Nothing wrong with an automatic, and if you only have a shop service a vehicle then manual or automatic cost about the same maintenance-wise.
Redoing a clutch at a shop is $1,000+, and you will usually redo the clutch 2 times in the same period you would rebuild an automatic once, which runs $2,000-$2,500 at a shop
Most DIYers prefer manuals because they can change the clutch themselves but don't feel as confident about rebuilding an automatic.
No, you probably don't want to convert to manual trans, you can but it isn't as "cheap" or "easy" as you may think.
You would need a 4x4 manual trans(M5OD-R1) from a 4.0l engine, Flywheel from same, clutch/brake assembly, and clutch switch.
Clutch master/slave, clutch disc and pressure plate.
Steering column change, got that auto shifter there now.
And then computer change, there are two computer softwares, one for manual and one for automatics.
The software is different, different idles and engine operation, automatic one will also turn on the CEL(check engine light) and leave it on all the time because it has no connection to a transmission, not a big deal unless you do have an engine issue and don't know about it until engine dies or won't start one day, normally computer would turn on the CEL to warn you of a problem, but if it is on all the time......................
Good read here on rebuilding an A4LD: Ford A4LD transmission rebuild diary - How to rebuild Ford A4LD - Ford Explorer and Ranger Forums "Serious Explorations"®
There are pictures, just keep going thru the pages, ALOT of good info on what parts are MUST HAVE on the rebuild.
The 1992 trans has probably been rebuilt once, but maybe not, and that trans 24 year old now, so not a bad trans, they just wear out like a clutch or any other moving part.