THERE you have it. That’s how you feel when you hear that Sir Alex Ferguson is stepping down as manager of Manchester United. Rumours had persisted for months if you knew where to look, but as the team gathered the momentum required to take them to the league title, it seemed a million miles away from happening.
He would wait until he had eclipsed Liverpool’s domestic success wouldn’t he? He did.
He’d want to taste glory in the European Cup one last time, wouldn’t he? Well, as we found out, no. To be clearer, I think he definitely would have wanted that and this season we were so close. Perhaps such was the wafer thin line between victory and defeat in the Real game, he doubted he had the umph to go again next season. That Real game was heart breaking in many ways and perhaps it gave Fergie the final push he needed to confirm his departure.
It was something he had discussed with United officials fairly soon into this New Year, so it was in his mind when David Gill announced that he would depart in the summer months and when we speculated that it might not be in Fergie’s thinking to build another long term working relationship with another exec, Sir Alex had already spoken to higher ups about possibly moving upstairs.
Whoever the new man is need not worry about the daunting presence of his predecessor in the halls of the Theatre of Dreams. It is our understanding that Sir Alex will not be based in an office at Old Trafford or the training complex. This can only be a good thing for the new man, I’m sure his door will be open for any advice Fergie can bestow, but it won’t be an Old Trafford door – and if ya know ya history, it didn’t exactly help Wilf McGuinness when he took over from Sir Matt Busby a year after Sir Matt lifted the European Cup. Sir Matt’s legacy would crush any replacement at that time, as would Sir Alex’s now if he let it, the trick is not to.
Six years ago Sir Alex spoke about Sir Bobby Charlton, himself a director and club legend. Ferguson described Sir Bobby as a figure of guidance around the club without ever being an overburdening one. His comments then make good reading in the light of recent events.
“I’ll have a position at the club, but I’ll not be close in terms of the football side of things. There will be something there for me, but it will be more of an ambassadorial role, like Sir Bobby Charlton.”
“He does a fantastic job. He’s not an intrusive person, and he’s always there for advice and help.”
Perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson will be taking the Charlton approach to iconic status at Manchester United from next season.
It is with a heavy heart that Sir Alex leaves the hotseat, but you can be in no doubt that he was fully in control of the timing, fully aware of the list of possible replacements AND fully involved in which one gets approached.
It’s the end of an era but also the beginning of a new one.