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Sir Alex Ferguson Retires

Jonathan Schofield on Sir Alex as the main man calls it a day

Written by . Published on May 8th 2013.

Sir Alex Ferguson Retires

THE most successful manager in British football is to retire at the end of the season.

Sir Alex Ferguson is to step down after 26 years in charge.

My interviewee was a witty, smiling, clever gentleman, there was no 'hairdryer' personality, there wasn't even a press officer saying you can't ask that, you can't write any of this, Sir Alex Ferguson didn't need any of it. 

The 71-year-old Glaswegian has won 38 trophies since taking over from Ron Atkinson on 6 November 1986. His declared aim at the time was to 'knock Liverpool off their perch' after the Merseyside club's spectacular 70s and early 80s.

It took him a while but when the first trophies started arriving in 1990 with an FA Cup victory, the hoarding of silverware never relented.

Sir Alex's ambition, drive and brains resulted in 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League crowns, five FA Cups and five League Cups.

A couple of years ago with United's nineteenth English First Division or Premier League title he overtook Liverpool's eighteen titles.

By that time the Merseyside rivalry was meaningless in terms of ascendency (if not in terms of fan opinion) and he'd turned United into perhaps the greatest footballing brand around. Only Real Madrid and Barcelona could be considered equal in terms of global appeal. 

He'd achieved this by buying when he needed the big names but also by nuturing. His policy, whenever possible, of buying British or Irish players, or bringing talent through the ranks, has been good for the game in these islands. In most games Ferguson regularly has more British or Irish players in the team than any of the other top Premier League teams.

Maybe in that case a fellow Brit such as David Moyes, the Everton manager out of contract at the end of the season, might be the right person to approach as his replacement.

Ferguson leaves us with one of the finest football quotes ever spoken.

After that bizarre and thrilling European Cup triumph in 1999 to secure the unparalleled Treble, he pushed his hand back through his hair and said: "Football, bloody hell".

Three words that are the essence of every fan's experience.

"The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about. It is the right time," Ferguson has said.

"It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so.

"The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one.

"Our training facilities are amongst the finest in global sport and our home Old Trafford is rightfully regarded as one of the leading venues in the world.

"Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both Director and Ambassador for the club. With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future.

"I must pay tribute to my family, their love and support has been essential. My wife Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career."

I interviewed Sir Alex at United's Carrington training ground in 2003 for City Life magazine ahead of the Manchester United v Rangers match in the Champions League. Ferguson had played for Rangers back in the sixties.

What sticks in the memory is his intelligence, his knowledge of not just football but the world outside that peculiar bubble, his appreciation of history and politics and his sense of humour.

My interviewee was a witty, smiling, clever, left leaning gentleman (he's been a big Labour party supporter over the years). There was no 'hairdryer' personality, there wasn't even a press officer saying you can't ask that, you can't write any of this.

Sir Alex Ferguson didn't need any of it.  

He has put everything into United and the other clubs he's been involved with, but outside the job he's been able to put distance on football, step back, see the wood for the trees. 

He recalled an occasion, his debut derby for Rangers against Celtic. Old Firm madness all around and Rangers won.

Then after the hullabaloo he left Ibrox, the Rangers' home ground, and walked the short distance to the terrace house where he lived and had tea with his family. He was a winner in one of the most fiercely contested derbies in the world, but he immediately normalised it. Life went on.

This is the secret perhaps to his twenty six years at United.

Yes of course his desire to succeed, his unremitting resolve to win and then to win again once another team has gained the upper hand, Blackburn, Arsenal, Chelsea, City, and his blindness to reason when enraged is all part of what drives him.

But his ability to compartmentalise his work has been equally important:'his many other interests'.

He has put everything into United and the other clubs he's been involved with, but outside the job he's been able to put distance on football, step back, see the wood for the trees. 

Hard act to follow isn't the half of it.

Football, bloody hell

Football, bloody hell

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

The Sir Alex Ferguson Trophy Haul

Premier League: 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013.

FA Cup: 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004

League Cup: 1992, 2006, 2009, 2010

Champions League: 1999, 2008

Cup Winners Cup: 1991

FIFA Club World Cup: 2008

UEFA Super Cup: 1992

Inter-Continental Cup: 1999

FA Charity/Community Shield: 1990 (shared), 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011

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AnonymousMay 8th 2013.


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