Manchester United's fall from grace is a real shock, admits legend
Former Manchester United hero Brian McClair has admitted he has been shocked at how difficult it has been for the club to come to terms with the exit of Sir Alex Ferguson.
McClair won four league titles during Ferguson's glorious reign as boss at Old Trafford, including the first for United in 26 years back in 1993.
Ferguson would ultimately go on to lead the Red Devils to 13 Premier League crowns, as well as two Champions League triumphs and a host of other trophies. Fittingly, he marked his final season in charge by winning the title in 2013.
Since then, United have had four permanent managers - David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - and no league titles. Ryan Giggs also had a short spell as caretaker boss.
Following Ferguson's departure, United have fallen way behind their rivals, with this season proving particularly embarrassing, with Mourinho sacked after a series of poor performances and talk about fall-outs with players such as Paul Pogba.
Solskjaer took over in December and, after an impressive initial upturn in form, the campaign ended in pitiful fashion with just one victory in their last seven matches and a sixth-place finish 32 points behind champions Manchester City.
McClair has watched developments with interest. As well as spending a successful 11 years as a player with United, he was reserve team manager and director of the club's Academy in the past.
Asked if he could believe what has happened since Ferguson stepped down as manager, McClair said: "No, I didn't think it would be this difficult. When you look through the seasons since Sir Alex decided to retire, it goes to show you how good he was at what he did.
"It also shows how good the relationship was between Sir Alex Ferguson as manager and David Gill as the Chief Executive."
With much speculation surrounding players like Pogba, McClair adds that he will be intrigued to see who leaves United in the summer and who comes in.
"Ole is the manager now. He has been given a three-year contract and we should all be supporting him and giving him all the backing he needs. He'll have his ideas about how he wants to formulate a squad at Manchester United," added McClair, who presented awards to some of the young players at Coleraine FC's Academy last week.
"With the modern game there will be players who may have particular issues whether they want to be involved in the revolution Ole would be looking to lead. I'll be very interested to see how that plays out over the next couple of weeks. There may be a few looking to jump ship and it'll also be interesting who Ole wants to recruit."
Much more pleasing for McClair than the way United finished the season is seeing his old boss, 77-year-old Ferguson, back to health after suffering a brain haemorrhage and undergoing emergency surgery a year ago.
"It was a stark warning, and now every time I see Sir Alex on the television he looks happy and I'm delighted he is enjoying himself," said the ex-Celtic ace.
On his visit to Northern Ireland, ex-Scottish star McClair (55) met up with United legend Harry Gregg.
"Harry's brilliant. He is a special person and I was privileged to speak with him. It was a priceless experience sitting in his house listening to him for a few hours," said McClair.
In turn, for Coleraine's kids it was special to meet a Manchester United hero.
Harry's son, John Gregg, the Bannsiders' Head of Youth Development, said: "Brian presented prizes on our awards night and he was brilliant with the kids. It was great for them to meet someone like Brian who has had such a wonderful career."