i Editor's Letter: Alex Ferguson: Hero or Villain?


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The Independent Online


Sir Alex Ferguson. There, I’ve said his name, champion again. Half of you will stop reading at this point, and of the rest, probably football fans, two-thirds will profess to dislike him. The others will be Manchester United fans and people who want their team to be as successful as the great man’s.

Funny word “great”. It’s so overused. In my book, anybody who excels in the same job for 20 years, consistently at the very top of the game, creating and developing successive teams virtually from scratch deserves the epithet. In how many other walks of life can you think of a similar success with such longevity? Arsene Wenger has not won a trophy for eight seasons. Jose Mourinho may come close – but will he last the course into his second decade in management?

Fergie’s detractors will say “yeah, but” he manages Britain’s biggest club, and has bought his way to success. Which is to deny his extraordinary skill in developing young talent, most notably the Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, Butt and Nevilles’ generation. There are innumerable managers who have had huge budgets and failed.

Don’t forget Fergie had already enjoyed extraordinary success with Aberdeen before arriving at Old Trafford. Briefly, he broke the domination of the Old Firm, and led such relative minnows to European Cup Winners’ Cup glory.

Perhaps he’s not a very British winner. He is accused of being a bully; of intimidating referees and even the FA – Fergie-time, etc. Of course, he is a cussed, difficult bugger, but with his extraordinary management skills, focus, determination and above all, will-to-win, he is the difficult bugger I would always want on my team.