Yesterday Sir Alex dropped the bombshell that he is officially retiring at the end of this season. As for most privileged Reds of Generation X and Z, Fergie is all I’ve ever really known. Whilst in the deepest recesses of my subconscious rests Big Ron, Fergie is the only footballing face of authority I’ve ever really recognized.
The showman from Govan is inextricably woven into our club, and forever etched onto our hearts. He’s also firmly inscribed into our psyche, largely responsible for some of our indelibly euphoric memories. We’re familiar with Sir Alex, in a similar fashion to the familiarity we may feel towards our own kin. I’m not saying that I’ve ever tasted one of Fergie’s brews, or been force-fed a sandwich in the way that my gran might do, but his face is one I’ve seen, and looked forward to seeing, on a weekly basis since I can remember. Aggregately, I’ve probably spent more time watching Fergie at the forefront or in the background (at stadiums, or on the TV) than I’ve shared with certain relatives. We know his grimace, his smile, we’ve shared his grief and his joy. We’ve witnessed the thinning of his hear, the aging of his skin, the accumulation of his wrinkles. He’s guided an entity we cherish with great nous and dexterity to the point where we trust him implicitly, and love him unconditionally.
As is evident, I’m still reeling from the news; it still hasn’t quite sunk in, nor does it even seem real. And just when I manage to kid myself that I’m coming to terms with it, a fit of post-Fergie blues surges through my sentient mancunian soul. Further contemplation of United without Fergie only serves to exacerbate the melancholy. Only in retrospect; in the days, months and years ahead, will we able to fully grasp the significance of 08/05/13 for MUFC. But I keep repeating to myself that Man United will simply not die.
There’s a tendency to over-dramatise as a kneejerk reaction to such a seemingly impromptu bolt from the blue, or rush from the red, as perhaps this could be labeled. I’ve received texts, tweets, emails and calls (along with all other forms of modern day communication that render us all too readily-contactable during moments when a little solitude is what’s desired,) whose overriding message has been decidedly solemn. A discerning alien reading these messages would most likely conjecture that some sort of family bereavement had transpired, but there was a palpable sense of mourning in Manchester yesterday morning. I even received a whatsapp message from a madrileño amigo of mine assuring me that I have his support.
A more local friend of mine likened the feeling to losing a parent. I didn’t detect any hyperbole in his text. Another pal suggested a change to the calendar system, with 2013 becoming year 1 ASA (After Sir Alex,) elevating the situation to a religious plane. What next, SAF being crucified on the crossbar? Ok, maybe that’s too extreme, but the least us MUFC season ticket holders deserve is a mancunian bank holiday on this day every year?
We, of course, must contextualize, if only for the sake of our own health and sanity. “No one man is bigger than the club,” a mantra stringently adhered to by Ferugson himself during his 26-year tenure, and one which must be immediately remembered forthwith by the club, its subsequent manager and the fans. Man United, the club that endured the tragedy which befell it at Munich, the club that Fergie grabbed by the scruff of the neck (Cantona’s collar coincidentally a crucial catalyst) and rebuilt bottom-up into the world’s biggest sporting brand, will never die.
We all heard the Mourinho vs Moyes debate play out, with the merits of each option well-documented. Had Mourinho have been appointed the next manager, even the self-proclaimed “Special One” would’ve been acutely aware that he’d never be “The One,” as Sir Alex is universally-recognised. The big question now with Moyes, upon assuming the mantle at OT, is whether David can become Goliath? My only thought on the matter is that he must carve his own path and be allowed to forge his own legacy, irrespective of whether he’s a fellow Scot of Fergie’s.
I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. It’s a solid appointment, but the more I ponder it, the more it fails to inspire me. A perception of David Moyes as the perennial over-achiever has been cultivated during the course of the past decade, but statistics would suggest otherwise. Most tellingly, Everton, on average, have finished 8th in the Premiership whilst under the auspices of David Moyes, but simultaneously have been the 8th biggest spenders in England’s top division. If this doesn’t entirely debunk the myth that Moyes has performed miracles given the financial constraints placed upon him, it certainly underscores that his reputation is a tad exaggerated.
Moyes’ exit has polarised Everton fans. An Evertonian pal of mine just sent an email to both myself and a Blue, congratulating the Blue on having pipped Chelsea to the 2013-14 title. Thankfully, his opinions on football are questionable at best, otherwise this email could’ve proven most disconcerting. Ultimately, and most crucially of all, David has the blessing and approval of Sir Alex, which is gospel, so I trust in David to rise to the challenge. I have no other choice. Moyes will do the business. Moyes will do the business (there’s positive reinforcement through repetition, apparently.)
And we, as fans, also have a duty to fulfill moving forward. What we mustn’t do, as a collective, is acquiesce to melodrama during the coming years. Composure, patience and resolve are required. Granted, it’s a dramatically distinct club, context and footballing landscape to the one inherited by Sir Alex back in ’86, but bear in mind that Fergie was afforded time. And whilst comparisons are inevitable, we simply cannot replace the irreplaceable. Impatience will only result in the creation of a vicious circle, with fans heaping pressure, managers feeling even more pressure, and ultimately the board succumbing to the pressure and supplanting the manager.
It’s proven a bizarre novelty to even consider the credentials of prospective candidates. But if it takes a few attempts to get right this managerial-switching malarkey, it won’t be apocalyptic. It may well prove a sobering experience for a while, but then again that’s unavoidable, since we’re essentially awakening from the beautiful game’s equivalent of a two-decade bender, fittingly filled with champagne-football. Please pass me the Evian.
Fend off the droves of doom-mongers. Apply the adopted MUFC adage of “always looking on the bright side of life,” by viewing the years ahead as less daunting, and more enthralling. Remind blues, scousers, cockneys and even pessimistic fellow reds alike (we all know some) that MUFC is an institution, its roots planted deep. We are Man United, we may not always necessarily be able to do what we want, but we’ll never die.
To señor Moyes, we wish you success. But, most importantly, we shall hopefully unite in getting right behind you, through Rooney (thick) and Fletcher (thin).
Thank you, Sir Alex
Both far greater artists of the beautiful game and infinitely more eloquent scribes than I, have and will poignantly extol the virtues of Ferguson. What more can be spoken or written about the man that hasn’t been articulated by some of the game’s modern greats? The little that hasn’t been spoken or written has most certainly been sang by the Old Trafford faithful.
Furthermore, it’d purely be a futile exercise in regurgitation to enumerate his myriad haul of trophies. His footballing curriculum vitae speaks for itself.
You’ll be deluged during the forthcoming weeks with innumerable articles of this nature, befitting of the adulation Sir Alex warrants. However, my words are straightforward and succinct, and come directly from the heart;
Thank you Sir Alex, for all that you’ve done for our great club, not least returning us to the very zenith of world football. When us fans passionately chant “Oh every single one of us loves Alex Ferguson,” this is not an empty gesture. There is absolute truth in that sentiment.