How fitting was it that Manchester United should seal victory in the last minute of normal time against Swansea City in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last home game in charge of the team, as so many times in his 1499 games in charge, and his 723 at Old Trafford, his charges have managed to snatch victory. His career as a coach has been truly remarkable, not only in terms of the trophies won but also in the players he has developed. There is even a symmetry to his departure after winning 38 trophies for Manchester United, as he leaves after 26 years in charge. It was in fact 26 years that the club had been waiting to win a league Championship again before Ferguson lead them to their first League title in 1993.
One can go on about his achievements of which there are so many but there are some which appear to have slipped under the radar.
When Ferguson took over at Manchester United in 1986 the club was simply an under performing football club with a massive supporter base. In 1991 when shares in the club were listed on the London Stock Exchange there was an added pressure to being the boss of Manchester United. Ironically along with that added pressure came added cash from the floatation of the club. Money that helped bring in key players that lead Manchester United to its first Premier League title in 1993. Success as they say bred success and that in turn kept the shareholders happy.
Ferguson managed to negotiate the turbulent waters in the boardroom, so much so that when shares in the club were listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012 the prospectus stated that the projections were ‘highly dependent’ on certain individuals. It went on to say ‘any successor to our current manager may not be as successful as our current manager. When he announced his retirement last week these shares dropped five per cent.
In addition to having to deal with stock market fluctuations, as well as player form, Ferguson lead the club to new frontiers. He and key staff realised the number of supporters the club had in Asia who were never likely to be able to visit the ‘Theatre of Dreams,’ Old Trafford, so made the decision to take the club to them. It was a shrewd move when one considers that last year market research done by Kantar estimated that there were 659 million fans of Manchester United with 325 million in Asia.
Ferguson embraced such a move and has been credited with thinking more about the supporters in Asia than the club’s commercial backers. In Malaysia he asked the fans to be at the airport to meet the team arriving and arranged for them to mix with the players.
Amazingly Ferguson has also won praise for his signing of Asian players, unlike other clubs the feeling amongst the Asian fans is that he has never signed these players purely to attract Asian supporters or sponsors. Maybe the success of the players signed has helped in that regard. South Korea’s Park Ji Sung becoming the first Asian player to win Europe’s Champions League as well as the first to wear Manchester United’s Captain’s armband. More recently Japan’s Shinji Kagawa became the first Asian to score a Premier League hat-trick. For example who can remember the signing of China’s Dong Fangzhou?
He will definitely be a hard act to follow and hopefully David Moyes will be grateful to have him in the background lending advice, and that the shadow of the great man will not be too much for the new manager to handle.
One thing is for sure Sir Alex Ferguson has probably done more for Manchester United on and off the park than any one man in a very long time. His legacy is phenomenal.