Sunday 15 December 2019

Fergie’s sanity may best be served by delaying decision on his retirement

Alex Ferguson is not ready to give up his Saturday afternoon adrenalin fix – at least not yet, WRITES JEREMY LAURANCE.

Whether his body can take it is another matter. At 71, he is no longer young. Stress is known to trigger heart attacks and extreme stress goes with his job.

The Manchester United manager has always remained slender but his fitness level is uncertain. He had a pacemaker fitted in 2004 to correct a minor irregularity in his heart rhythm. Heart problems are not uncommon among football managers. On the other hand, heart attacks occur only in those with pre-existing disease.

The fact that he has been able to maintain his punishing work rate for almost a decade since his pacemaker was fitted suggests he is not in imminent danger.

More important, in his case, may be the psychological impact of his impending – but now delayed – retirement. Football, and Manchester United, are in his veins. They are what gets him up in the morning.

It is not uncommon for people to fall ill, and even die, soon after retirement. The loss of status, and of purpose, leaves them bereft. Suddenly they find themselves with time – a commodity they may have craved for years – but no idea how to fill it.

Loss of structure, too, leaves them floundering. Ferguson himself has said: "My father retired on his 65th birthday, and one year later he was dead. The worst you can do is put your slippers on." It is for this reason psychologists say planning for retirement is essential.

The Old Trafford boss deeply regretted his decision to call it a day at the end of the 2001-2002 season – something he changed his mind on after six months – and described the premature announcement as an 'absolute disaster'.

If, after 26 years, Ferguson can still take the pressure, why should he not continue? He may be taking a small risk with his physical health, but staying true to the love of his life could be the best way of extending it. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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