Sir Alex Ferguson has been in the top seat at Old Trafford for a good 21 years (22 this November) and has seen many things in his time as the gaffer. Price Andrew married another Ferguson in the summer of 1986 whilst England and France announced plans for a channel tunnel to enhance access and ease of travel between countries, how things have changed in those 22 years. Sir Alex has won numerous trophies, so many that every true red has each triumphed etched in memory but one thing that has stood out is the fact that Fergie has kept up with football evolution, with many other managers falling at the wayside.
If we have a look at a number of managers at other clubs at the same time we can see how hard Fergie’s job was to build three great sides and evolve with the demands of modern day football. Liverpool had Dalglish, who’s stint at Newcastle and Celtic eventually ended any managerial creditability he had. Arsenal had George Graham, who’s reputation was destroyed after the bung scandal involving John Jenson. Everton had Howard Kendall, who eneded up managing the mighty Ethnikos Piraeus in the Greek league. Now, this could go on for a while, citing all managers of all top clubs at that time – however as you can imagine that will take ages and they all refer to the same point. Yes, Graham, Dalglish and Kendall all won things with their respected clubs. Yes, they are remembered positively by their clubs fanbase (Well Graham would have been had he not moved to their north London rivals). But, one thing that Fergie has above all of them is that he has sustained the evolution of the game of football and stood tall to all the challenges that have faced him in his time at United. He has won honour after honour and still looked forward to the future. Gone are the days of the old school ‘push and run’ managers – Fergie has been a football manager for a hell of a long time and to sustain success over such a long period and adapt to every challenge that the football world throws at him is quite extraordinary. The other managers may have won things with their clubs but they can never match the gaffer with regards to success over the same period (some would also argue with the style of football that is played too).
Since 2001 Sir Alex has had his fair share of criticism. A number of reds felt that the quick selling of Jaap Stam to be replaced by an aging Laurent Blanc was bad business – and to be fair I think the gaffer may have had second thoughts after that move. Blanc was a fantastic defender in his day for Barcelona and Montpellier (where he made his name) but at 36 was far too old to play in the Premier League, especially for a player who would not consider pace as his best attribute. United regained the title from Arsenal in 2003 having fought back to overtake the Gunners in the latter months of the season – a great triumphs epitomised by Fergie dancing around on the Highbury turf. The following season had some United fans and the press raising eyebrows. Fergie signed David Bellion, Eric Djemba Djemba, Diego Forlan, Liam Miller and a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. With the exception of the great Portuguese winger; none of those signings were a success. Combine this with a 3rd place finish, the knives were being sharpened. Fergie had apparently ‘lost the plot’ and was going the same way as Brian Clough – advise at the time was that he should get out now why he still had respect. At the time I couldn’t believe the nonsense that was coming out of a number of journos mouths along with a number of fans. In order to succeed in football you need to have faith and belief in your ability. This is also needed by the chairman and fans of a club. You need to give time for a manager to sort his side out. The summer of 2003 brought Cristiano ‘showpony’ Ronaldo to the club. Anyone could, that understands football, clearly see that Ronaldo had an exceptional talent that was head and shoulders above any other player at that age in terms of technique. But young footballers take time to adapt to certain brand of football and Ronaldo needed time to adapt to the physicality and tempo of the English game. Of course he was never the finished article in 2003/04 but many fans wrote him of as a one trick wonder (which I never understood as i’ve never seen anyone perform so many stepovers, backheels, flicks and dribbles) when they should have seen the potential of a player that would eventually term into an amazing footballer. Fergie saw this raw talent and molded him into the footballer he is today. Combine this with the addition of Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic and the outstanding Patrice Evra – Fergie has built a third great side that some consider to be the best United side out of the three. Fergie believed in the creativity, imagination and sheer brilliance of the boy Ronaldo, a characteristic that sums up the philosophy of Manchester United.
So, the point of the post? To reflect on the last 5/6 years and really highlights the vision, ambition and drive of Sir Alex Ferguson to build this great team that stands two wins away from true greatness. The like of Anderson, Nani, Hargreaves and likable character that is Carlos Tevez can be written into United folk law having only spent a season under the watchful eye of the old master. Anderson and Nani are going to get even better having really impressed in a number of games this season; Anderson especially. Fergie has a number of years left in him yet to win even more trophies, buy and mold even more players to turn into world beaters, drive the side forward with a strong team work ethic and most importantly throw back everything that the football world throws at him and his team.