I was asked to speak to Setanta Sports regarding the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson from Manchester United earlier today. Here are my thoughts, which I thought I would share with readers of my website.
I’ve known Sir Alex for a number of years; back when he was an up and coming manager for Aberdeen, and when he originally took over at Manchester United. Everybody is aware that he didn’t have the easiest times when he started at the club and there were rumours that he might get the sack in the 1989/90 season. I knew Martin Edwards quite well – in fact, I would often play tennis with him, and throughout the time that it was suggested Fergie would be sacked, I would always tell Martin that he should give him more time. Of course, he was given more time, and the resulting success is there for all to see.
What he has done for the club is completely transform it – United have always been the glamour club in England but it has grown in to a completely different level under Fergie. He has always had the same push and drive, the same kind of determination I knew from managers like Bill Shankly and Tommy Docherty, and he had the character and discipline to maintain such fantastic longevity. Not just that, but I don’t think any team in history has ever resembled the character of their manager quite so much as United have under Sir Alex. That Govan-bred steely determination has obviously been of benefit to the man and also to the club – never say die – and how many times has that resulted in a win that defined the destination of a trophy in Manchester United’s favour?
Despite the reputation of the hairdryer, Alex is ever such a nice person. I worked at the club in the 90’s for MUTV, and while I was still living in the area we would go to the same gym – he always had time for me, and we would often have a little chat. I always found him pleasant to talk to and friendly – well wishing stories that I am reading in tribute about his generosity ring very true indeed.
Talk will naturally then spread to his successor, and there are the same two names that keep getting mentioned. The strong money is on David Moyes and he’s the one I’ve felt for a long time is the right choice; David feels like the perfect choice, and I know that Alex tried to get him as an assistant in the past. David is the right age, 50, British, and has served a tough and successful apprenticeship at Everton.
He’s worked there on a shoestring and kept Everton playing decent football, competing with clubs who have spent hundreds of millions more- it would only have been a matter of time that he would have won something with all being equal. These clubs like Chelsea and City should have nabbed David a long time ago and they’ve missed out by not trying to get him as their manager.
I think it needs to be said that one of Fergie’s best qualities is absolutely maximising the best out of his players through a combination of respect and fear, that is a quality worth its weight in gold and that’s a quality that David Moyes has. He’s had Everton achieving the very best that they are capable of – and he’s now used to finishing above Liverpool, which should go down very well in the red part of Manchester!
Fergie is leaving the squad in good shape for someone to continue the work he’s done and it makes sense for his successor to have similar traits; a manager with time on his side, a strong character and a determination to prove himself is exactly what United got when Alex arrived and that’s what they would be getting in David Moyes – for me, and I know my old boss Tommy Docherty agrees, David would be the perfect choice.
For now Sir Alex has two games left and those games should see plenty of celebration for the wonderful work he has done at Old Trafford. When people say he’s one of the best, that’s all about opinions, and each have their own… It’s easy to be sycophantic, but I just want to be respectful – for me, you can reel off the names like Shankly, Stein, Clough, and Fergie deserves to be mentioned as one of the greatest ever.
Enjoy your retirement, Sir Alex – you’ve deserved it.