AFTER Manchester United had marched to yet another Premier League title, Sir Alex Ferguson took to the microphone and spoke to the crowd.
They had come to expect these rituals every May when silverware was held high.
But on this occasion he wanted them to know that this was not a matter of course.
Winning these titles was difficult, it required a lot of work, it was not just about showing up and letting it all happen.
Maybe he felt that people simply did not appreciate what was going on and wanted them to know.
Maybe it’s only now in the last eight years, and when the big man turns 80 today, that people really understand what a phenomenal piece of work he was doing.
Look at those who have tried to emulate his achievements by winning 13 titles and two European Cups.
David Moyes was Ferguson’s ‘Chosen One’, chosen in the belief that he would stick to the club’s traditions and keep the trophies coming.
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He turned ten years old and was gone in ten months.
Louis van Gaal – and he will probably tell you that himself – was considered one of the greatest coaches of his generation.
He was immediately bored Old Trafford in a deep sleep, picked up an FA Cup and was gone.
Next up was league trophy winner Jose Mourinho – and he put two in the cabinet as he lifted the club to second place in the table.
But after two and a half years, the expectation became even too great for him when he burned.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær took the wheel and guided the club back on the right path, but just did not have what it took to cope with the last turn.
It was heartbreaking to witness the disappointment in his voice in the last interview after also being rejected.
He felt he had come close but just could not do it and when it starts to thread up, it resolves very quickly at United.
Good men, good coaches, backed by lots of money, they have all tried but in the end failed to emulate the greatest of all.
People expected that the conveyor belt of titles would continue to run after Fergie.
The problem was that the guy with the instructions on how to work had retired and the manual was in his head.
If his successors had continued his incredible achievements, he would not have been so special after all – and he was.
Everyone wants their own favorite performance, but for me it came in his final year.
For three seasons from 2003 to 2006, United won an FA Cup and a League Cup.
In the league in 2003-04, they finished third, about 15 points behind champions Arsenal.
In 2004-05 they were again number three, this time 18 points behind the top of the pile Chelsea, then in 2005-06 number two and eight points behind the Blues.
Such a race would have done for his successors, but he had credit in the bank and used it to rebuild United to champions again, claiming a hat-trick with titles from 2006, five out of the seven up to his retirement in 2013, a European. Cup and two other finals.
It takes something special when people start doubting you.
Well enough, he even postponed his retirement by a year so he could leave with that title in his hands after it was torn away by Sergio Aguero.
There’s another thing – Manchester City’s challenge that came last. Many groaned over their immense wealth after Abu Dhabi’s takeover.
Sir Alex just saw it as another challenge, just as Chelsea had been, just as Arsenal had presented. Like Liverpool were right at the start and he saw them all.
He turned Manchester United into a global sports monster.
The size of Old Trafford is proof of his success.
Their global reach grew in his time, and yes, it was hard work.
The only time we ever really saw him vulnerable was in the movie, directed by his son Jason, where he charts the time back in May 2018 where he had a brain hemorrhage.
He hit that too, and when he turns 80 today, he still looks just as fit as a 20 year younger.
Fergie once said that retirement is for the young. What he meant was that you should enjoy it, make the most of it, still be active.
He’s still a lot. Still kicking every single ball at Old Trafford, but from the instructors’ field now.
He still loves match days when he hosts guests in his own lounge.
Loves talking football, loves being with his family.
The pipe, the slippers and the rug never have and will NEVER be necessary.
This man is something completely different, very special.
Happy birthday, Sir Alex.
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