Tributes continue to pour in for Sir Alex Ferguson after it has been confirmed that Manchester United’s last game of this season would also be his last as the manager of the club he took to unprecedented heights of glory. The potential impact of his decision would surely be felt not only in England but across the world of football as the man who oversaw the United team to 13 League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and 2 Champions League trophies, would no longer be plotting his opponents’ tactical downfall – a fact that will no doubt bring considerable solace to his fellow managers across Europe!
The words “Manchester United” and “success” have become synonymous with Sir Alex over the years and his proud reign at the club could possibly go unmatched for decades to come – a feat that falls into the category which hosts records like Sir Don Bradman’s surreal Test match average of 99.96! There have been teams which played football and there have been great teams which achieved and dominated and United falls in the latter category, an achievement made possible due to the influence of a great manager on a great team. The Scott had his own way of doing things at United and his strong personality and character allowed him to establish a firm hand over his players and his insistence on discipline and commitment on the pitch were key factors to the triumphs.
It is often thought that star players pave the way for a team’s success but it is the manager’s strength which actually rubs off on the players’ performances on the pitch. United have never had a squad filled with “galacticos” like some Spanish clubs but it has always been players with great talent (whom the Scot had a vigilant eye to acquire) who grew into stars and tasted accomplishment at the club. He has been responsible for nurturing the success of football legends like Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo – players who came to him with potential and became superstars.
TROPHIES AND POUNDS
United’s success has been the envy of clubs across the world and Sir Alex’s reign not only brought them countless trophies but also financial power that saw them become the world’s most valuable sports club last year with a value of $2.23 billion – a mean feat that can be wholly attributed to the unparalleled devotion with which Ferguson managed the club and the way he took them from the pits of the Premier League to its summit. Since the year 1990 when the club won its first major trophy under him – the Football Association Cup, United have been constantly immersed in seasons of glory in the Premier League. Since 1992 they have never finished outside the top 3 and won the treble once and the League and FA cup double thrice.
Table 1 - Manchester United - Major titles over the years
|YEAR||PREMIER LEAGUE||FA CUP||CHAMPIONS LEAGUE|
Chart 1 – Manchester United winning % in their division over the years (1990 – 1992 in Division 1 and 1993 – present in the Premier League)
MAN TO KNIGHT
Sir Alex won trophies at Aberdeen and St. Mirren - the clubs he managed prior to joining United, but the level of success he achieved at United has been daunting. He was rightly knighted in the year 1999 for his accomplishments in football and has not slowed down a bit since. Success typically breeds arrogance but he has never gone overboard with his attitude and has always commanded respect among his peers. Whether it is his scary and infamous hairdryers to underperforming and erratic players, or his furious rants with referees along the touchlines, the man has never refrained from showing his intense passion and hunger for winning. Never known to take a loss lightly, his disappointment with losing the League title painfully in the last minute to City in the previous season had no doubt spurred him to lead his lads on a rampage this season which has ultimately granted him the title with a comfortable lead. Had it not been for a controversial decision in the Champions League against Read Madrid, United might also have had a chance to win another worthy title for their manager.
UNITED’S IMMINENT CHALLENGE
United will now face a huge challenge to find a strong manager who could shoulder the responsibility of emulating the success and consistency achieved by Sir Alex. A highly daunting task no doubt considering that the club has always been among the elite, most admired and feared, the onus might fall on one of a few worthy suitors like the hugely favoured Englishman Moyes, the shrewd German Heynckes, or even the sly Special One whose interest to come back to England might actually be to lead United and not Chelsea after all – what a shocker that would actually be!
United’s next manager might never come close to matching Ferguson’s accomplishments but he would surely be a proud man deserving of stepping into the shoes vacated by arguably the best football manager there will ever be.
There might not be a jersey of MANU with Sir Alex’s name and number on the back but every inch of United will forever be exuding with the Scott’s legacy.