“It is the right time”: Sir Alex Ferguson steps down as Manchester United manager after 26-year reign
“Genius,” “Mad,” “Exceptional,” “Loyal,” “The Greatest” are just some of the words Sir Alex has been described as by his colleagues, his competitors, players and fans across the globe. It seems as though it is the end of an era as the most decorated manager in British football history retires at the age of 71.
After securing United’s 13th Premier League title and marking their dominance over their rivals, the Scot believes “it is the right time” for him to leave his throne. “The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly” said Ferguson. “It is important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape, and I believe I have done so”.
Ferguson’s last game in charge of United will be his 1,500th and it will be played on May 19th on West Bromwich soil. Despite leaving his managerial duties, the United boss will still remain a key figure for the club’s future as he will adapt to his new position as a director and ambassador.
Ferguson had a shaky start to his career at United after replacing Ron Atkinson in November 1986. On his first season in charge however, he managed to lift the club from 21st to 11th position and on his second season he showed a much more promising foundation by finishing second, behind Liverpool.
But four years and no silverware saw the pressure mount on Ferguson to deliver and that he did, beating Crystal Palace to claim the FA Cup, his first trophy as United manager.
The following season Ferguson’s men defeated the almighty Barcelona 2-1 in Rotterdam to win the European Cup Winner’s Cup and finally in 1993 the Scotsman had the opportunity to taste the flavours of being crowned English Premier League champions.
In 1998 Sir Alex received his knighthood, in the same year he won “The Treble” with United taking all the top flight trophies including the Champions League helped by promising youngsters such as Beckham, Giggs and Scholes in the squad.
The records kept pilling in for the United boss as he became the first ever manager to win three consecutive English League titles in 2000.
A further six Premier League titles, 3 League cups, an FA Cup, Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup titles are then added to Ferguson’s tally helped by the signings of fresh talent such as Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ferguson took a huge gamble signing Rooney from Everton for over £25 million at the age of 18, making him the highest paid teenager in the Premier League.
The same level of uncertainty surrounded the Portuguese winger whom nobody knew a great deal about, however Ferguson’s instincts paid off as both players proved to be a great addition to the team and to football at large.
In 2011, with United winning the domestic cup once again, they overtook Liverpool’s long standing record of 18-top flight titles, much to the delight of Sir Alex who has finally blown the whistle on his career at United by winning the league title for the record 13th time with four games remaining.
FA Chairman David Bernstein described Ferguson as “one of the greatest of all time,” he went on to say “his contribution to English football has been outstanding in every regard”.
Prime Minister, David Cameron joined in the tributes by celebrating Ferguson’s achievements at Manchester United and claiming them as “exceptional” whilst former United player Paul Ince stressed the difficulty in selecting Sir Alex’s successor saying “it is very important the next man is the right man”.
Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Rio Ferdinand tweeted their appreciation for Ferguson’s role in their career with Ferdinand saying: “The boss’ work ethic, his desire to win [and] to make us better players were unrivalled. Thanks boss.”
England manager, Roy Hodgson exclaimed Ferguson’s departure as “a sad day for English football”.
“It marks the end of an era in football management. No one will be able to match his achievements, his dedication, his support for colleagues in need” concluded Hodgson.
Sir Bobby Charlton also praised Ferguson’s dedication to his work: “He would get up in the middle of the night and travel 300 miles if he thought there was a schoolboy he could sign. He loves the game.”
Ferguson himself paid tribute to the people who have helped him throughout his career: “I must pay tribute to my family, their love and support has been essential. As for my players and staff, past and present, I would like to thank them all for a staggering level of professional conduct and dedication that has helped to deliver so many memorable triumphs. Without their contribution the history of this great club would not be as rich.”
With Ferguson’s retirement a “dream job” vacancy has opened up and David Moyes is the favourite to claim the position having served at Everton for the past 11 years. The Scot has shown loyalty and dedication – key characteristics required to become a United boss.
With Moyes’ contract terminating at the end of the summer, it is believed the Glazer family will be negotiating with David Moyes over the possibility of becoming Ferguson’s successor. However, Jose Mourinho is also a contender as he expressed his desire to return to English football claiming that he is a “hated figure” in Spain.
Former Manchester United player Michael Owen tweeted “What an act to follow” regarding the huge task the new manager will face trying to fill Ferguson’s shoes. Owen went on to say “I guess only Mourinho would have the confidence to strut through the door. If it were me, I’d go for Moyes”.
Umida Ibrahimova, sports correspondent