Monday 11 December 2017

30 things we miss about Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson retired as Manchester United boss in May 2013
Alex Ferguson retired as Manchester United boss in May 2013

Jim White

It's 30 years on from his first Manchester United match, so let's remember the great Alex Ferguson.

1. Attack

For Ferguson, the ball was never meant to be passed sideways. His teams were built to attack.

2. The Cough

The little nervous tickle in the throat that was there in every public utterance.

3. No Question About That

There was never any equivocation with Ferguson, whether it be about the best ever Scottish full back or the finest vintage of Bordeaux, his opinion was definitive.

4. Mind Games

No-one played them better.

Arsene Wenger’s holistic approach is in stark contrast to the psychology employed by Alex Ferguson

5. Fergie Time

Pacing the touchline jabbing at the face of his watch with his finger, the pressure applied to a referee was never subtle.

6. Whistling

His versions of the Great American Songbook provided the soundtrack round Carrington for years.

7. Asking opposition managers whether they’ll have a glass of wine with him

The journalistic fall-back question is now redundant.

8. Pro-Scotland comments

This week of all weeks he would have been full of them.

9. Promotion of youth

He regarded it as an absolute requirement of management to nurture the next generation.

Ferguson was a 'control freak' according to Timms Getty Images

10. Friendliness to staff

He knew everyone who worked at Manchester United, and made time for them all.

11. Bans

No-one dished out media prohibition with the relish Fergie did. No journalist on the Manchester beat could consider themselves to have done their job properly were they not banned by Fergie at some point.

12. Finding Ronaldo

How the current United could do with that as an asset.

Cristiano Ronaldo poses along side manager Alex Ferguson. Photo: PA

13. Bringing Paul Scholes back

As above.

14. Regarding John Motson as a dangerous subversive

Nobody was as alert to media bias.

15. Playing weakened teams in the League Cup

He was the first openly to acknowledge that the best way to treat the competition was as a training exercise.

16. Getting United to Champions League finals

Three times in four seasons seems impossible in a time when the current side loses away at Fenerbahce.

1999: Ferguson with the UEFA Champions League Trophy following victory over Bayern Munich.

17. Overcoats with zip-up inner linings

Never mind the clocks going back, you could judge the seasons on the first appearance of Fergie’s quilted touchline warmer.

18. The dad dance of victory

Not even Ed Balls could jig with such joyful lack of rhythm as Fergie displayed when celebrating a goal.

19. 13 Premier League titles

A haul that will never be overtaken.

Brian Kidd and Alex Ferguson

20. Chewing gum

Manufacturers face financial ruin now he is no longer munching in the technical area.

21. Pragmatism

It was impossible to survive as long at the top as he did without adapting, and Fergie changed everything as time went by.

22. Refusal to stand still

Just because something had worked for him before, it didn’t mean it would work again.

23. The hairdryer

It might have been visible less and less as he mellowed with age, but its potential use always lurked in the back of everyone’s mind.
Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United shouts instructions from the touchline during the Barclays FA Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on April 26 2008 (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

24. Touchline mimes of horse riding

Nobody clippity-clopped with his enthusiasm.

25. Challenge

His favourite word, used in every circumstance. The challenge for United managers to come is living up to the standards he set.

26. Delegation

While giving every appearance of being a control freak, Ferguson confidently passed responsibility to those he trusted.

27. Genuine partisanship

He really did understand what the fans felt about rival clubs. And he shared their antipathy.

28. Texted commiserations to sacked fellow managers

Ferguson was always the first to offer sympathy to his peers the moment they were shown the door.

29. Keeping things behind closed doors

This was not a manager who would verbally hammer a player for suffering from a niggly injury.

30. Certainty

His very presence on the touchline imbued every team he put out with authority.

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