Sir Alex Ferguson

No Sir Alex, we applaud you! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a long-time Manchester United supporter, I was surprised and saddened this week when Sir Alex Ferguson suddenly announced his retirement from management at the tender age of 71.

Whilst, I have supported Manchester United since before Sir Alex took over as manager 26 years ago, all of my memories of the great club have involved him at the helm.

His medal tally is extraordinary and will probably never be matched in top-flight football at one club, including:

  • 13 Premier League titles
  • 10 Community Shields
  • 5 FA Cups
  • 4 League Cups
  • 2 European Cups

True his Glasgow origins, Sir Alex was never shy about giving his opinion and has given us some great quotes over the years on a wide range of subjects.

Some are withering statements about his opponents that don’t quite match the encouraging, uplifting essence of this blog, but there are a few great insights that I would like to share with you today.

On David Beckham’s work ethic:

“David Beckham is Britain’s finest striker of a football not because of God-given talent but because he practises with a relentless application that the vast majority of less gifted players wouldn’t contemplate.”

At half-time of the 1999 European Cup final, which they came from behind to win in stunning style:

“At the end of this game, the European Cup will be only six feet away from you, and you’ll not even able to touch it if we lose. And for many of you, that will be the closest you will ever get. Don’t you dare come back in here without giving your all.”

His brilliant description of his longest-serving player Ryan Giggs when he first saw him play:

“I remember the first time I saw him. He was 13 and just floated over the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind.”

On winning:

“I’ve never played for a draw in my life.”

On building habits:

“…good coaching relies on repetition.  Forget all the nonsense about altering training programmes to keep players happy.  The argument that they must be stimulated by constant variety may come across as progressive and enlightened but it is a dangerous evasion of priorities.  In any physical activity, effective practice requires repeated execution of the skill involved… (there is a) need to concentrate on refining technique to the point where difficult skills become a matter of habit.  When footballers complain about the dullness of repetitive passing exercises it is usually not monotony they resent, but hard work.”

On Eric Cantona’s impact on the club:

“Many people have justifiably acclaimed Cantona as a catalyst who had a crucial impact on our success while he was with the club, but nothing he did in matches meant more than the way he opened my eyes to the indispensability of practice.  Practice makes players.”

On his drive for success:

“In my younger days, particularly at Aberdeen and in the early phase at Manchester United, I still had that burning desire to change the world.  You are driven.  People like Stein and Shankly were driven.  Fear of failure is part of it, but the drive comes above all from the positive determination to be outstandingly successful, to be good at what you are doing.”

On retirement:

“I think it’s important to work and I’m entitled to work. Some people do not want to work but I want to continue working. Retirement is for young people.”

We’ve come to the end of an era.

Sir Alex Ferguson will long be remembered as a phenomenal motivator and manager who was able to continually reinvigorate and rebuild his football club.  I haven’t always agreed with him, but have nothing but admiration for his remarkable success rate at my beloved Manchester United over such a long period of time.

His successor has massive shoes to fill, but he will inherit a squad that’s used to winning and has bold ambitions.

Thanks Sir Alex for some of my fondest memories as a sports fan and all the best in your new role with the club.

What’s your favourite quote or memory from Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy as manager at Manchester United?

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