They say he broke down when he broke the news of his retirement to the Manchester United players. The players cried. Outside, the world went in shock – like someone very important had died. I also felt numb. It just didn’t sound real. For me, he IS Manchester United, because in my knowledge span of British football, I have only known him to be the club’s coach.
I got acquainted to Manchester United during the era when everyone at school raved about Liverpool. It was always Liverpool this, Liverpool that and some more that was Liverpool something-else. It so bored me, and I so desperately wanted to be different. I no longer remember clearly but something about Alex Ferguson captivated me then. Everyone was talking about him as the dangerously ambitious man hell bent on pushing Liverpool off their high horses.
This being a sentiment I so easily identified with at the time, I must have somehow grown fond of United as well. To date. From then on, I have known people to come in and go at United, and I have known only one man to stand the test of time there. Only in 2001 do I recall the well publicized news of his planned departure from the club, with effect from 2002.
It was a queer feeling then, having somehow believed - in my youthful naivety and innocence I guess - that Ferguson was the owner of the club, just as I equally thought Arsene Wenger owned Arsenal. With Wenger, it was the first name that totally convinced me. Maybe like it is with Jomo Sono at Jomo Cosmos. Well, as history will attest, Ferguson would not live up to his ‘threat’ to quit, but continued coaching the club until, maybe, this month as per his Wednesday announcement. It is for this reason that the news of his retirement this week is yet to sink in. It just sounds wrong, like it is just a mistake that will soon be rectified. Having known and loved the English Premier League from the day he was at United, it now feels like the team will also cease to exist at his departure.
I also join the rest of the shocked world in glorifying this man I believe to be the greatest manager to grace the football world. Save for the fact that he spent all these 27 years at the same club, there is a lot more intriguing about him. Since he joined United in 1986, his major rival clubs in Europe have employed an average of 15 coaches to date. Since then, Chelsea have had 19 coaches; Manchester City 14 coaches; Real Madrid a staggering 24 coaches and 19 coaches for Inter Milan. There may never be another coach to reach this milestone. I will miss more the sight of him chewing his gum non-stop; the hairdryer stories and his fiery look when a referee rubbed him the wrong way.
Below are tributes that have come from the shocked world after he confirmed his departure. His replacement was to be announced before the end of the week, specifically within 48 hours of his announcement according to British press. David Moyes of Everton is favoured to take over the hot seat while Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid is also a possibility despite revelations that he will start work at Chelsea on July 1. It is interesting to note however, that the management of Manchester United says preparations for the old man’s retirement had long started. Other reactions to Ferguson’s retirement Just heard Sir Alex Ferguson is retiring at end of season.
His achievements in the game place him without doubt as one of the ‘greats’. SEPP BLATTER, FIFA President. Sir Alex, one of the best managers of all time. After 26 years of success in the game, we all owe him a tribute. VINCENT KOMPANY, Manchester City Captain Alex has proven time and time again what a fantastic manager he is but he’s also a wonderful person. His determination to succeed and dedication to the club have been truly remarkable. I will always cherish the wonderful memories he has given us, like that magical night in Moscow.
JOEL GLAZER, Manchester United co-owner As I have said many times before, the boss wasn’t just the greatest and best manager I ever played under, he was also a father figure to me from the moment I arrived at the club at the age of 11. DAVID BECKHAM I’ve had the tremendous pleasure of working very closely with Alex for 16 unforgettable years — through the treble, the double, countless trophy wins and numerous signings. We knew that his retirement would come one day and we both have been planning for it by ensuring the quality of the squad and club structures are in first-class condition. Alex’s vision, energy and ability have built teams — both on and off the pitch — that his successor can count on as among the best and most loyal in world sport. The way he cares for this club, his staff and for the football family in general is something that I admire. It is a side to him that is often hidden from public view but it is something that I have been privileged to witness in the last 16 years.
What he has done for this club and for the game in general will never be forgotten. It has been the greatest experience of my working life being alongside Alex and a great honour to be able to call him a friend. DAVID GILL, Manchester United’s Chief Executive He’s been such a focal point at the football club. He’s taken Manchester United to the level they are at right now. It’s a shock to the system because he’s been there every day. He’s the one person when you go into the football club he’s always there. For him not to be there from the start of next season, it’s not going to be right around the football club and it will take some getting used to. DWIGHT YORKE. Former Manchester United player. You will never see anyone of his kind again.
It’s come as a massive, massive shock to hear the news that he will retire at the end of the season. I was one of the fortunate ones, I spent six fantastic years at United. The first time I joined United I failed my medical and I thought my move was about to collapse. But he treated me as a son. He was was so demanding, his standards were so high. He had ups and downs with all the players, but the man was immense and he got the best out of me that’s for sure. PAUL INCE Sir Alex Ferguson’s achievement at Manchester United has been exceptional. Hopefully his retirement will make life a little easier for my team Aston Villa FC. DAVID CAMERON, British Prime Minister 2001 to 2006, 219 games, 150 goals under the most successful manager in football history. It was a unique privilege. RUUD VAN NISTELROOY It is the end of an era for a truly great ambassador, not only for the Premier League but for football overall.
Best of luck to Sir Alex. PATRICK VIERA Sir Alex has made a massive contribution to football, not only in Scotland and in England, but across Europe and beyond. His dedication, his attention to detail and his unique eye for talent, as both the manager of Manchester United FC and Aberdeen FC, has brought rich rewards over a 30-year period. His CV is almost unique in a results-based profession that normally focuses on short-term solutions rather than long-term vision. He is a true visionary and I hope that, having helped us in the past through various coaching initiatives, he will continue to collaborate with Uefa to share his fantastic knowledge with the next generation of up-and-coming European coaches who all wish to emulate his achievements in the sport. MICHELLE PLATINI, UEFA President An end of an era! Sir Alex Ferguson, the greatest of all time! United will have a tough time trying to replace him! ROY MCLLROY, World’s Top Golfer