After Manchester United marched for another Premier League title, Sir Alex Ferguson took the microphone and addressed the crowd.
They came every May to expect these rituals, as silverware was placed on top.
But on this occasion he wanted to tell them that this was not a predetermined conclusion.
Winning these titles was tough, it took a lot of hard work, it wasn’t just about turning around and letting it all happen.
Maybe he was feeling that people didn’t appreciate it and wanted to know.
Perhaps now only in the last eight years, and as the great man turns 80 today, people are really understanding what a wonderful thing he has done.
Look at those who have tried to emulate his exploits by winning 13 titles and two European Cups.
David Moyes was Ferguson’s ‘chosen one’, chosen with the belief that he would stick to the club’s traditions and that the trophies would keep coming.
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He was ten years old and was gone in ten months.
Louis van Gaal – and he will probably tell you this himself – was regarded as one of the greatest coaches of his generation.
He immediately bore Old Trafford into a deep sleep, picked up an FA Cup and left.
This was followed by serial trophy winner Jose Mourinho – and he took two places in the cabinet, lifting the club to second place in the table.
But after two and a half years, as he put out the fire, his hopes got even higher.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the wheel and got the club back on the right track, but he didn’t have it to make the final turn.
It was heartbreaking to see the despair in his voice after being hit with the ax in that final interview as well.
He felt that he had come close, but could not do so and when it starts to settle, it settles very quickly at United.
Good people, good coaches, with lots of cash, they’ve tried it all, but ultimately failed to emulate the greatest of all.
People expected the conveyor belt of the title to continue after Fergie.
The problem was that it was retired with instructions on how to work and the manual was all in its head.
They wouldn’t have been so special if their successors had continued with their incredible feats – and they were.
Everyone will have their favorite achievements, but for me, it came in his last years.
In three seasons from 2003 to 2006, United won one FA Cup and one League Cup.
In 2003–04 they were third in the league, nearly 15 points behind champions Arsenal.
In 2004–05 they were again in third place, this time 18 points behind Pyle Chelsea’s top, then second in 2005–06 and eight points behind the Blues.
Such a race would have been for his successors, but he had credit in the bank and used it to make United champions again, claiming a hat-trick of the title from 2006, five of seven until his retirement in 2013. One European Cup and two other finals.
When people start doubting you, there is something special about it.
Well, he delayed his retirement by a year so that he could leave that title in his hands after being snatched away by Sergio Aguero.
One more thing – the Manchester City challenge that came in the end. After the acquisition of Abu Dhabi, many lamented about its exorbitant wealth.
Sir Alex saw this as another challenge, as were Chelsea, presented by Arsenal. Like Liverpool were right in the beginning, and he saw them all.
He made Manchester United a global sporting monster.
The size of Old Trafford is a testament to his success.
His global reach grew during his time and yes, it was hard work.
The only time we saw him really weak was in a film directed by his son Jason, which charted the time he suffered a brain haemorrhage in May 2018.
He beat that too, and even though he’s 80 today, he still sees fit as someone 20 years younger.
Fergie once said that retirement is for the youth. He meant that you have to enjoy it, make the most of it, yet be active.
Well that’s still a lot. Still kicking every ball at Old Trafford but now from the director’s box.
He still likes match day when he hosts guests in his lounge.
Likes to talk football, loves to be around his family.
Pipes, slippers and rugs never, and will be never be needed
This man is something very different, very special.
Happy birthday, Sir Alex.
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