Whatever the colour of your team, whatever your sport, or even if you spend your weekends avoiding anything that involves chasing a ball around a field, you cannot but be in awe of Sir Alex Ferguson. His resignation yesterday marked the end of a remarkable career, the past 27 years of which were spent at the same football club.
As tributes poured in from friends and foes, supporters of rival clubs breathed a sigh of relief – that there might just be a small crack around the door that has so often been slammed in their faces. (Full disclosure: I follow no football team, but do have a passion for egg-chasing.)
Fergie’s successes extend beyond Manchester United, where he won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups and the Champions League twice. You can’t omit his previous exploits at Aberdeen, where he won three League titles, four cups and the European Cup Winners’ Cup; and before that his playing career, where he scored 170 goals in 317 games.
And just to think that in 1990 he was “one game from being sacked” – he was saved by a last-minute goal by Mark Robins to earn a win against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. His experience is a lesson to clubs to give managers time to build a team, not sacking them the minute things get difficult – to date, 52 others in the football league have been fired or have quit this season.
No matter what your profession, to excel at the very top level for such a prolonged time is nothing less than extraordinary. And to do it in the cut-throat world of football makes it all the more remarkable. We will never see another manager like him again – in or out of football.