Love him or loathe him. It's undeniable. There is only one Sir Alex Ferguson.
It has been a mellow week here. We lost democracy on Sunday. And then on Wednesday, Man Utd lost its greatest manager.
Appointed as manager in 1986, SAF did not have the best of runs. In fact, due to lacklustre results, United were lingering at the edge of the relegation zone in the 1989-1990 season. If not for the League Cup semi-final win against Nottingham Forest that season, it would have been the boot for SAF. He won the League Cup eventually after beating Crystal Palace 1-0 in the final replay after an earlier 3-3 draw.
But his league win didn't come in until 1993, for United lost out on the league title to Leeds after leading the table for much of the season in 1992.
And then he got Cantona from Leeds in 1993 and that's when fortunes changed. Cantona was perhaps the catalyst needed, but make no mistake, it was also SAF's charisma and leadership which had paved a new era for Man Utd. They won the league in 1993. It was that year, that the Premier League was first introduced and United were the first winners of the Premier League.
In the 1993-1994 season, United continued their winning streak and this time, picked up the Premier League title and the FA Cup. SAF was on his way to further success.
And in 1994-1995, that's when I first noticed Manchester United as a force to be reckoned with. My first thoughts on SAF? He is one arrogant pr*ck. Yup. His remarks, his shrewdness. But you gotta admit it, its this driving force which makes United champs. The tough and unnerving attitude to succeed which managers such as Brian Clough share. United lost the title to Blackburn that season, but managed to grasp the title once again in the 1995-1996 and made another double with the FA cup.
But shrewd as he was, he was already planning ahead. And with the emergence of the class of 1992 or Fergie's fledglings (Scholes, Beckham, Butt, both the Neville brothers) and the Welsh Wizard Ryan Giggs and his acquisitions of Roy Keane, Gary Pallister, the Great Dane Peter Schmeichel, Andy Cole, United probably were on the way to have the best team in the world....ever.
United continued their winning streak picking up another Premier League title in 1996-1997 before losing it again to an emerging Arsenal under the guidance of Arsene Wenger in 1996-1997. And in 1998, United won the treble. More success to come. But to cut the long story short, it was SAF's guidance which had made United prosper.
For him, the club is paramount and no one is above the club. Known for his temperament and outburst behaviour, he has always been one instills discipline onto his players. even his favourites such as Beckham, Stam and Keane would eventually learn the hard way that no one is above the club. And quite rightly so.
Not only is he a manager, but he also acts as a father figure, nurturing young talent and guiding them. Players like Beckham, Christiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney would benefit from this and they went from strength to strength becoming greater players under his wing.
Perhaps, not as sharp an eye as Wenger on picking talent, SAF did make some purchasing errors. Players like Veron who didn't fit into the English game, the great blunderer, Massimo Taibi and the ancient Laurent Blanc were only the few of the non-performing players that he had acquired. But nevertheless, he made important acquisitions too which proved to be game changing players such as Keane, Van Nislterooy, Rooney, Vidic and quite recently, Robin Van Persie.
SAF was also known for yelling at referees when referees make er....crucial mistaken calls (I may be challenged on that) and chewing gum non stop. I would normally wait for the post game press interview and until now, I found it utterly difficult to catch his sentences due to the thick Scottish accent! But it's also his never say die attitude which was vital for United's success.
Alas, with 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA cups, 2 UEFA Champion's League titles and a few other lesser cups, he has created a legacy where many managers thereafter would have difficulty emulating.
Although this is not the first time he has mentioned about retirement as he did so by the end of 2002, still, it came as a shock to many United fans such as myself who would have perhaps relish the idea of him managing for another 20 years. Like how Sir Bobby Robson devoted himself to the game until his death back in 2009.
And now on the 8th of May 2013, he has announced his retirement for good and will move up the ranks as director of the club. His presence will still linger but his legacy abound.
Many managers were cited such as Pep Guardiola and even Mourinho, but in the end, the managerial duties fell squarely on David Moyes (who was at one time speculated to helm United one day too). And Moyes knows the shoes Fergie left are huge ones.
So begins a new era for Manchester United without it greatest and longest serving manager.
And this is my tribute to you, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Thank you for making United what it is today. The board had faith in you and you have repaid the board in bountifully. And now, Sir Alex Ferguson, you have joined the ranks of not just United's greatest managers, but as one of the greatest managers of all time that the beautiful game has ever seen.
There is and always will only be one Sir Alex Ferguson. Thank you.