n will ride into the sun­set

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODWINES -

achiever to t. He must el­e­vance of iveness of

Va­len­cia the young anny Wel- fam­ily, that con­fed­er­a­tion of geeks who have hob­bled a pru­dently run club with £700mil­lion of debt, are both un­will­ing and un­able to sanc­tion the kind of stun­ning coup which might turn the tide. In­stead, he lives with the sober­ing con­se­quences of the loss of Ron­aldo, un­will­ingly sold and sav­agely missed.

And all this time, the com­pe­ti­tion are spending money without care of con­se­quence. Ro­man Abramovich shrugs off Chelsea’s moun­tain­ous an­nual debts and in­vests £710m, while Sheik Man­sour at Manch­ester City ca­su­ally ac­cepts last year’s loss of £92.6m while lift­ing his in­vest­ment to £395m. It is the kind of spending which Michel Pla­tini and Arsene Wenger have cor­rectly cat­e­gorised as “fi­nan­cial dop­ing”, yet it is en­tirely ac- cept­able in the free-mar­ket casino of the Premier League.

De­spite manag­ing the big­gest foot­ball club in the world, Fer­gu­son is un­able to com­pete with such ex­trav­a­gance. So he car­ries on do­ing what he does best – iden­ti­fy­ing, en­hanc­ing and de­ploy­ing tal­ent – know­ing the fi­nan­cial re­al­i­ties have changed ut­terly.

His most dis­tinc­tive achieve­ment has been the way in which he has come to terms with the de­vel­op­ing de­mands of his job. Re­cently, he spoke of how he now del­e­gated many of the tasks he used to carry out per­son­ally.

“There must be about 40 peo­ple who re­port to me now, quite sep­a­rate from the play­ers,” he smiled. “It’s a big staff, more than Marks and Spencer.”

And he ad­mit­ted: “It would be im­pos­si­ble to work in the same way I did in 1986.”

I sus­pect that he re­tains a se­cret yearn­ing for those less com­pli­cated days, when his play­ers shared his ban­ter, feared his wrath and be­lieved Old Traf­ford was the only place to play. And no­body yearned for the Bern­abeu or Nou Camp, and cer­tainly no­body was tempted by that place down the road, where they wor­shipped false gods and wore light blue shirts.

Fer­gu­son has moved through the gen­er­a­tions with style and flair. For all his flaws, he has left an en­dur­ing mark upon the game he loves. And if he were asked about his re­tire­ment plans, his an­swer would be a colour­ful ver­sion of “It’s a load of non­sense”.

But one day, he will go. The most gifted man­ager we have known will de­cide that his rep­u­ta­tion is se­cure, his legacy is as­sured and that the time has come to pass the torch. Alex Fer­gu­son has earned the right to name that day. I sus­pect it will ar­rive sooner than later. – Daily Mail

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