Monday, November 06, 2006

Happy 20th Anniversary Sir Alex!

Yes, our revered and beloved manager Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates an astounding 20 years in charge of Manchester United today! To have managed 20 years at the same club - a top-level club that regularly expects to be challenging for honours, no less - is a feat that is quite possibly impossible to replicate in today's world of manager-sacking chairmen.

Mention Sir Alex and it is inevitable that comparisons are drawn with other great managers - Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Sir Matt Busby, Brian Clough. But Fergie, I think, is in a league of his own. Arriving at Manchester United in 1986, a time when our bitter rivals Liverpool were dominating the league, he began revamping the club quite literally from scratch as he started off with the backroom and the youth system.

Unfortunately, Fergie was so busy bringing the youth system (set in place, of course, by Man Utd's other great manager Sir Matt Busby) up to standards that it took him 4 seasons to lay his hands on some silverware. In 1990, with United sitting in the bottom half of the league table and no trophies for 3 years, the supporters were getting frustrated and calling for Fergie's blood as the team went into their FA Cup third-round tie against Nottingham Forest. Mark Robins scored, the team won 1-0 and went on an unstoppable run, and Fergie lifted the FA Cup at the end of that season.

Of course, it didn't stop there. In subsequent years, he helped himself - and the club - to eight Premiership trophies, five FA Cups, two League Cups, a European Cup and a European Cup Winners' Cup (not to mention how, when he was at Aberdeen, he helped the club break the stranglehold that Celtic and Rangers had on the SPL). A breathtaking trophy haul by any standards.

Add to that the sweet knowledge that since then, Liverpool have not won the Premiership crown.

The master of mind games, Fergie famously clawed back a 12-point deficit against Newcastle in 1996 to inspire Kevin Keegan's infamous public rant ("This is rubbish! Absolutely rubbish!") and wrest the title away from Newcastle. He introduced his famous batch of Fergie's Fledgings that year, silencing doubters who said "You can't win anything with kids" and proving that the time he spent on the youth system was well spent. Today, Manchester United have a proud tradition of developing young players from scratch, and maintaining an English backbone in the team (quite unlike, say, Arsenal or Barcelona, who are known for not fielding a single Englishman or Spaniard in their teams).

And the famous Treble of 1999, for which he was knighted, cemented his place in football legend. To date, no other team has emulated that historic feat.

In recent years, with the rise of Chelsea and those terrible few seasons when we saw Arsenal run away with "our" crown and Liverpool win their fifth Champions League trophy (I am also an AC Milan supporter, so you can imagine the rage), it has been easy for us as fans to lose faith in Fergie. His series of bad, expensive buys - Juan Sebastian Veron, Kleberson, Liam Miller, Rio Ferdinand (sat out 8 months for his missed drugs test), Eric Djemba-Djemba - and his kicking out of Japp Stam, David Beckham, Roy Keane etc. did not exactly endear him to the supporters either.

These same supporters are now applauding the man and nodding their heads, saying "I knew all along, we were in a transitional stage."

Utter bollocks. You don't support a team just because it's on a high. You support it despite it being on a low.

With that, I say a big thank you very much to Sir Alex Ferguson, for bringing me 14 years of scintillating, entertaining, wondrous football, exctement-filled weekends, and much happiness. Thank you even for the tears and the pain, because this is what makes me Manchester United through and through. I toast you now with my Starbucks frappucino (since I don't have wine). Here's to another 20 trophy-laden years!


At 4:10 AM, November 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i knew he's a good manager when he guided aberdeen to its only scot league title. (i hate boring old firms. rooted for teams like aberdeen and dundee utd winning titles.) that's way back in early '80s when nobody gave scot footie a sh*t.

woke up 1am to watch b/w malay tv broadcasting aberdeen's victory over real madrid in 1983 cup winner's cup was a fond memory. guess only the hard-core footie fan would do that. (remember gordon strachan, ex-scum & current celtic mgr; jim leighton, o-shaped legs & most capped scot goalie?) : )

At 10:13 AM, November 08, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

Yes and a radio on standby tuned in to BBC in case we run out of satellite time.


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