As 9:15 AM struck, and news confirming what many had been speculating filtered through, fans across the country came to terms with the shock that Sir Alex Ferguson had called time on his career.
After a flurry of betting activity on David Moyes potentially taking the manager’s position, rumours began to circulate that Manchester United had a big announcement to make in the coming days. With speculation and gossip reaching fever pitch the night before, it became clear that an announcement would need to be made sooner rather than later, if only for the satisfaction of the stock exchange upon which the club is listed. With news about his impending surgery in August and with regular talk this season about a plan to replace him and who might be lined up, it perhaps should not have come as a surprise that this day would come, but, as is the way with such things, nothing could have prepared fans for the moment it was finally confirmed.
Just before 7 AM on Wednesday morning, Sir Alex was seen driving into Carrington with a slew of reporters outside, hoping for some sort of idea as to what was going on. It would be over 2 hours before, through an official statement, Sir Alex Ferguson’s career and 27 year reign at the helm of United, had come to an end. His illustrious time at United, capped off with winning United’s 20th League title in the most emphatic fashion.
Tributes from all over the world, from the likes of UEFA’s Platini, to rival football clubs and Prime Minister David Cameron came pouring in. It emphasised the impact that the Scotsman had made on English football, by far the most successful manager to have graced the game in this country, bringing unprecedented success to Old Trafford in his time. His incredible achievements at the club included:
- 13 Premier Leagues
- 5 FA Cups
- 4 League Cups
- 2 Champion’s League
- 1 Cup Winner’s Cup
- 1 Club World Cup
- 1 UEFA Super Cup
These among a list of personal and club achievements as well as successes at St. Mirren and Aberdeen culminated in a career that won 49 trophies as manager. A staggering total and testament to a man that led the club with unparalleled strength and man-management skill in an age where player power and managerial instability at other clubs began to take hold.
He is no stranger to controversy, his career full of moments where he drew the ire of the FA, the infamous David Beckham boot incident and many incendiary statements, a few examples. His infamous “hair-dryer treatment” became stuff of legend within the United dressing room. Opposition fans may have disliked him during his time, but in retirement one can be sure many acknowledge his impact on the game and have respect for what he has achieved. During his time, he may have been despised from outside, but revered within as he made the club a fortress, instilling an attitude and desire to succeed that never waned and was never allowed to rest. His tenure at the club was the kind that may not be seen again and was an example that many other managers could only ever hope to emulate.
For him, nobody was bigger than the club and was never afraid to make the changes when necessary, even if others questioned it. Through his time, many players have come and gone, huge signings made, talents developed and high profile departures made known. He watched over the rise of the likes of David Beckham, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. He signed Cristiano Ronaldo, who developed into a football phenomenon under his watchful eye. Huge names came through, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney to name just a few. His eye for a bargain saw such players as Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel forge legendary careers at the club. Last summer, he pulled off a huge move in signing Robin Van Persie from Arsenal.
His ability to see squads through transitions and build new ones has been admirable, and perhaps none more notable than the Treble winning squad of 1999, a side that won the Premier League, Champion’s League and Fa Cup in a side that is fondly looked upon for the deadly striking partnership of Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, the super-sub abilities of Solskjaer, the combative midfielder in Roy Keane, the defensive qualities of Jaap Stam among many others in a squad that is largely considered the greatest of Ferguson’s sides.
It is strange to think that all those years ago, his position at the club was in doubt in his early years with the club. However, after his first FA Cup success and subsequent league title, he and everyone else, never looked back, ushering in a new era at the club not seen anywhere else and may never been seen again .As United head into their final game of the season at Old Trafford this Sunday, fans all over can be sure, it will be quite an emotional event. The game after that, away to West Brom, will be his last.
One could spend far longer than the length of this article discussing his decisions, tactics, achievements and running of the club. In a sea of tributes, articles and speculation on who will replace him, there is no doubt that his legacy is one of success and triumph and unique to the game.
Respected, admired, controversial and adored. He was a winner, iron-fisted, stubborn and dividing. There are many adjectives that could be used to describe such a huge figure at Manchester United, one that has had such an enormous on the club and indeed, on English football.
In my opinion, he is simply, the Greatest.
Thank you, Sir Alex Ferguson. Happy Retirement.