Sir Alex Ferguson Retires: Farewell to the greatest

8May 2013

England - Premier League

 

Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement marks the end of an incredible era for Manchester United. Long time Red Max Liu hails a football genius and a great man...

 

We always knew this day would come but that doesn't mean it feels any less strange.

 

On Tuesday evening, when rumours surfaced that Sir Alex Ferguson might be about to leave Manchester United, everybody, from fans who were born on the day he was appointed to retired players and senior politicians, hit cyberspace to ask: is it true? Many people, myself included, implored the club to say it ain't so. This morning, supporters and seasoned commentators alike are stunned by the confirmation: Sir Alex Ferguson will retire at the end of the season.

 

It's very difficult (nay, impossible) to imagine life without him. I write as a life-long fan who has never followed United under anybody else. Supporters of other clubs, who have seen bosses come and go, are entitled to roll their eyes. Reds have had it very good for a very long time, we're a sheltered bunch for whom the turbulent waters of modern football now await as they never have before. To us, Sir Alex was United. Moyes 1.38, Mourinho 5.6 or somebody else to replace him? Frankly, they're all the same at this point.

 

Reading the words on the BBC Sport website - "Manchester United confirm Sir Alex Ferguson will retire at the end of the season" - triggers memories of the spring afternoon two decades ago when the news flashed up on the Sunday Grandstand ticker: "Manchester United win the Premier League." The Reds' nearest rivals, Aston Villa, had lost to Oldham and the thing we'd waited for, the thing we'd watched our rivals on Merseyside and north London do for so long, had happened. Championis!

 

Now the man who ended the 26 year wait is departing after 26 years. He arrived at Old Trafford a slender, serious Scot who, in stewarding Aberdeen to European glory, had demonstrated the high standards that might help restore United to the pinnacle of English football. Initially, it looked unlikely and, when the Stretford End unfurled its infamous banner - "Time up" - it appeared that the man who the 1988 club annual labelled "Britain's second most famous Fergie" would be cast among the footnotes of the post-Busby interregnum.

 

That changed when United won the 1990 FA Cup, Mark Robins' headed goal in the third round and Lee Martin's final strike as significant as Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's heroics nine years later. Long before, when things were really tough, Ferguson drove the M6 alone, in the early hours, listening to tapes of Bill Shankly interviews from the 1960s. Shankly influenced Ferguson as artists influence one another across generations, in an enduring, private conversation. In 2013, the Liverpool legend's centenary year, Ferguson leaves United having surpassed his achievements and matched his integrity.

 

Under Sir Alex, United should have won more in Europe. In 1997 and 2002, the Champions League opened up for them and they should also have fared better in their finals against Barcelona. Could Ferguson have made a stand against the Glazers? Perhaps, but maybe he did more good from within than he could have from without. These aren't insignificant doubts, even about a manager who won 49 trophies with United, but his legacy extends beyond Old Trafford: the panache his teams played with, the players he brought to the Premier League, the example he set for everybody. "Talent is not enough. Hard work is not enough. You have to ask yourself: 'what do I believe in?'" he said on winning the league in 2003.

 

Tickets for Sunday's match against Swansea will be as hard to get as they were for the 1994 fixture against Everton, days after the passing of Sir Matt Busby. Like that day, it will be a moving occasion. I've met Sir Alex Ferguson in many dreams (he is forever trying to decide whether I've got what it takes to be his substitute goalkeeper) but, like all supporters, I don't know him.

 

There's more to life than football but, on Sunday, Ferguson will watch a significant portion of his come to an end. The same is true for supporters.

 

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Keywords: Sir Alex Ferguson, retires, Manchester United, football genius

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