There are moments in life for which none of us can be prepared. No matter how inevitable, planned or natural they might be, the enormity of the consequences is such that we simply refuse to acknowledge and accept the event. If you support Manchester United, today is one of those days.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the club’s most successful manager has announced that he’ll step down after 26 and half years in charge of United, literally a lifetime for some Reds for whom the words “Fergie” and “United” were so intrinsically close that became synonyms.
Speculations surrounding the identity of Fergie’s successor had increased enormously over the last couple of days as Sir Alex announced he was to undergo a hip-replacement surgery, while a flurry of bets had seen the odds being slashed on David Moyes to be United’s manager next season.
In his programme notes on Sunday Fergie had appeared to bullishly reject the thought of retirement, saying: “I certainly don’t have any plans at the moment to walk away from what I believe will be something special.
“This team of champions is not going away – we are here for the long ride.
“We will get better and if we apply ourselves in our normal fashion, I see our 20th league title as nothing but the start of another decade of success.
“Whether I will be here to oversee another decade of success remains to be seen, but I certainly don’t have any plans at the moment to walk away from what I believe will be something special and worth being around to see.”
Those words have now become to resemble a goodbye rather than one final rally to his troops, as Fergie decided to bow out on a high, having secured his personal 13th league title and, perhaps most importantly, having overseen one final transformation of his team with youngster such as Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Rafael establishing themselves as pivotal elements of the team.
With United set to pick up the Premier League trophy, Sunday was always going to be a momentous day but now it’s going to be a day United fans will never forget and one that many of us thought would never arrive. United must now move forward and avoid the same impasse that had crippled the club after Sir Matt Busby retired, when his very presence at the club put his successor under enormous pressure.
United must also move quickly to announce Sir Alex’s successor, for there’s a new season to be planned and procrastinating the announcement of Fergie’s replacement would be hugely detrimental to the club, regardless of which manager will get the job.
Judging from his statement, Sir Alex is well aware of the importance to leave swiftly, allowing the club to continue its development
“The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time.
“It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so. The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one.
“Our training facilities are amongst the finest in global sport and our home Old Trafford is rightfully regarded as one of the leading venues in the world.
“Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both Director and Ambassador for the club. With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future.
“I must pay tribute to my family, their love and support has been essential. My wife Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career, providing a bedrock of both stability and encouragement. Words are not enough to express what this has meant to me.
“As for my players and staff, past and present, I would like to thank them all for a staggering level of professional conduct and dedication that has helped to deliver so many memorable triumphs. Without their contribution the history of this great club would not be as rich.
“In my early years, the backing of the board, and Sir Bobby Charlton in particular, gave me the confidence and time to build a football club, rather than just a football team.
“Over the past decade, the Glazer family have provided me with the platform to manage Manchester United to the best of my ability and I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with a talented and trustworthy Chief Executive in David Gill. I am truly grateful to all of them.
“To the fans, thank you. The support you have provided over the years has been truly humbling. It has been an honour and an enormous privilege to have had the opportunity to lead your club and I have treasured my time as manager of Manchester United.”
Many have, correctly, pointed at the need of looking at today as a new beginning rather than a sad end – the sort of challenge Manchester United thrive on. While that’s undoubtedly true I, personally, feel as sad as if I had lost a family member but with time, me and those who share the same feeling will have to come to terms with it and move on.
Thanks for everything Sir Alex, it has been a privilege.
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