There was never going to be a good time for Sir Alex Ferguson to retire.
There would never be a time when the news would not shock everyone – not just Manchester United fans, but the entire footballing community, the entire world.
Some would never admit it, but even fans of United’s greatest rivals over the Ferguson years – the Leeds United fans, the Chelsea fans, the Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City fans – they all respected Sir Alex. It’s as simple as that.
The one thing that springs to mind which football will miss most once Fergie goes is his man-management. It’s something he could perhaps try to pass on to an extent, but there will never be another man-manager like him.
It’s hard for me to even describe exactly what made him so special, but it’s something you notice when you see it with your own two eyes. He knew how to handle players of all varieties, from the superstars to the journeymen, and had a grasp on every issue which would arise.
If there was a problem, he would want to know about it. He realised that every little problem posed a threat to the team and always did what he could to resolve them all. And if he sensed a player had a problem but would not discuss it with him, he would soon find out from someone else.
It was like having a stepfather, to be honest.
Those values were passed onto almost all of those who spent time under him, as you can see by the sheer volume of famous ex-Ferguson charges who went into management themselves.
Not all of them succeeded, of course, and even Steve Bruce who has just taken Hull back to the top flight has had his ups and downs, but it speaks volumes that so many players who worked with Sir Alex then wanted to be managers themselves.
Even I gave it a try, though I admittedly only made it at non-league level with Chelmsford City and Welling United. It soon became clear to me just how difficult being a manager can be. You have to give yourself, 100%, to the cause. You have to live the life of being a football manager. Your personal life is almost consumed.
Many of us who tried to make a name for ourselves as football managers found it too difficult, even for the money and the fame that comes with it. You want to win every game and when you lose, you take it incredibly hard. And even when you win, you have to answer questions immediately after from people wanting to know why you didn’t win more impressively.
People forget that when they point out the way Ferguson reacts to defeats and says things he perhaps should not say. That’s the way the job is though, and while many of us did not have what it takes, Fergie never complained.
All the while he has evolved as a manager, and the reason he has outlasted so many other top managers and different eras is because he drove himself to keep winning and picking up titles, which gave him an edge over his peers in every other area off the pitch.
Like with Arsene Wenger, he established his long run very early by winning things and building a quick reputation as a top coach, a man players respect and want to take orders from. Footballers do not complain about their contracts or their playing position nearly as much when they know their boss can bring them success.
Love him or hate him, everyone respects Sir Alex Ferguson. Football has moved on so much since I was a player, and Ferguson would be the first to agree, but he has changed with it every step of the way and there will not be another manager like him in the modern era.
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