Why Ferguson will always be The Special One
Published 30/12/2016 | 02:30
Close your eyes and the voice is unmistakeably Ferguson. You would think you were listening to the gravelly Govan tones of Alex, British football's most successful manager.
Instead this is Martin, his younger brother, who also enjoyed a wonderful, if much less heralded, career at Manchester United as the club's chief European scout.
He is speaking in Lurgan as part of an event organised by former United, Wigan and Northern Ireland defender Pat McGibbon to raise awareness about coaching children and looking after their mental health and well-being.
While Alex is one of the most respected and revered figures in world sport, Martin, who was 74 last week, is rarely mentioned. He started scouting for United in 1997 after a career that saw him play for Partick Thistle, Greenock Morton, Barnsley and Doncaster, manage Waterford, East Stirling and Albion Rovers, and coach at St Mirren and Hibs.
Apart from the obvious family connection, what bonds the brothers is retirement and a fervent hope that Manchester United will excel again.
The self-styled Special One Jose Mourinho is in charge at Old Trafford now, but in Martin's eyes no one will ever be as special as his big brother Alex, who in 26 years as United boss won 38 trophies including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns. Before that, he won another mountain of silverware with Aberdeen at home and abroad.
Three-and-a-half-years on from Ferguson exiting the hotseat and three managers later in David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho (four if you count interim boss Ryan Giggs), United fans hanker for 'Fergie time' and the exhilarating, entertaining football that went with it.
Martin Ferguson loved being along for the ride with the boy he grew up with on the streets of Glasgow playing football any chance they got.
"Alex deserves everything that he has got because he has put his life into it. He made a lot of sacrifices with his family because he was away so much. He spends more time with his grandchildren now than he did with his children but that's because he was so dedicated, determined and single-minded," says Martin (below).
"He was also a great listener, which is such an important quality to have. If his players were straight with him, he would be straight with them. I wouldn't say he was always loved by the players but he was respected by them.
"You may say I am biased with him being my big brother but there is no doubt that Alex was something special. To be special, you have to work hard and there is nobody who worked harder than Alex.
"I was always a bit more easy going. He was so determined. He could be a bit of a rascal at times but he had that energy about him and I loved spending time with him when we were young. I still do. He is a special person.
"When it comes to dedication, hard work and thorough professionalism I don't think there's anyone who could beat him. That's a fact.
"When he was coaching he would sit up for hours talking football with Jock Stein and Alex was smart enough to learn from that. Alex always liked played attacking football. He also had a disciplined regime at the club and always believed in young footballers - these are all the things that made Manchester United."
Yet, things could so easily have taken an entirly different course for Alex, who will be 75 on New Year's Eve.
"Most of my dad's family emigrated to Canada but he wouldn't go with them because he wanted to give Alex and I a chance with the football," revealed Martin, who believes that football will never see the likes of his brother and the success he achieved as a manager again.
"Following him at United was never going to be easy. I think David Moyes was unlucky. He never really got the chance. He did make mistakes but he probably didn't get long enough.
"Van Gaal was obviously a very good coach in his day, but back then the Dutch philosophy was different to everybody else's. Teams are better coached now. Average teams were nicking a point at Old Trafford when he was there.
"That didn't happen very often under Alex. His teams almost always found a way to win. The players had belief and that comes from good man-management and positive thinking."