Since learning of Sir Alex Ferguson’s brain haemorrhage last week, I haven’t wanted to write anything about him because it felt like writing an obituary and I wasn’t ready to do that. Instead, I just wrote one tweet about how unfathomable it was to think about a person you don’t know having an unmeasurable impact on your life.
Mad how someone you don’t even know can make your life immeasurably better ❤️ pic.twitter.com/13A3K0DsHv
— Scott Patterson (@R_o_M) May 5, 2018
Now that it seems he’s out of the woods, and ahead of our final league game of the season, it feels right to talk about what an impact he’s made on our lives.
United fans have been respectful of all the managers who have taken charge since Ferguson’s retirement. To sing songs about Ferguson would have been interpreted as a dig at David Moyes, Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho, who have all fallen short of the standards he set, so by and large, we haven’t chanted about Ferguson over the past few years.
He has a name on a stand and a statue outside the ground, so presumably knows the depth of our feelings for him. But I sometimes wonder what he makes of us leaving his chants off the song sheet but still singing about Darren Fletcher, Wes Brown and Diego Forlan. He’s probably appreciative of the fact we’re not making him in to the dark shadow that Sir Matt Busby cast over Old Trafford when he made his move to club director.
On Sunday against Watford, as well as making a fuss over Michael Carrick as he plays his last game before joining the coaching staff on a full time basis, we can finally acknowledge our love for Ferguson.
Last week I was wondering how I was going to explain why I was crying at my desk after hearing the news that Ferguson had passed away. Everyone has to die at some point, nobody lives forever, but the thought of having to say goodbye to Sir Alex was too much. Just the week before we’d seen him on the pitch, looking in great form, as he recognised Arsene Wenger’s last visit to Old Trafford. There had been no warning and I wasn’t ready.
Only United fans could understand how it felt to hear the rumours about Ferguson’s illness, before the club confirmed he was in hospital having undergone surgery. Every club has legendary managers and players, but no set of supporters outside of Old Trafford has ever been blessed with someone who has brought their club as much success as Ferguson has to United. He raised the bar. Nobody can compare to him.
We’ve all felt loss, to varying degrees, and obviously Ferguson’s condition isn’t comparable to the ill health of a parent or a child or a sibling or a grandparent. But our love for Ferguson can be likened to that of a family member, even if people outside of United don’t have a reference point to understand our potential grief.
You can look to the day your child was born, or when you got married, or graduated from university, or whatever personal highs your life has given you. But how many times in your life have you cried with joy? Or gone so bonkers with happiness you’re unaware of what you’re doing?
How many times have you felt anything like you did when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored at the Nou Camp? Or when Giggsy scored than goal against Wigan? Or when Bruce scored against Sheffield Wednesday? Or when Van der Sar saved Nicolas Anelka’s penalty? Or when Lee Martin scored against Palace in the replay? Or when Hughes scored those goals against Barcelona?
And these are just a handful of moments off the top of my head that saw us win trophies, let alone all the other amazing days we’ve had at the football courtesy of Ferguson. Wins against Liverpool and Barcelona and City and Juventus and Bayern Munich and AC Milan and Arsenal and whoever else. We’ve had so many great days, way more than our fair share, and we owe them all to him.
Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs and Bryan Robson and Roy Keane and David Beckham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo and Norman Whiteside and Robin van Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy and so many more. It’s like giving thanks at the Oscars. The amount of players who have given their careers to the club and contributed to our success is endless.
We’ve been blessed with so many talented players. With fighters. With skill. With ability. With passion. And they all came to our club to play for Ferguson.
Over the past week, I’ve read so many great anecdotes about him. Andy Mitten’s piece stood out but, particularly since hearing about his recovery, I’ve loved reading all the lovely things people have had to say about him.
Personally speaking, I’ve been in his presence on a few occasions, but the only time I’ve spoken to him was pretty underwhelming. I was on the same flight home from Amsterdam following our game against Ajax a few years ago. As I queued with my mate to pay for parking at Manchester Airport, the first team players passed me by. As I turned to gawp, I realised Ferguson and Mike Phelan were standing behind me. My only observation was Sir Alex was taller than I’d thought he was. I tried to think of all the things I wanted to say to the man who was my only true hero. The man who had given me some of the happiest moments of my life. The man who I respected more than any other. The only words I could muster were: “Good result.” He smiled, nodded, and said “Yeh.” Then he left Phelan to sort out his ticket and walked off.
As we pulled out of the car park, Rio Ferdinand got out of his car in front of us. He had his ticket in his hand but he hadn’t paid for his parking. The life of a Premier League footballer who does nothing for himself and can’t manage the most basic of tasks. I pointed him in the direction of the machine and got back in to the car and waited. I thought about how I should have asked to shake Ferguson’s hand. I should have talked to him about the Nou Camp or knocking Liverpool off their perch or the joy he had brought to my life. But it wouldn’t matter how many times I was given the chance to relive that moment, I would have still been so awe-struck I couldn’t find the words to tell him what a difference he’d made.
Against Watford, I cannot wait to sing his name on repeat again, like we used to when he was in the dug out.
United supporters are split on so many issues. Is Mourinho the right man to lead us forward? Will Paul Pogba realise his potential? Should the club convince Anthony Martial to stay? Who should replace Rui Faria as assistant manager?
But one thing we can all agree on is that every single one of us loves Alex Ferguson. What a manager he was. What a man he is. What a legend he will always be.