Lee Dixon: Sir Alex Ferguson was simply the best

8May 2013

England - Premier League

 

On the day that Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement, Betfair Ambassador Lee Dixon salutes the greatest manager in British history...

 

Well, what a day for football. Not just in Britain, but worldwide, as Sir Alex Ferguson, the greatest manager of his (and possibly any other) generation finally hangs up his long coat and moves upstairs at Old Trafford.

 

Strangely, despite my many years at Arsenal in which we were regularly challenging (and sometimes even beating) Ferguson's United, I've never actually met or spoken to the man. You'd think that across all the games and functions we'd have attended between us I'd have at least met him once or twice, but that's not happened as yet. The nearest I've come to meeting him is probably when I've made a slide tackle or two near the bench when playing United and he's looked at me disdainfully!

 

There are many things that set Ferguson apart from all the rivals he's faced down over the years, but two stand out most readily to me: the way he's shown an almost unbelievable talent for breaking teams down and building new ones in their place and consequently fostering and nurturing an almost continually evolving array of winning teams, and a canny ability to know when to move a big player on despite protestations from commentators, those in the media and sometimes even staff around him. Roy Keane, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Paul Ince. Just four names that spring out when trying to think of players that Fergie's moved on and been proven right in doing so.

 

Another thing he's always been good at is signing a striker that will guarantee the team goals. Obviously goals are a hugely important part of any successful team, and Sir Alex has shown a knack time and time again of buying a striker, in fact sometimes more than one, that responds brilliantly to the challenge of playing at United and starts banging the goals in. He doesn't always get it right (see Diego Forlan for instance, who's gone on to do not too badly, I might add), and he has occasionally missed out on a target, but 90% of the time, he gets it right.

 

I've never played under the man, but another thing fellow pros have told me about his time at United is how he creates not just a winning mentality among his playing staff but sets out a hugely positive, winning environment. Success breeds success, and Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson are living proof of that. Winning the first trophy, that's the hardest one. Once you start to get two or three though, that's when the snowball effect starts to happen. Maintaining the hunger and drive to keep on doing it though is something else entirely. Fergie's shown that he was able to master both with aplomb.

 

Now of course Manchester United turn to the tricky task of trying to replace a man who is effectively irreplaceable. Managing Manchester United now is undoubtedly the toughest top level job in football, and whoever fills his shoes is going to have his work cut from the very first day. David Moyes at first glance looks like a good choice, his profile, attitude and closeness to Ferguson means he can ease himself into the job and enable a continuation of his fellow Scotsman's excellent work. But are there question marks over his lack of experience in Europe? Maybe that's something that can be remedied with a good and experienced array of staff around him.

 

The other standout candidate is Jose Mourinho. He loves English football, has a lot of respect for the club and a proven track record of success domestically and in European competition. But Manchester United are a club that has always, under Sir Alex, tried to think about the bigger picture and the long term. Does Mourinho fit that profile, or is he a little too flighty?

 

Whoever takes the job next has my best wishes and good luck. We'll never see the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson again, and the next manager now has the none too small task of building his own legacy.

 

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Keywords: Lee Dixon, Sir Alex Ferguson, simply the best

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