By Hassanin Mubarak
I was going to write about Manchester United and ask if this season’s championship winning side was their best or worst team that Sir Alex Ferguson has put together, but with Fergie astonishingly stepping down, taking everyone by surprise, it is the United manager that becomes the main subject of this piece.
I was one of those, who believed that Sir Alex would go on forever, he previously mentioned that he would retire a decade ago but went back on his word and stayed on, however it seems that a 20th league title for United was his target.
I think the 20th championship should go down as one of his greatest accomplishments as manager, as should the second place finish last year. Why you may ask?
If Ferguson had been in charge of Man City’s star-studded squad than they would have run away with the title last season and this season. Fans and pundits have noted that the signing of Robin Van Persie was the key difference, but I would say that it was Fergie that was the decisive factor on where the title ended up.
City’s side last season were an outstanding team, that I personally believe won the Premier League title in spite of Roberto Mancini, rather than because of the Italian manager. You have to remember that City won the title on goal difference, it was that tight, and this season with millions more thrown at the squad, the club is second and have been for most of the season.
The Abu Dhabi sheikhs have ploughed millions in the team, but still only managed to win the title on goal difference –even with the millions they have never really managed to overtake their city rivals – with their financial limitations. A testament to the work of the great man.
Ferguson managed to work within the confines of the Glazers transfer policy at Old Trafford, and build a competitive team that won titles. I truly believe that the United team which won the 20th title is one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest teams, a strong playing squad, that was both versatile and flexible, capable of winning key matches even with key players absent and not solely depended on one individual.
It is not the team that was Fergie’s fortess, but Fergie himself, he was the fortress, compact, impenetrable and ever changing to his surroundings.
But after 26 years in the hot seat at Old Trafford, what does Sir Alex Ferguson represent?
He holds the characteristics of the ultimate football manager, of the likes of Bill Shankly, Sir Matt Busby, Don Revie, and Brian Clough, a dying breed in today’s modern game of football coaches with their wide array of coaching badges; Sir Alex was the man that ran everything at the clubs he presided over and made the difference.
His successor has big shoes to fill.