“My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f**king perch.”
Those were words of Alex Ferguson in 1993; he had just led Manchester United to their first league title in 26 years. At the time it probably seemed like a good quote but I doubt many took it seriously; United had just won their eighth league title, but the reds from Merseyside had eighteen. Little did anyone know that Ferguson would devote the next 20 years to turning an unlikely quote into a reality.
A legend of the game has retired today; like Clough, Busby or Paisley, he is unique and we will never see the like of him again. In recent years Manchester United have dedicated a stand after him and built a statue in his honour. If they proposed to rename Old Trafford after Sir Alex you would hear no arguments from me. Perhaps that would be going too far however; if Ferguson’s era has manager has lived by one rule, it is that no-one is bigger than the club, though many would argue (myself included) that he comes mighty close!
Full disclosure, I am a 24 year-old Manchester United fan. Sir Alex Ferguson is the only manager of my club that I’ve ever known. When I started Eight-20-Eight, I knew I may blog about sport but I did not want it to descend into a fans running commentary, living and dying with every result week in and week out. I intended to keep my passions as much to myself as possible, but as often happens in life, unexpected events will turn the best laid plans on their heads. In this case I feel I would be doing a disservice to the man if I did not offer some small thanks. There will plenty of United fans out there doing the same and probably as many rival fans offering shall we say alternative opinions.
Football is divisive by nature, it rarely produces those that are unanimously liked and Sir Alex no exception to that. He is loved and hated in equal measure but never ignored. Ferguson is a behemoth of the game; a towering personality whose devotion to winning has left enemies and admirers, but whichever category they fall under, 99.9% won’t be able to help but respect the man.
The most successful manager in British football’s history. 38 trophies since 1986; if he were a football club in his own right, he would be more successful than Arsenal, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Everton. Only Liverpool (and obviously United) have more trophies than Fergie. Is he perfect? Not by a long shot. He has flaws which have caused multiple touchline bans, led to the banning of reporters from press conferences and courted controversy and anger from fellow managers, opposition players and rival fans. But that isn’t why they hate him; they hate him because he’s made it work so well for him. Piers Morgan (who is not someone I have any time for) summed it up well in an article written back in 2008, when after spending multiple paragraphs listing his grievances with Fergie, concluded: “The main reason I loathe Sir Alex Ferguson is because he’s a winner.”