By Paul Hampton
Normally the end of the Premier League season brings talk of when the next big star will be arriving, how much will cost and just how big will his impact be? Sadly this year we are talking about a number of legends leaving the game, a void that is very unlikely to be filled.
One of which will be Sir Alex Ferguson is the biggest name to announce his retirement this year. The impact he made during his 26 years at Old Trafford will never be forgotten, and they have transformed a club that was a mid-table underperforming side, to the dominate force of English football. It is very possible that in years to come he will be remembered as the greatest manager British football has seen.
To realise why you have to go back before his days at Manchester United, and look at just how much he actually achieved in Scotland with St Mirren and Aberdeen. He transformed St Mirren from a poor second division side in to division one champions in just four years, discovering talents such as Billy Stark and Frank McGarvey and playing an exciting brand of attacking football. Despite all of this, St Mirren can say they are the only club who sacked Sir Alex Ferguson. According to an article published in 1999 he was sacked for several breaches of contact, one of which included unauthorised payments to players, Ferguson challenged an unfair dismissal but lost the case. Amazingly during the tribunal Willie Todd, St Mirren chairman at that time, claimed he had no managerial ability.
In 1978 he joined Aberdeen, despite them being one of Scotlands big clubs they had only won the league title once, in 1955. His first season was not a successful one, losing in the semi-finals of both the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup. The season after they reached the final, however again where unsuccessful after losing a replay to Dundee United. Ferguson took the blame for the defeat personally, claiming he should have made changes to the team for the replay. It was not until the 1980s that Ferguson tasted real success, despite making a poor start to their league campaign their form improved in the second half of the season and the claimed the league title with a 5-0 victory on the final day of the season. This was the first time in 15 years that neither Celtic nor Rangers had won the Scottish league title. He followed this success with a European cup victory, beating Real Madrid in the final.
Despite all of this, his real success came in England. More specifically Manchester. It has hard to underestimate just how different his career could have been, a poor start saw him under pressure finishing 11th in the table during his first season. He brought Manchester United their first league title in 1991, the first of many during his time at the club. It was at this time he stamped his authority on the team, bringing in one of his best purchases Peter Schmeichel. The great Dane went on to have a successful time at the club, non-more so that in 1999 when Ferguson guided his side to an unprecedented treble, claiming the Premier League, FA Cup and the Champions League.
When he arrived he made a bold statement about replacing Liverpool as Englands most successful team, at the time it didn’t seem possible but today it is a reality. The teams he assembled during his time at Old Trafford live long in the memory, he was about mould players like Neville, Beckham, Scholes and Giggs in to genuine world class talents. He has had to rebuilding numerous times over the 26 years but never lost pace at the top, in fact it has usually been his sides that have set the pace. I said earlier that he will be remembered as the best British manager ever, and I truly believe this, there have been some fantastic British managers over the years but nobody has done it for a period of time like Sir Alex Ferguson.
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