Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement this week. After 26 years in charge of Manchester United, during which he won 13 league titles and a staggering 38 trophies, we can safely say that Sir Alex may be the last of his kind. With such a rich and varied career it is difficult to focus on one, or even a few, things he was best at. So here is very simply what I appreciate most about the great Scot: his adaptability.
Football is cyclical. Arsene Wenger is an excellent example of a similarly able manager who has gone through peaks and troughs as his team has. With all due respect to the Frenchman, his greatest managerial achievements coincided with Arsenal’s golden generation about a decade ago.
Sir Alex largely avoided prolonged mediocrity and has almost always been at or near the top. While you could argue the class of ’99 was a golden generation, Sir Alex has won with less (and arguably more) over a quarter-century, and it would be a pity to name that team his greatest and most memorable achievement. His greatest ability has been to identify the strengths in his squads and build campaigns around key players and key positions on the pitch. His sides have always promoted that football is at its best a team game and that the team can be greater than the sum of all of its parts.
Who will follow him up? The simple answer: David Moyes. But in spirit, Sir Alex leaves a very large void as a long-term manager in an increasingly money and results-driven short-term football landscape. As football fans, we must hope a new high-profile long-term manager arises. As Cristiano Ronaldo tweeted recently: Thanks for everything, Boss.