MAN U can trust

LLOYD BURNARD on why a man who has achieved ev­ery­thing in foot­ball still has the de­sire to keep go­ing.

Weekend Witness - - Talking Sport -

LOVE him oor hate him, the ma­jor­ity of foot­ball­ball lovers across the globe re­spect him.

It was in 1986 when a then far from knighted AAlex Fer­gu­son made the move across thethe SS­cot­tish bor­der to en­ter the world of English fo­foot­ball and man­age Manch­ester United. FerFer­gu­son had en­joyed suc­cess at Scot­tish clu­clubs St Mir­ren and Aberdeen — tast­ing EurEuro­pean suc­cess for the first time with the lat­lat­ter. He ar­rived in Eng­land and im­me­di­ate­lim­me­di­ately made it his mis­sion to de­throne Liver­pool aas the dom­i­nant force in English foot­ball. He would have to wait more than 24 years to see that dream be­come re­al­ity. A re­build­in­re­build­ing phase that in­cluded the sign­ings­ings of play­play­ers such as Brian McClair, Steve Bruce, Gary Pal­lis­ter, Paul Ince and a re­turn­ing­turn­ing MarMark Hughes would lay the foun­da­tion­tion for FerFer­gu­son’s first league suc­cess as United boss in 1993. His sign­ing of the short­fused­fused EricEric CCan­tona from league ri­vals Leeds United provproved to be piv­otal that sea­son.

It was the first of many tri­umphs to come and when MManchester United meet Black­poolpool at Old Traf­ford to­mor­row, Fer­gu­son will cele­bcel­e­brate his 12th Premier League ti­tle­tle with UUnited. More im­por­tantly, he will cel­e­brate­cel­e­bra United’s 19th league win — one morem than Liver­pool’s 18 — and knowknow that what he set out to do in 1986 has bbeen achieved.

AnAnd still, af­ter all of the suc­cess thathat he has en­joyed (in­clud­ing two ChCham­pi­ons Leagues, five FA Cups anda four League Cups), the 69year-old Fer­gu­son is hun­gry for more and has no plans to swal­low his chew­ing gum just yet. “I have no plans to re­tire. I must say that [my wife] Cathy is de­lighted. She would have thrown me out,” he told MUTV re­cently. “TThe salient point is that whilst my health is good, carry on. You hear manyma sto­ries of peo­ple who come off the tread­mill­trea and their sys­tem breaks down. I dondon’t want that hap­pen­ing to me.”

Fer­gu­son has threat­ened re­tire­ment on more than oone oc­ca­sion, but has never been able to leave Old Traf­ford. He has built a le­ga­cy­acy there anand has in­spired a men­tal­ity that, in an age of un­think­able player wages and in­flated egoe­gos, puts the club first.

The lon­g­longevity of pro­fes­sion­als such as Gary Nevil­lNeville, Paul Sc­holes and Ryan Giggs bares tes­tamtes­ta­ment to that — all three play­ers have de­vot­ede­voted their ca­reers to Manch­ester United. FerFer­gu­son has main­tained that no player will eever be big­ger than the club. It’s al­ways been his way or no way, and any­body who fails to ad­here to that way of think­ing best start lolook­ing for some­where else to play their foot­bafoot­ball. Over the years, play­ers such as Dwight Yorke, David Beck­ham, Ruud van Nis­tel­rooy, Paul Ince and even Gor­don Stra­chan have left United af­ter dis­putes with the boss.

Though he now de­votes even more of his time to keep­ing his body in shape, Fer­gu­son has long been a be­liever in healthy liv­ing. He was a pi­o­neer in di­min­ish­ing the once wide­spread drink­ing cul­ture of English foot­ball, in­stead en­cour­ag­ing his play­ers to marry young and be­come fam­ily men.

With a third Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal in four years around the cor­ner and Fer­gu­son al­ready pon­der­ing new sign­ings dur­ing the off-sea­son, it would ap­pear that his will­ing­ness to con­tinue is heart-felt and not an­other of his no­to­ri­ous me­dia mind games.

Any­body who watches a Sir Alex post­match in­ter­view af­ter a rare United loss will know that Fer­gu­son’s pas­sion for the game is as strong as ever. Through­out his ca­reer he has had no prob­lem crit­i­cis­ing ref­er­ees and mem­bers of the me­dia and this stems from a ha­tred of los­ing. The fact that he still pos­sesses this bi­ased mean streak in­di­cates a de­sire to win — some­thing that is cru­cial in any man­ager’s book.

In fact, some of Fer­gu­son’s rants over the years have re­sem­bled that of a fa­ther who has had a go at an un­qual­i­fied high school ref­eree while watch­ing his son com­pete in a match. While the par­ent may be out of line, no­body at that ground would be able to ques­tion how badly “dad” wanted his son to suc­ceed.

And that is pre­cisely it. Fer­gu­son has made Manch­ester United and all who are a part of it his baby, and leav­ing it in the hands of some­body else, as long as he knows he can do bet­ter, is sim­ply not an op­tion.

Con­tem­plat­ing a re­place­ment for Fer­gu­son at Old Traf­ford is al­most im­pos­si­ble to do. Jose Mour­inho is con­stantly be­ing linked with the job, but the me­dia-frenzy that ac­com­pa­nies him would surely go against ev­ery­thing that Sir Alex has spent a quar­ter of a decade elim­i­nat­ing — no­body is big­ger than the club.

One thing that Mour­inho does have in com­mon with Fer­gu­son is a de­tes­ta­tion for any­thing other than vic­tory.

Who­ever does suc­ceed the man who has taken foot­ball dom­i­nance in Eng­land to new heights will cer­tainly have gar­gan­tuan sized shoes to fill.

In fact, the first word of ad­vice for the new man­ager would surely be to never com­pare him­self with his pre­de­ces­sor. Judg­ing by the way things are now, though, that is a bridge that will not have to be crossed for some time.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.