Sir Alex Ferguson...The Greatest Leader
By Terry Baddoo
Great leaders are prepared to be disliked, and, during his 26 year reign at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson was, at times, among the most reviled managers in the game. But through it all he never once took his eye off the ball, remaining committed to his goal of making United the best they could be. And their best was exceptional! Under Fergie, the Red Devils became the greatest football club in the history of the English game, and one of a handful of clubs in the world that make you stop, look and listen, fan or foe.
We all know what he achieved – a 38 strong treasure trove of trophies that included 13 league titles, two Champions League crowns, 5 FA Cups, and 4 League Cups. But his legacy of silverware by no means tells his whole story, because Sir Alex the man was compelling. Whatever your colors, as a follower of English football you are going to miss Sir Alex.
You’re going to miss his gum chewing, red-faced intensity as he kicks every ball with his team from the dug-out. You are going to miss his finger-pointing remonstrations with the fourth official over this or that missed call.
You are going to miss his half-time and full-time rants at the ref. Yes, it was intimidation, but it was also raw, visceral, and dramatic! You are going to miss his arms-raised, two-fisted salute every time United find the back of the net.
You may not miss the tottering two-step that has accompanied the fist-pumping celebrations in his later years, but give me that over the contrived knee-slide of a Mourinho or Di Canio any day.
You are going to miss the danger of his pre-match news conferences in which every hack in the room feared igniting the blue touch paper with a stupid or impertinent question. You are going to miss those same news conferences in which combustibility was replaced by the easy wit of a bon vivant made all the more charming by a Glaswegian brogue tailor-made for sarcasm.
You are going to miss the post-match interviews, where even the most confident suit with a microphone trod oh so carefully lest Dr. Jekyll became Mr. Hyde. In victory, Fergie, for the most part, mastered the art of appearing satisfied without gloating. In defeat, his fierce sense of loyalty did not allow for public criticism of his players no matter how they’d performed.
Under SAF, United were never beaten, instead they were denied victory by the officiating or lost because of their own unspoken shortcomings. Only once, to my recollection, did Fergie bow down in defeat. That came after the 2011 Champions League final against Barcelona, when United WERE beaten….by aliens. Y
ou’re going to miss the “hairdryer” – his infamous dressing room/training ground outbursts rumored to make grown men weep. The ferocity of these meltdowns has become the stuff of legend, largely because they’ve never been seen in public. But you don’t have to be eaten by a shark to know it bites.
You’re going to miss his mind games and verbal sparring. Whether sniping at officials, flipping-off the authorities, or jousting with an opposing manager, Sir Alex was a rebel with a cause, and every football lover, professional and amateur, wanted to hear what he said and comment upon it. In short, you may have loved him, you may have loathed him, but you haven’t ignored him. And the loss of his unbridled passion will leave a massive gap in the game. Respect.