He also made The Premier League the most competitive in the world. With him gone, it’s not only Manchester United’s empire that may be crumbling – The Premier League is now also looking over its shoulder with grave concern.