It was a usual summer Mumbai day, unbearably hot. I was pitying the misery of the rather indifferent, homeless old man outside, while I was resting in the comfort of my air-conditioner. A routine day in my life, everything seemed normal at a glance. The Wi-Fi was working, the cable was on, the computer was fit and running, Troll Football was copying tweets. Who knew moments from then I’d be envious of the old man’s ignorance. Oh life, thou art cruel.
Millions of miles away, preparations were in place for a “big announcement” at Old Trafford. The twitter feed was cluttered with speculations, rumours, wishes, some cynical and some plain delusional. A few clever jokes aside, the word on the grapevine was “Sir Alex Ferguson was contemplating retirement”. Having been a faithful Manchester United supporter for 7 years now, such a rumour couldn’t dampen my spirits. It would be dismissed as soon as it was conceived. But, it felt a little strange this time around. It almost felt this could be it. But any amount of ‘Inner Peace training from Master Shifu’ couldn’t have prepared me for the actual moment. The intuition was becoming a reality. The Denial-Anger-Bargaining-Depression-Acceptance process was setting in.
“How can he? He’s still so young! He’s only 71! He still has 20 more years! That Turkish referee refused him his dream! We don’t mind you not signing a mid-fielder, just don’t go!”
I still haven’t seen the actual press conference announcement; because I know I won’t be able to handle him speak the R-word. Not the one used to describe Suarez, the other one.
Sir Alex is revered and respected all across the football horizon and beyond. The golden rule about respect – respect is commanded, not demanded – is personified by him. Either his confidence was often misconstrued for arrogance or maybe we romantics misconstrued his arrogance for confidence. I can’t speak for generations before/after me, but I believe, for my generation, SIR ALEX WAS MANCHESTER UNITED. You’d think 26 and a half years into a job, you’d be a little complacent and comfortable. Sir Alex was the antithesis to this assumption; even today he celebrates every goal with a very child-like enthusiasm. His energy could shame Berbatov into retirement.
A tactical mastermind, his genius was exemplified by ever-so-subtle changes he would make, which would generally go unnoticed. His press conferences were not just journalistic gold mines, they were an extension of the actual game for him. A jab at the opposing manager and the game was already won before the first kick of the game. Such was the gravitas of his persona. Never a man to hold back his words, he had many a duels with opposing managers, referees, match officials, and heck even his own players. No player was ever bigger than the club, no superstar indispensable.
Statistics and records don’t matter to me right now as much as emotions do . Sir Alex’s impact was beyond knocking Liverpool off their f*cking perch, it was beyond winning an unprecedented treble. A man, who I’ve never physically witnessed, shattered the wonderland I was in with a single press conference. THAT was his impact. His legacy is untarnishable. United has been a one-man team for the past 27 years. That man has decided to call it a day. Without a shadow of doubt, the last 3 titles United have won, have been with nothing more than mediocre teams. Sir Alex’s persistence is the sole reason for those victories. The ability to rebuild teams time after time is what makes him better than Wenger. The appetite for trophies never died and the disappointment at not winning one was always evident after a loss.
His retirement has left a gaping hole in the soul of Manchester United. The game against Swansea is going to be the most emotional game I will have seen. A single tear from the Old Man and me along with every United supporter on this planet will break.
As surprising and heartbreaking the announcement was, it was inevitable. The signs were incontrovertible; the statue, the secret meeting with Guardiola, Mourinho’s sycophancy (interestingly, neither got the job).
Fergie has passed on the mantle to a very capable fellow Scotsman. No psychologically sane person expects anyone to emulate Sir Alex ever again. David Moyes is stepping into big shoes and needs to be dealt with patiently and sensibly.
Here is what a Liverpool supporter wrote about Sir Alex Ferguson. Like I said, He Commands RESPECT!
Manchester United will never be the same again. The Premier League will never be the same again. Football will never be the same again.
Old Man, you are my hero. For 27 years you carried us. You deserve to lie back now.
Thank You Sir Alex,