When Sir Alex Ferguson walks away from the touchline for the last time, an era in English football will have ended.
He was a big presence for a big club in the big league, enjoying a longevity in the job that has eluded all his peers. He departs as the most successful manager in the British game, ever.
It is a record that others will find hard, if not impossible, to equal. Sir Alex spanned two ages of football; in temperament, he belonged to an earlier age of managers, when character and place were dominant; he had to adapt to an age in which football – courtesy of satellite TV – has become a global commodity, a team is a brand, and the language is money. His stubbornness, irascibility and passion prompted excesses for which his stature too often bought him a free pass. Manchester United is now a name that enjoys instant recognition from Brooklyn to Beijing; that of “Fergie” is not far behind.