Manchester United fans could expect no more from Sir Alex Ferguson - he always gave his all

His outbursts, against referees and opponents, were seen as a dark side, but that rage explains a great deal of Ferguson’s success

Related Topics

Alex Ferguson’s mentor, Jock Stein, died at the side of the pitch. The 62-year-old Scotland manager collapsed into the arms of his assistant at the end of a World Cup qualifier against Wales at Ninian Park on 10 September 1985 after suffering a lethal heart attack. That traumatic experience left that assistant – Ferguson – determined not to end things in the same desperately sad way.

That was one of the reasons Ferguson decided to retire as Manchester United manager in 2002, at the relatively youthful age of 61. He had achieved everything in club football. He would die in his bed, he told himself, not in the dugout. But, of course, Ferguson’s relentless thirst for competition yanked him back to the fray, as if he had been connected to Old Trafford by a giant piece of elastic. United fans, like myself, have been overjoyed at the change of heart. Ferguson’s second coming has delivered still more silverware, including a third European championship in 2008, and culminating with this season’s Premier League victory. But now – ten years later – it seems the curtain on the Ferguson era really is coming down.

Thoughts turn to legacy. The football record speaks for itself. Ferguson some time ago eclipsed the achievements of even Stein (who defeated the cream of European club football in 1967 with a Celtic side drawn from within 30 miles of Glasgow). No one disputes that Ferguson, a former shipyard apprentice from Govan, is the greatest football manager these isles have ever produced. But amidst the glorious light there was also the darkness the journalist-banning pettiness and the puce-faced rage against referees and opponents.

That rage, of course, explains a great deal of Ferguson’s success. He drew focus and motivation from his anger, his sense of injustice. He was never more effective than when he and his team seemed to be battling the entire world. But that constant fight must take a physical toll. And that toll is probably the best argument for Ferguson to, this time, cut the elastic for good and enjoy a long and well-earned retirement.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam