Thanks for memories, Ferguson tells United fans

Meanwhile, the veteran coach could not resist one last jibe at bitter rivals Liverpool.

A Manchester United fan wearing a Sir Alex Ferguson mask during the parade.
A Manchester United fan wearing a Sir Alex Ferguson mask during the parade.

ALEX FERGUSON THANKED tens of thousands of Manchester United fans as they gathered to salute him and his final English champion side at the start of an open-top bus parade outside Old Trafford on Monday.

United manager Ferguson, one of football’s most successful bosses, is retiring after guiding the Red Devils to the English Premier League title for a 13th time.

More than 75,000 supporters inside old Trafford gave him a rousing send-off on Sunday after United marked his last home game in charge with a 2-1 league win over Swansea City.

And 24 hours on, the impact of that tribute was still proving a lot for the normally composed Ferguson to handle.

“Yesterday is a day I will never forget.,” he told supporters amid a backdrop of chants of “We love you Fergie, we do!”

“It was wonderful. Thank you. It was something all my family enjoyed and the grandkids will never forget it,” he added before the bus set off for its journey to Manchester Town Hall.

“This is fantastic, I’m more pleased for you than anything else. To go through a 38-week programme of Premier division (football) and win it in style with a great bunch of players was great.

“It is a young squad with a lot of good young players and they will get better. The big test will be to win it three times in a row.”

Ferguson could not resist one last jibe at bitter rivals Liverpool, the club that dominated English football when he arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 but whose previous record of 18 English titles United have surpassed under Ferguson’s astute guidance.

He urged fans to turn up for Tuesday’s Under-21 encounter with fellow north-west side Liverpool at Old Trafford.

“We play that mob across the road,” he said. “I hope some of you cheer the young lads on.”

Dressed in the club’s red, black and white colours, supporters were out in force in the northwestern city to cheer on the open-top bus tour jointly marking United’s 20th title triumph and 71-year-old Ferguson’s extraordinary 26-year career transforming the club into a powerhouse of world football.

Some fans had been waiting outside for eight hours to see Ferguson with the Premier League trophy one last time.

One banner erected at the start of the route read: “Sir Alex, nobody wants you to go but we all want to say thank you for staying so long.”

Ray Hurst, a fan for 48 years, said he was “welling up” at seeing Ferguson wave goodbye.

“He’s made our dreams come true and in great style, with fantastic football,” the 67-year-old from Bolton, near Manchester, told AFP. “He inherited a pretty poor squad and it took him a few years to clear it out. He built it up bit by bit.

“I want to say to him: thanks for the memories.

“It’s going to be a transition now. We need to back the new manager David Moyes and give him time — just as we did with Fergie.”

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Alexine Blackburn, a carer from the Wythenshawe district, was stood by Old Trafford’s memorial to the 1958 Munich Air Disaster that claimed the lives of eight United players among the 23 fatalities.

“It broke my heart when he announced his retirement. He made me cry and I’ve been crying all week.”

Tony Chaloryoo, from central Thailand but now living in Sheffield, northern England, posed for pictures outside Old Trafford.

He got there eight hours before the parade began.

“Alex Ferguson is one of the best football managers in history, one of the most brilliant. With Sir Alex retiring, nothing will be the same because he is the saviour of Manchester United.”

Fans of rival club Manchester City like to deride United supporters as out-of-town glory hunters, more likely to be found in London, Cape Town, Bangkok or Tokyo than in the Manchester Arndale shopping centre.

But if Manchester is an instantly-recognisable word in Mumbai or Beijing, it is in large part down to Ferguson’s football magic at Old Trafford.

The Ferguson-inspired football dominance of the 1990s onwards, fuelled by United’s exciting young players like Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Paul Scholes, helped make Manchester a vibrant cultural epicentre.

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