“Three year`s of excuses and it’s still crap…ta-ra Fergie,” the banner read in the December of 1989. The headlines in the Daily Express on 28th December read, ‘Fergie’s last stand’. A defeat to highflying Nottingham Forest in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup could well have meant a premature end to Ferguson’s reign.
23 years later, Sir Alex Ferguson’s statue stands tall behind the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. But that does not begin to describe what Sir Alex has accomplished at the club.
When Ferguson took over at Manchester United on 6 November 1986, United were 21st in the First Division (this was back when 22 teams competed in the English top flight) and had not won the league for nearly two decades. While United were fighting relegation, Liverpool were the force to be reckoned with, with a tally of 30 major trophies (16 league titles) to United’s 14 (7 league titles) and looking to win even more. To match Liverpool’s success was a fantasy, an impossible dream. But it was to be made possible.
In the 26 years of Sir Alex’s reign, Manchester United fans have had the privilege of watching their club climb from the relegation zone to becoming the most successful club in English football history. It took four long years of building and rebuilding for the club to enjoy success under Sir Alex, but once Mark Robins’ goal secured the FA Cup in 1990 and ended what Sir Alex called the darkest period he had suffered in the game, there was no stopping them. 13 league titles, 2 European Cups, 1 Intercontinental Cup , 1 Club World Cup, 1 European Cup-Winners’ Cup, 5 FA Cups and 4 League Cups in 26 years; no other club had enjoyed such a prolonged state of dominance, let alone under a single manager. Whenever a squad would seem to lose their edge, Fergie could always pull another rabbit out of the hat. He would disprove the critics over and over, rebuilding, reshaping, and ever evolving his team. Any who had dared call his a fading empire would smile awkwardly and change the topic a couple of seasons later. Arsenal, Chelsea and now Manchester City have all tried to break United’s grip on the Premiership; none has yet succeeded. And Liverpool have well and truly been knocked off their perch. Clubs now look to United’s 20 league titles and walk away disheartened. 26 years- that’s how long this particular dream had lasted.
No one man is bigger than the club, but here is a man whose name had become almost synonymous with the name of the club itself, for it is difficult for anyone to imagine Manchester United without the gaffer. His legacy at United remains unique and above all unrivalled. His retirement marks the end of an era, one we are all privileged to have witnessed.
On behalf of all United fans, thank you Sir Alex.