Rene Meulensteen has accused Manchester United of failing to prepare properly for the departure of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Meulensteen was a member of Ferguson's coaching team at United when the club's most successful manager decided to retire in 2013.
The Scot left the club at the top of English football, having guided them to a 13th Premier League crown under his tutelage, and a 20th top-flight title overall – more than any other club.
But United have failed to win the league since Ferguson's departure, and have also found themselves out of the Champions League.
Meulensteen admitted he had no idea Ferguson was about to call it a day, saying the decision came as a shock to him.
Ferguson was replaced by David Moyes, who failed to live up to expectations and was sacked within 10 months of taking charge.
And Meulensteen says United chiefs must take the blame for the club's gradual decline since Ferguson left.
"I wasn't aware of it, like many others and then obviously the news broke," said the 56-year-old Dutchman.
"I still remember getting text messages from somebody saying 'it's true' – and I still had no idea what he was on about.
"Then obviously we got pulled in the next day, think it was a Wednesday, and the manager told us that he'd made the decision to retire at the end of the season.
"Yeah it did come as a bit of a surprise, because not long before that we'd sat down with all the staff discussing the new pre-season. And I was fully focused on the day-to-day of the job.
"It was obviously a shame, but Sir Alex had all the right to announce his retirement when he wanted as he wasn't getting any younger.
"But he was such an instrumental person within the club and what the club had built under his guidance over 26 years. That is very hard to replace. It was never going to be the same.
"And it's easy to say in hindsight that things could have been done differently, but you would think, for a club the size of Manchester United, that they would have thought about it thoroughly to have a really good contingency plan in place.
"Could it have been done differently with phasing his resignation in over the period of one or two seasons?
"There were two ways to manage it from my perspective.
"One was to do it from within and make Sir Alex very much a part of his own departure and look inside the club that he thought could be brought to the fore over time.
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"That would have meant you kept the same culture and used people who understand the philosophy, and keep the stability and continuity of the club. That was one track they could have gone for.
"The other track was bringing someone in from outside, which means change and almost certainly means it will have an effect on the club. It was obviously up to the powers-that-be at the club, who made that decision."
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