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Monday, 9 May 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson, the One Manager to Rule Them All

The final whistle blew and Old Trafford exploded in a joyous atmosphere- it was finally true, United had all but overhauled Liverpool's 18 titles that had been used to beat the Red Army for a whole generation from those down the M62.

Sir Alex Ferguson was congratulated by his counterpart Carlo Ancelotti and then moved on to the pitch to congratulate some of his key players before striding towards the tunnel to take his exit.

About half way down, the walk slowed until Sir Alex paused and bowed to the Stretford End... Not once, but twice! There was something amiss- it was us who should have bowed to the grand old master, not the other way round.

It is easy to forget how different the landscape was at Old Trafford when Alex Ferguson, as he was simply known back then, walked through the doors to take over from Ron Atkinson. United had not enjoyed the success that was expected at the biggest club in the World at that point and had already seen 19 seasons rush by since they were last the Kings of England.

At the same time, Liverpool were continuing their recent dominance of the English game to such an extent that Ferguson famously remarked how he wanted to 'knock them off their fucking perch'.

Since winning his first trophy as United boss in 1990, Ferguson has overseen a period of almost continuous success at the club. A first major European trophy followed in the form of the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1991 and the first League title since 1967 was finally held high in 1993.

United have been the dominating force in the Premier League years, with this season being the 12th League title they would have picked up in 18 years. That is some feat, but the biggest testimony to Sir Alex is the unbelievable way he has adapted in that time to the new pressures faced by managers as wages spiralled upwards and new methods were required to keep players in line and focused on the task at hand.

Ferguson has created 3 very successful sides already at Old Trafford, with this new squad being 'under construction' as the Glaswegian creates a 4th new side. For much of this season we have been told it is the weakest United side since they first won the Premier League in 1993, but the will to win has come from the manager and all the plaudits must be given to him.

Yes, the likes of Ryan Giggs have been in fine form this season, but I dont think there are any managers out there that could have led this squad to the title and a place in the Champions League Final.

The biggest complement I can pay to Fergie is that this title is all down to him. I would put him in charge of any of the teams inside the top 4 and I would have backed them to win the title. Arguably, the 3 sides below United have better squads, but the desire of the manager is unmatched.

He handled the Wayne Rooney transfer request in the best possible manner, coaxing the best form out of the England international when it mattered most down the stretch. United have also missed Rio Ferdinand and Antonio Valencia for large chunks of the season, but Chris Smalling showed what an astute signing he was while Javier Hernandez has to be the best transfer of the season for a paltry £7 million.

Sir Alex often can baffle us fans with his team selections for games, but once again has proven that he gets it right far more often than he gets it wrong. How many other managers would have picked the Da Silva twins as wingers for an FA Cup tie with Arsenal? At the end of the day, it is impossible to argue with the selections as the results are there for all to see.

Is this the greatest achievement in Sir Alex's time at United? I would say no, but I am also certain that no other manager in the World would have got this squad to where it is today. In fact, this latest achievement makes it hard for me to believe that any other British manager ever could have achieved what he has, not just this year, but every year since he has been at Old Trafford.

Brian Clough used to taunt Fergie when always mentioning 'I have two of those (European Cups)', but Sir Alex has the chance to go one further than the legendary Derby County and Nottingham Forest manager on Saturday 28th May.

Bob Paisley may have won 3 European Cups, but he had joined an already successful club and built on its success. Sir Alex had to start from scratch and build United from the Academy upwards.

Sir Matt Busby will always be a legendary figure at Old Trafford having rebuilt the club after the disaster of Munich 1958, but Sir Alex has eclipsed his achievements on the field and is looking to leave United in a state where they can continue to enjoy success for many years after he decides to depart, a state that unfortunately Sir Matt did not leave the club.

Departs? When will that be? Rumours swirl that Sir Alex may decide to leave if United win the Champions League this season. As he said to Edwin Van der Sar, it's best to go out at the top... But I dont believe thats the case here. You only know that as soon as Fergie walked down the tunnel on Sunday afternoon, he was already thinking of how best to combat Barcelona and has already decided on which players he wants to bring in over the Summer to continue the success for next season.

And who would put it past the great man to be thinking about equalling Liverpool's 5 European Cups if United do indeed get to 4 on May 28th? What a way to unequivocally 'knock them off their fucking perch'...

Old Trafford, not so long ago, unveiled the Holy Trinity statue opposite Sir Matt in front of the East Stand. I think a few sculptures may be getting a call soon for a new statue to be commissioned, one to immortalise Sir Alex, the Greatest of them all.

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