by ‘Ifreke Inyang
27 years and 49 trophies later, Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his retirement. The numbers are indeed mind-buggling. Without a doubt, he is the greatest manager the world has ever seen. What many might not know, is that it did not start off on a winning note for the Scot. His first ever game for United ended in a 2-0 defeat to Oxford, followed by a goalless draw at newly promoted Norwich City seven days later. It got really bad for the former Aberdeen manager, that a banner that read: “Three years of excuses and it’s still crap … ta-ra Fergie.” was displayed at Old Trafford, and a lot of people associated with the club, called for his sack. He later labelled that time, as “the darkest period [he had] ever suffered in the game”.
Depite all that, he never gave up and the trophies soon arrived. After winning the FA Cup against Crystal Palace, he has gone on to dominate English football with different teams. Ferguson was driven and nothing stood in his way. Not even his players. When David Beckham, Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy, etc tried to stand up to his authority, they were duly shipped out. His fierce attitude and unrivalled hunger to win games and trophies filtered into his players and there is a popular saying that United never know when they are beaten. His early rivalry with Arsene Wenger still leaves me fascinated and his never-ending feud with Rafa Benitez, is an interesting one. Referees were not safe from his haranguing.
One of the priceless sights in a United game, is Ferguson pointing to his wrist watch. It is almost a common sight, as he’s always eager to inform the referee that the time is up or depending on the situation, to add more time for his team to dig out a win or a point.
Fergie’s own time is up now. When questioned about when he would leave, Ferguson, who has had a pacemaker fitted into his heart, always cited his health as a deciding factor. The club had also announced earlier, that he would undergo hip surgery and miss the beginning of the 2013/2014 season.
Make no mistakes, he leaves on a high. This weekend, United will be presented with their 20th League title (he won 13), after the game against Swansea. It was probably written in the stars. Last year, he lost the EPL crown to fierce rivals Manchester City on goals difference. The 71-year-old immediately bought an antidote in the summer. Arsenal’s Robin van Persie arrived for a fee around £20million, was handed the number 20 shirt and his 20 League goals, has delivered United’s 20th title.
He didn’t always get it right though. For every Cristiano Ronaldo, there was a Juan Sebastian Veron. For every Eric Cantona, there was an Eric Djemba-Djemba. Whatever the mix, he always ended up with winning teams.
“The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time,” Ferguson stated as the news was confirmed on Wednesday morning.
David Moyes has been touted as the likeliest manager to replace him, but Jose Mourinho, who has eternally coveted the job, might yet turn down a romantic reunion with Chelsea with summer. Whoever is in charge, when Van Persie and co begin the defence of their title, would not just have big boots to fill, but will be quaking in them.