This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 14 °C Sunday 26 May, 2019
Advertisement

5 reasons why Manchester United will miss Alex Ferguson

Following confirmation of the United manager’s impending retirement today, we reflect on his legacy.

1. His eye for a player

(Cantona’s five-year spell at United will never be forgotten - Malcolm Croft/PA Archive/Press Association Images)

More often than not, Alex Ferguson had an uncanny knack for spotting talent. This was perhaps most evident in the manner in which he transformed the United side at the beginning of the 1995/96 season. Many, most notably Alan Hansen, believed he was unwise to sell stalwarts of the side including Paul Ince and Mark Hughes, while putting faith in then-unknown footballers such as David Beckham and Paul Scholes. He was also astute in the transfer market, with Roy Keane, Eric Cantona and more recently, Robin van Persie being among his most important acquisitions. Of course, in a career as long as his, there’s bound to be the odd dud purchase such as Eric Djemba Djemba or Kleberson, but overall, one of the integral reasons behind United’s consistent success was his instinctive ability to pick the right players at the right time.

2. His willingness to adapt and innovate

(Real Madrid’s players celebrate victory after the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final in 2000 – l-r Roberto Carlos, Raul and Fernando Redondo)

Ferguson’s no-nonsense demeanour and attitude prompted many commentators to describe him as ‘old-fashioned’. However, the same cannot be said in relation to his knowledge of the game. The veteran coach has always showed a willingness to alter and improve his tactics and ensure United’s training methods were as modern and innovative as possible. For instance, in 2000, after the Red Devils were knocked out of the Champions League by a Redondo-inspired Real Madrid, rather than brushing off the defeat and putting it down to bad luck or a poor refereeing decision as many managers would have, the loss inspired the manager to radically alter his style in Europe and curb their original tendencies to adopt an overtly attacking approach. More recently, the comprehensive Champions League final defeat against Barcelona convinced him that the team needed a significant injection of speed, hence the subsequent signing of Ashley Young among others, and the selling on of the less pacy likes of Dimitar Berbatov. His astute hiring of well-respected assistants throughout his reign, such as Brian Kidd and Carlos Queiroz, also added to the immense level of footballing knowledge permeating the club.

3. He wasn’t afraid of making bold decisions

(Ferguson sold David Beckham to Real Madrid despite his status as an English icon – John Walton/EMPICS Sport)

Despite being such a hugely successful manager, Ferguson’s judgement was constantly doubted. Countless people questioned the wisdom of the manager on many occasions, such as during the departures of high-profile players, including Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Roy Keane. There were invariably newspaper articles forecasting the end of an era at Old Trafford, suggesting that football had moved on and left Ferguson’s archaic ideas behind. However, with each setback, Ferguson seemed only more determined to prove his critics wrong, and generally, he succeeded in doing so. He always seemed to be thinking three steps ahead of the naysayers. Therefore, it was no surprise that, after their agonising final-day title loss against City last season, they came back as strong as ever in this latest campaign, reclaiming the Premier League crown comfortably, and narrowly missing out on the league’s record points tally in the process.

4. He was an immensely powerful and respected figure in the game

(For years, Ferguson refused to give interviews to the BBC – Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images)

There is surely no manager in the modern game who holds the level of power that Ferguson enjoyed over the past few years, and it’s highly unlikely that there ever will be again. For a manager to remain in the same role for over 26 years is unthinkable now. Yet aside from a shaky period towards the start of his reign, there was seldom any indication of Fergie being indulged in anway, as 13 league titles in 27 seasons, among numerous other achievements, effectively made him unsackable. One telling example of the respect in which he was held was when rules were installed which deemed it mandatory that Ferguson would have to end his long-held boycott with the BBC and accede to their request for him to partake in post-match interviews. The manager refused to back down initially, and rather than rebuking him, the club stood by their man and agreed to pay the automatic fines imposed for refusing to abide by these rules. For a club to willingly lose money primarily in order to support a manager’s principled stance was an incredible testament to the power Ferguson wielded and the unique influence he had on the Old Trafford hierarchy.

5. He invariably put the club first

(Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane in happier times – Phil O’Brien/EMPICS Sport)

One of the main reasons behind Ferguson’s longevity was his tendency to immediately ostracise anyone who threatened to undermine his power or harm the club in anyway. His decision to sell David Beckham was largely due to the fact that he felt the winger’s off-field distractions were hampering his performances and affecting the side. Similarly, Roy Keane and Jaap Stam were let go after making comments that were perceived as being harmful to the team. The veteran coach’s ruthlessness in these instances may not have made him a particularly empathetic or pleasant person, but it clearly strongly contributed to his success as a manager. Keane perfectly conveyed the manager’s rigorous lack of sentiment in pursuit of success during an interview with The Sunday Times back in December 2011. Reflecting on his own unceremonious exit from the club, the ex-Ireland international said: “I look back at the relationship and I sometimes wonder if it wasn’t about me being good for him and good for the club. People say he stood by me in difficult times. But not when I was 34, not when I was towards the end and had a few differences with Carlos Queiroz. All of a sudden then, ‘Off you go, Roy, and here’s the statement we’ve done, and here this and here’s that’.” Accordingly, no player was ever allowed to act as if he were bigger than the club, and Ferguson wasn’t afraid to emphasise this point in the harshest manner possible.

Manchester United confirm Alex Ferguson to retire at the end of the season

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

Read next:

COMMENTS (64)