by Thomas Patterson

Twenty-six years and Fergie time has come to an end, but unlike on so many occasions it isn’t met with controversy, instead with great sadness as arguably the greatest manager in history calls it a day. Sir Alex Ferguson has shocked the football world announcing his retirement from Manchester United at the age of 71. Now I know shock isn’t a word that would normally be associated with a 71 year olds retirement, but Ferguson wasn’t your normal 71 year old.

Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 where united sat second from bottom in the old division one. He was handed the task of restoring the glory days back into the club. Ferguson wasn’t an instant success; it took several years for him to impose his leadership at Old Trafford, with the directors showing a degree of patience with him, patience that is rarely afforded to current managers. He repaid their faith by delivering his first piece of silverware to the club with the FA Cup in 1990 and in 1993 he broke Manchester United’s 27-year top-flight title absence winning his first English Premier League and 8th title in the clubs history. Since, then he has gone on to win 13 English Premier League Titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 2 European Champions League’s, 1 World club cup and as well as numerous other major tournaments.  He has molded Manchester United into England’s most successful club, a European powerhouse and one of the worlds most wealthiest and populous institutions.

Arguably, Ferguson’s biggest achievement was his ability to stand the test of time. During his tenure which lasted over a quarter of a century saw fellow powerhouse Real Madrid go through a staggering 24 different managers, Liverpool 13 and cross city rivals Manchester City 14. This extraordinary feat is magnified by the fact he achieved all this success during what possibly has been the most rapidly evolving period for football in its history with the evolution of technology, facilities and money on the game. His ability to adapt was one of the main underlying reasons for his success. Ferguson, has constructed numerous world-class squads over his tenure and this was all done with complete simplicity, by making small variations and changes to his squad in order to insure success would continue.

Whether you like him or not, if you’re a football fan then you cannot argue against his impact on football, and football in England more specifically. Ferguson transcended the game in the UK to another level, a level that without his influence might never have been reached. He shaped numerous great sides, the courageous 1993 hoodoo breakers, to the never say die treble winners of 1999 and then on to the all conquering double winning squad of 2008. Players loved and respected him because they always had his backing. He would always defend and support them amidst any controversy or in defeat by fending any criticism away from his dressing room.

He was the catalyst behind the once in a generation youth squad featuring the Neville brothers, Scholes, Giggs, Butt and Beckham who all inevitably become integral members of United’s success. He made some smart buys over the years with, Cantona, Keane and “The bargain of the Century” as he famously called it, Peter Schmeichel being the pick of the lot which have all forged themselves in the history of Manchester United. He bought players like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo when they were teenagers and helped transcend their career to superstardom.

Even though, we all knew this day was one day going to come, we didn’t predict it to be so soon. Many believed Ferguson wanted one last crack at Europe before bowing out. The reaction to the controversial round of sixteen elimination at the hands of Real Madrid in the Champions League caused many people to believe that this would be his last chance to conquer Europe.

Famous for his on going battle with the English media and Referees, Ferguson didn’t shy away from a rant when a decision had gone against his team; in fact this is when he became most quotable. Regardless, Ferguson was someone who loved the game, he could rattle of any fact, moment or match in history in regards to the game. His passion for football, Manchester United and life is what has helped drive his success. He has forged the history and traditions of Manchester United from when they were known as Newton Heath to The Busby Babes and all the way to present squad, into every player that pulls on the United Kit.

Ultimately, Ferguson should be remembered for his love and service to the game, his hunger for success, his ability to adapt, his attacking football and as arguably the greatest manager in the history of the game. We will never see his like again. Sir Alex Ferguson will always be remembered as Manchester United, he is an institution in himself.  He leaves United as strong as they have ever been with the right mix of players to continue the success that is so ingrained in the club for years to come. Fittingly, Ferguson bows out on his own terms, celebrating his 20th league title in front of his home fans in the theatre of dreams that he was so influential in creating. And like at the end of most Fergie time he leaves a winner.

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