The King is dead, long live the King. Well, Sir. Alex Ferguson isn’t dead - sorry if I alarmed anyone - but for some football fans the news that he is to resign from his position as Manchester United manager is almost as serious as grim old death itself.
I grew up during the halcyon days of the English Premiership. They were the days when rushing to the closest newsagent to get your hands on the latest copy of ‘Shoot’ or ‘Match’ was your only worry in life. They were the days when papering your bedroom wall from roof to floor in your favourite footballers was viewed as a part of coming of age. They were also the days of Alexander Chapman Ferguson - he was a force in the making and will always be remembered as a force to be reckoned with.
When I was at primary school every boy in my class (bar one or two) supported a football team. I always liked Gordon Strachan (we have the same colour of hair - go figure) so when Strachan joined Leeds United from Manchester United in 1989 I decided to support Leeds - it was as good a reason as any I suppose.
Leeds United won the First Division in 1991/92 but the following year Sir. Alex started to growl and before you knew it his Manchester United team started to win trophies like they were going out of style. Sir Alex spent 26 years at Old Trafford and delivered an unbelievable 38 trophies and has won the Premier League Manager of the Season award 10 times.
It was fashionable to ‘hate’ Manchester United and Sir. Alex when I was young. It wasn’t because they were a bad team or because Sir. Alex was a horrible human being, it was because they were great.
Sir. Alex transformed what was a club in freefall when he took over in the 1980s into not only one of the most successful football teams in the world but also into one of the recognisable brands on Planet Earth.
Love him or loathe him, Sir Alex Ferguson is without question one of, if not the greatest ever club manager.
Jose Mourinho is great and who could forget Bill Shankly but when you actually sit down and think about what Ferguson has had to deal with both on and off the pitch and continued to win trophies, you can’t help but admire the man.
The aspect of Ferguson’s character that I admire greatly is no matter how successful he was and no matter how much money he made, he never compromised on his principles. The fact that he was famous and well known never impacted upon him. He lived a very normal life in very extraordinary circumstances.
Sir Alex was born into a working class family in Govan in Glasgow - the house he grew up in with his parents and younger brother Martin has long been demolished but his links with Glasgow and his Glaswegian accent are as strong as they ever were. Ferguson never forgot where he came from. He did not suffer from self-loathing and due to the immense respect he had for where he came from and for who he was this translated into how he treated his players and those around him at Manchester United.
Former Labour party PR guru, Alistair Campbell is a close personal friend of Ferguson’s and in an interview with Channel Four News this week he described Ferguson as extraordinarily intelligent with a real passion for politics and in particular North American history.
Is it just me or does the image of Ferguson sitting in his back garden reading books by US President Abraham Lincoln inspire respect and confidence? Ferguson was born to lead men.
It would be misguided if people were to point to Ferguson’s fall outs with players like Roy Keane, David Beckham and Jaap Stam as a criticism. You don’t get to where Ferguson is without annoying a few people along the way.
If a player thought they were more important than the club, Ferguson basically told them to pack their bags and they were off - no matter who they were.
However, if I was to have one criticism of Sir Alex it would be how he dealt with Wayne ‘I want to request another transfer’ Rooney a few years ago.
Rooney used subterfuge and questioned Manchester United’s ambition to win trophies in order to reward himself with a new and improved contract.
It was and still is the elephant in the room. Rooney called Ferguson’s bluff and won. It amazed me how Manchester United fans forgave Rooney so easily but all football fans, myself included, are a fickle bunch.
So, you can dislike Sir. Alex, you can be glad he is gone but there’s one thing no one can argue with and that is the number 38.
Thirty-eight trophies in 26 years is not an opinion, it’s a fact and it’s fact that will live on forever.
The man to take over from Sir. Alex is Everton boss and fellow Scot, David Moyes. Some United fans are little upset at his appointment but is there any manager in the world that would have united opinion. Yes. Sir. Alex. He’s the only one who could unite United but Moyes deserves his chance.
Sir. Alex’s departure from football management is much more than someone just leaving their job; it’s a reminder to us all that no matter how good or talented someone is it doesn’t last forever but what does is what they achieved and created. Sir. Alex Ferguson achieved a great amount and created greatly - he will be remembered for as long as there are human beings on Planet Earth.