MANCHESTER: Sir Alex Ferguson, in his programme notes before United played Chelsea in the league last Sunday, wrote: “I don’t have any plans at the moment to walk away from what I believe is going to be something special.” Clearly, he was being economical with the truth writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Ferguson’s record is phenomenal in a record 27-year stint which has taken him more than two years before the mark of the club’s earlier managerial legend, Sir Matt Busby.
All told he has won 49 trophies as a manager with United, Aberdeen and St Mirren and 14 of the current squad were not even born when United played the first of his 1,500-plus games in charge at Old Trafford in 1986. Then he was paid £60,000 a year, now he earns £5m.
He first threatened to retire in 2002 after having won 14 major trophies. He had second thoughts and has been vindicated by adding a dozen more trophies in the subsequent 11 seasons.
To step down after having wrestled the league title back from ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City is an appropriately triumphant moment.
He might have been tempted, perhaps, had United won the 2009 Champions League Final at Wembley but Barcelona, that night, denied him with ease.
A year later Ferguson told a conference audience that only ill health would separate him from the United manager’s job.
He said then: “Retirement is for young people. If you retire when you’re old, where do you go next? I would not quit unless my health deteriorated – that would be the only way for me to go.”
Ferguson said only that he would bow to family pressure if they felt he were not fit enough to carry on in the job.
He also spoke about how managers were not given enough time to build a club nowadays and that longevity was the key to a successful club and described himself as “a phenomenon.”
He also praised his rival Arsene Wenger for his reliance on youth rather than experience in building a club for the future. He said fans were sometimes to blame, with displeasure in the stands often filtering down to the directors room and forcing a rash decision.
Ferguson added: “Anyone can build a team – that’s fine in the shortterm. What I wanted to do, and what all managers should do is build a football club. All the way up from the bottom.”
That philosophy has seen Ferguson’s teams have dominated English football since 1993. They have won the Champions League twice and reached two other finals with positive football heated by a dressing-room ambience of ‘United against the world.’
Ferguson has proved adept not only in buying and selling players but at squeezing every last drop of value out of each and every player – as evidenced by the part-time but decisive contributions of veterans Scholes and Giggs last season.
Both veterans have remained to contribute to United’s record-extending 20th league title this term, which takes their all-time haul of major trophies to 39, just two behind Liverpool. Thirteen of those 20 have come under Sir Alex Ferguson in the Premier League era since 1992-93.