I’d like to be one of many, many people to thank Sir Alex Ferguson today.
When I first started following the Premier League five years ago, it was Ferguson more than any other man who hooked me. The man was a legend – indomitable, scary, mythical, and yet down-to-earth, old-fashioned and charitable.
He was the only man who could give hairdryer to referees as regularly as players – insurmountable at times, especially Fergie Time, and after when he would not speak to the BBC. Then when the dust settled, Sir Alex showed a more intricate side. He would speak openly of his failures, his hopes and dreams, and his family.
Ferguson at his core was a very secure manager and he is an even more secure man. Like all great coaches in all sports, Ferguson was incredibly driven by the defeats – he refused to step away last year after Manchester City won the title and created what would have been the ultimate anti-fairytale ending to Ferguson’s career.
Ferguson adapted his tactics and style and changed his style of management over the decades, but he never compromised his passion, smarts, or will. Ferguson leaves having reestablished the biggest and most successful sporting entity in the world. He is most likely the best football manager ever.
The problem for Manchester United is that Sir Alex Ferguson is the club.
United breaths Ferguson just as humans breath air. The club’s ideals and image, along with its structure, is all modeled either by Sir Alex, or in his image. What do you do when a man as important as Ferguson calls time on his career?
You try to carry on in that man’s image.
Manchester United is one of the few top clubs left in the world that still values longevity and loyalty, honor and respect. It’s United’s way, because it was Ferguson’s.
Think of all the clubs in football that would have leapt into bed with Jose Mourinho. Now understand that presented with Mourinho, United easily decided to stay away. Mourinho isn’t a United man – he’s too controversial, too brash, and too cocky. United don’t want their next manager to be around for three years, they want him to be around for 23 years.
Ferguson loves Mourinho, and knows his talent well, but when he recommended David Moyes to his bosses, he must have seen a young version of himself in the current Everton boss.
Moyes is a hard worker. He’s committed, loyal, and tough.
Moyes isn’t flashy, and that may be why a public poll of United fans in The Sun shows that the supporters want Mourinho to be the next boss. But to misunderstand the hiring of Moyes would be to misunderstand the influence and respect for Ferguson at United.
Ferguson isn’t going away completely. He’ll be a club ambassador and director, and he wants United to carry on in that image he crafted over the better part of three decades.
People forget how United toiled and twisted and turned between the eras of Busby and Fergie. In those years, United didn’t have an identity. But after 27 years of Ferguson, if Barcelona is “Mes Que Un Club”, what United does is more than winning.