I was in grade 5 (10 years old) when Alex Ferguson was appointed as Manchester United manager. At that point in time, I was getting to know the game of football by playing at school and also by watching The Big League every Saturday afternoon. I had already chosen my team by then – Liverpool FC – and started to follow their league winning exploits.
During his 27 years in charge of the Red Devils, Kenny Dalglish, Ronnie Moran, Graeme Souness, Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish (again) have come and gone. Brendan Rodgers is the current incumbent and the only Liverpool manager to see Ferguson leave before he does.
It has been an infuriatingly frustrating time at Liverpool, watching the club slip ever further behind one of its traditional arch enemies in the pecking order of most successful clubs. One of the things that has struck me most about Ferguson’s time in charge is how he has bent the club to his will over the past 27 years. His aim was to knock Liverpool off the “their f-ing perch” and he has certainly done so. The fact that a large number of his current squad were not alive in 1986 is testament to Ferguson’s immense drive to succeed. Some managers are able to achieve success over 3 or 4 seasons with a large core of senior players, but not many can claim to have achieved success over 27 years with many different squads.
It was not only Liverpool managers that Ferguson saw come and go, the total number of managers who have arrived and departed is somewhere around 144 (according to the geeks who compile these stats).
Another facet of the Ferguson empire has been his ruthlessness in dealing with upstart players who went against his instructions or thought they were bigger than the club. Some of them have regretted their decisions to leave United. I think this was one of the key factors behind Ferguson – he wanted total control and did not accept any possible threats to his power.
There is one area that I wish that Liverpool could have stolen or obtained from Ferguson over the past 27 years and that is a winning mentality – a hunger for success. All of those last-minute Manchester United goals were no simple coincidence or accident – they all came about as a result of a never-Saudis attitude and spirit that the players learned from one person – Alex Ferguson.
Like any human being, Ferguson was not a perfect individual and had his faults. He was renowned for his famously short temper (the infamous hair dryer to his players), his bullying of match officials and his dictatorial tendencies of refusing to talk to journalists who had the temerity to say bad things about him (including Manchester United’s very own communist propaganda TV station). The one element that rival supporters will not miss about the Scotsman will be the infamous “Fergie time” that somehow always seemed to work in Manchester United’s favour.
Ultimately, there are many supporters and fans that may claim to detest the old man. I salute him for the work that he did in leading his club for as long as he did. I appreciate the players he nurtured and trained and can even admit I liked one or two through gritted teeth.
Manchester United has assumed its position in the history books thanks to Sir Alex Ferguson. Best of luck to the future managers at the club – they will most certainly need it.