When my phone alarm sounded this morning I hit the snooze button almost instantly without glancing at the screen. When it rang several minutes later I repeated this process. On the third ring I decided to glance at the screen, I was notified that Sir Alex Ferguson had announced his retirement. I had been wondering when the man who has been the face of Manchester United since before my birth would announce his retirement. When this day finally arrived I found myself unprepared.
I often wondered during marathon sessions of Football Manager when the greatest manager of all time would decide to call it a day. Despite suffering defeat in the UEFA Champion’s League at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid, his squad had cruised to victory in the Premier League. This season had been a typically successful one by Fergie’s standards, capturing his 13th Premier League title, with a squad that many regarded as unremarkable.
The entrance of Robin Van Persie had buoyed the squad, Wayne Rooney’s role had diminished in comparison to past seasons, and Michael Carrick put on a season of spectacular displays in the midfield. His squad included a balanced mixture of veteran influence, youth, and a splash of new blood in the form of Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa. Fergie remained true to his mantra that “No player is bigger than the club.” Many suggest that this philosophy has been the key to his success as a manger, and it is hard to dispute. He has continued to find success despite the departure of many club legends such as Roy Keane, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, and Ruud van Nistelrooy. In an era where players are given ever increasing influence over their clubs, Ferguson made it clear that his influence would not be undermined.
Sir Alex won’t leave behind a distinctive tactical legacy, but he will be regarded in football history as one of the best man managers ever to walk the touchline. His trademark “Fergie Time” will remain something he is remembered for, which his teams have earned thanks to countless occasions of stoppage time heroics. He will stay with the club as a director and spokesman, but will be unable to exercise his touchline influence on players, officials, and the Old Trafford faithful. Speculation has already begun on who will be chosen to fill the massive void left by Fergie’s absence. Whether it is Jose Mourinho, David Moyes, Manuel Pellegrini, or another candidate remains to be seen, but the shoes must be filled.
In addition to the identity of Ferguson’s replacement, there are many questions that must be answered during the off-season. Will the stalwart duo of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs continue their careers following the departure of their beloved manager? Will oft-disgruntled Wayne Rooney continue with United? How will the new manager cope with the pressure of following the most successful manager in world football history? Will that new manager be given the same level of support and control that Fergie enjoyed? All of these will be answered in time.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy will be forever engrained in Manchester United lore, along with his name on the Old Trafford North Stand and his statue standing guard over the Theater of Dreams. There is no question that he is the greatest.