Well, that was the 2012-2013 season. Champions for the 20th time, and celebrations with heavy hearts as the boss makes way for someone new.
Red Flag Flying High writes an open letter to Sir Alex Ferguson.
Dear Sir Alex
You’ve just completed your journey of 1,500 matches in charge of United, and what a ride it’s been. Us red’s simply don’t want to get off, and as sad as it is that it’s has come to an end, it’s time to say thank you to you , for everything you’ve done, and celebrate the 9631 days of excitement you’ve brought our way.
Thank you for deciding that, 26 years, 6 months and 13 days ago you would join our great club. You wandered in, taking over from the popular Ron Atkinson who was well liked by us and delivered the odd trophy but was perhaps the Harry Redknapp of his day. You were certainly a lot different to your flamboyant predecessor, and many wondered if we’d take to the no-nonsense gaffer that had just been put in charge.
After defeat to Oxford United in your first game in charge, you stepped out on to the pitch before your first game at Old Trafford against QPR to wave to the fans. Little did we know that this was to be the first of many occasions that you’d end up on the pitch with the players doing this over the next quarter of a century (and a bit), but with silverware on your arm and a medal round your neck.
Thank you for not just becoming the manager of our first team. You took ownership of the full club, rebuilding the systems and the pathways for youngsters to come through the ranks, caring as much for those not even in their teens yet as you did for players winning their umpteenth title. You introduced Russell Beardsmore, Tony Gill, David Wilson, Deniol Graham, Mark Robins and Derek Brazil in to the side a couple of years after you’d arrived and that cup game at QPR was your first sign to us of your faith in talented youngsters that would become synonymous with your tenure at our club.
You have dropped the odd b*****k in your time though, Alex! Especially where ‘keepers are concerned! You brought in Jim Leighton, your trusty number one at Aberdeen who, for some reason, didn’t quite perform as well at Old Trafford as he did elsewhere in his career. Faltering in the 1989-90 season, you dropped your loyal servant from the FA Cup Final replay and chucked Les Sealey in to the fray. He no doubt had a huge say in us winning the cup that year, and it showed us that you would break hearts if it meant doing the right thing for Manchester United. Perhaps this was the first time – but certainly not the last – that you’d show how ruthless you would be in order to achieve something. We lived for the FA Cup at this point in the United story – it’s all we could occasionally win.
Thank you for taking us back in to Europe the following year, and delivering your second trophy. The thought of beating Barcelona in Rotterdam in 1991 seemed impossible. To do it was a dream. But you got us there, and with the help of Mark Hughes who you’d brought home three years earlier, it was obvious you were gradually restoring United back in to the club that it used to be.
But we were hungry to become English champions again. Your youth philosophy was paying off as the junior sides were starting to dominate their leagues, and you’d fast-tracked a young Ryan Giggs in to the side to play alongside some astute signings. Schmeichel. Bruce, Pallister. Ince, Kanchelskis, McClair. You’d kept Robbo. Can’t forget the understated Denis Irwin. What you’d brought to Old Trafford over the years to get us to the finishing line was magnificent. You just missed out on grabbing the title in 1992, but we were all set up and ready to go in to the new Premier League era. Although there was just one thing that seemed to be missing…
Thank you very much for Eric Cantona. The genius off the pitch had found and secured us the genius that we needed on it to take us to that elusive eighth title. We played great football, winning football, and entertaining football. By now you’d introduced a hunger and winning mentality to us that we celebrated on that warm summer evening in May 1993 against Blackburn. It was something many reds felt would never happen.
After that, you took us to crazy levels of greatness and gave us another twenty years of highs. All the tributes since announcing your retirement has reminded us of these, and we’ve all re-lived the glory you’ve brought us in such a short space of time.
Thanks for putting us in to that rare club of teams who’ve won the league and cup double. You did it twice. Three times when you include 1999.
Speaking of 1999, that was simply a dream. You not only gave us an unbelievable treble, but led us on the most amazing European Cup run that saw us go through the entire competition unbeaten, and win the final in dramatic fashion as we did when it all seemed impossible. The fact that Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Gary Neville carried the team that night is a tribute in itself to you for all the work you put in off the pitch, behind the scenes and away from the first team since 1986.
Thank you for retiring in 2001… and quickly realising you’d dropped another b*****k! Driving us to win three in a row for the first time in our history.
Over the following twelve years you gave us a fifth FA cup. Six more Premier League titles. Ronaldo. Another Champions League. Two more European Cup final appearances. A bit of perch knocking. Michael Carrick. World Championships. Where does the list end?
But when you wrap all the players and the trophies together, look at the stadium you’ve built by ensuring it was always full and needed expanding, think back to the players you’ve surprisingly moved on when you’ve known it was the right time, the structure you’ve put in place at the club, and the hunger, mentality and philosophy you’ve drilled in to Manchester United, you’ve given us so much.
To say you’ve worked bloody hard is putting it mildly!
Now it’s ended. Finished. So quickly. You waved goodbye, blew us a kiss and took a bow. It’s a struggle to let it sink in.
But thank you, Sir Alex. You’ve given us a great chapter in Manchester United’s history, one that we celebrate and close knowing that you’ve set us up nicely for an exciting new one. You’ve helped us to live the impossible dream with you, and you can retire knowing that every single one of us have enjoyed the ride.
And with love.
Ferguson’s red and white army.
Follow me on Twitter: @stevecrab