Fergie’s final farewell

by Omar Soliman

Feels strange doesn’t it. Like an amicable divorce or daddy leaving home. You cannot escape the feeling of loss, of uncertainty, of fear, of ‘what the hell do we do now!?’

Many reading this will simply not know life without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm. He has been a comforting, dependable presence in our lives for nearly 27 years and now he has decided to retire. It feels…empty without him.

Alas, greatness cannot last forever. This day has been coming since 2002 but the foundations are there to continue his legacy. Another league title has been secured and he has done what he came here to do – knock Liverpool off their f****** perch. His trophy haul is beyond repute and while he may look back at several missed opportunities to have won more European Cups, only a handful of managers have won it more than once. Be ever more grateful for the success he brought.

With Sir Alex Ferguson in charge, it always felt like an advantage simply because you knew there was no-one better. Players became winners from his tutelage and you worry that the best may overlook the club simply because he has gone. His personality and man management skills were renowned yet his squad rotation put most to shame.

If the goals of Robin van Persie have accounted for 20-odd points this season, then having Sir Alex in charge must have made a similar boost. You never know the value of something until it is gone and now we will know how important he really was.

He was a football deity. A one in a million manager who has won the lot. He has transcended generations, created winning teams and moulded his managerial style to deal with the modern world of teenager millionaires, an invasive media and ever increasing demands.

Yet he dealt with it all using his own determination and set of principles often proving that no single player is bigger than the club but, more importantly, that no-one crosses the manager. Ask David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Paul Ince yet each of them only had praise on hearing of his retirement.

That is the measure of the man, that he had the balls to make the big decisions and the stubbornness to stand by them knowing that every single one was for the good of the club.

Few managers can match his winning mentality and the sort of aura that transcends a manager-player relationship. To play for the manager, you had to adhere to his high standards and woe betide anyone whose effort fell short of his expectancies. He was the fan’s representative and you could rely that he would deliver a rollocking when necessary. We could always trust in Sir Alex Ferguson.

Then there were the mind games which have arguably proved a deciding factor in several title races. He created a standard of collecting trophies, partly by pushing rivals to the onset of a nervous breakdown at the receipt of his withering put downs. He knew which buttons to press and when to push them.

While some managers crumbled under the full glare of the media he manipulated outlets to deliver pressure instead of being the subject of it. He knew when to create diversions and when to introduce a siege mentality. Genius.

A post-Ferguson era begins now with the appointment of David Moyes yet it does not have to be as terrifyingly uncertain as many perceive. The club will go on and this is a new beginning in the biggest managerial job in club football. Thankfully the team Moyes will inherit is in fine shape with a young nucleus of a title-winning side in place. Having their first taste of glory is a major asset and the squad only needs a bit of tinkering.

Sir Alex has left the club in the best shape possible and to put some sort of gravitas on this he is 71, has a pacemaker and is due a hip operation in the summer. Health was always due to be a major factor in his decision to leave and the disappointment he felt after the ominous Champions League exit to Real Madrid may have been the deciding blow.

With two league games remaining he can bow out at the very top and enjoy his retirement, he deserves at least that. We are in the few final moments of Fergie Time so savour them while you can.

Thank you Sir Alex.

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