So it’s farewell Alex Ferguson – after 26 years with Manchester Utd the main man has decided it’s time to retire.
Even if you don’t support Man U it won’t be the same without him – shouting and complaining at the side of the pitch. And checking his watch of course.
Anyone under 30 won’t really remember another manager at the club – an amazing thought when you consider how fragile football management has become.
I was 12 when Fergie arrived at Old Trafford in November 1986 – replacing the recently sacked ‘Big’ Ron Atkinson. It didn’t really register to be honest – Man U weren’t that much of a big deal – I was more preoccupied with another Scottish manager – the new Arsenal boss, George Graham.
It’s said that Ferguson was offered the Arsenal job in the summer of 86 before Graham arrived – and was apparently also chased by Tottenham. He obviously didn’t fancy North London and the rest is history.
The stats will be everywhere but they truly are frightening. 13 League titles – 5 FA Cup wins – 4 League Cup wins – 1 Cup winners cup and of course the big one twice – The Champions League.
I don’t buy the argument that Fergie didn’t buy success like Chelsea and Manchester City. It’s true that he didn’t do it in a short space of time – but there was always money available.
What stands out is his ability to be the right player at the right time.
Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister in the early days – King Eric, Paul Ince, Roy Keane, Andy Cole, Jaap Stam, Dwight Yorke, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney…the list is endless.
He was still at it last summer pinching Robin Van Persie from Arsenal – again for big money.
The club has been transformed during Fergie’s time (as opposed to Fergie time!) They are now a global brand and it’s hard to think of anywhere in the world where you won’t find someone in a Man U shirt.
But his biggest achievement was changing the mentality.
The class of 2013 didn’t come near the side of 1999 that clinched that incredible treble. But they’ve still walked the league without breaking sweat. The club expects to win – they insist on winning – and just as importantly the other teams expect to lose!
One player has been there from the start – Ryan Giggs. He’s never played under another manager with the club and Ferguson’s influence has been massive on his career.
And this is where Welsh fans will disagree with all the tributes.
The manager’s influence was so complete that there was never any doubt that the club came first. This may be the norm these days but it used to be a very different story.
Fergie was one of the first managers to go head to head with the countries over releasing players for international duty. Some claim he was merely protecting the players – but he was simply protecting the clubs prized assets. That was his job – and he was good at it. very good.
Between his first game in 1991 and his last in 2007 Giggs won 64 caps. But Wales played a 115 games. He missed 51 – and you can add another 53 to that since he quit the national side.
You could argue that Giggs has missed over a 100 Wales games – thanks Fergie!
But that’s an argument for another day – today we have to congratulate Alex Ferguson.
Love him or loathe him – you can’t deny that he is a giant of the modern game.
Enjoy your retirement Fergie – you deserve it.