I have been pondering over this piece for hours. Given that this, football’s greatest managerial reign, was always going to reach an end, you could say I have been thinking about it for years.
I have deliberated how I should best express my shock, describing my sadness at the news and fears surrounding the future progress of the club. The most fitting moments I should choose when reminiscing over his 27 years of service that has seen him transform Manchester United from a team locked in mid-table uncertainty to the most successful British team ever and a globally recognisable brand.
I wanted to touch upon the changes that have occurred in football over the last 27 years and how there has been only one manager to see it, and succeeded through it, all. From all the icons that have graced, and departed, the Theatre of Dreams, to the vast number of managers our rivals have recruited during that time. Since 1986 there have been 24 Real Madrid, 18 Chelsea, 14 City and 13 Milan managers. At Manchester United, only one.
I wanted to discuss his impact that has seen so many of his former players excel as managers themselves and the thousands of words of admiration exclaimed by his peers throughout the decades. His seemingly endless, astonishing ability to build winning team after winning team in the face of adversity and through the threat of financial domination by rival clubs. The nurturer of talent, the father-figure of the ‘fledglings’. The mentor. The game changer. The master.
There really are no words fitting, no expressions worthy of the man and the mark he has left on the game we love. In a world where the sports media has a knack of trivialising the impact of an individual with the flippant overuse of superlatives, terms like ‘legend’ seem almost embarrassing to use in this case. There is simply nothing that will meaningfully describe and embrace the magnitude of this man’s achievements.
As a 27 year old, born month’s before he joined the club, I have lived only a life with him at the helms. From having my entire existence defined by moments he and his United have influenced, I am now faced with the abrupt realisation that his domineering presence at United will be no more.
I have admired Cantona, watched Giggs, Beckham et al blossom, celebrated the Treble, proudly described Ronlaldo as my player and witnessed United knocking Liverpool off their perch. The man behind every glorious memory has been ever-present. And now he is going. And there is nothing more to say.
Sir Alex Ferguson. Thank you for the memories.