It’s hard to believe it’s been over a quarter of a century since Alex Ferguson arrived at Manchester United, beginning the most successful tenure ever by a manager in the Premier League (or whatever it was called back then). Exactly 26 years later, the club that owes him quite a lot will honor him with a statue that will be unveiled in two weeks time.
He’s been in charge of 1461 games, winning 871 of them. He ended a drought of 26 years when it comes to league titles, and has won 12 of them since 1993, nine more than the next teams over that period, Chelsea and Arsenal. He’s won three European titles, most importantly the Champions League in 1999 and 2008, ending a 31 year wait. All this after winning an FA Cup, and League Cup and the Cup Winners’ cup during his first seven seasons. Amazing he still had a job when everything came together on the pitch.
Patience wins, and there’s no other club in the world that has earned more from that patience. Manchester United were always a popular club, even during the long title drought, but nothing can compare to the mega business it has become in terms of worldwide popularity and the money it makes. Only problem is having owners that have put the club in debt, but there’s no denying that turning United into one of the biggest sporting brands in the world is first and foremost thanks to the success of Ferguson.
Maybe his biggest achievement is proving that no one is above the club. He’s had a few bigger-than-life stars on the team. None of them remained, only Ferguson keeps on treading, winning, and annoying everyone outside the club with his success and behavior. Problem is he’s probably earned the right to say anything he likes about anyone in the league, although that doesn’t sit too well with most.
Eric Cantona had that aura about him, but after his retirement United needed to wait only a year before beginning a three-consecutive-titles streak and win the Champions League; David Beckham was booted away when his personality became too big for Ferguson to handle. Cristiano Ronaldo burned brighter than anyone else, but his sights were always on Spain, and he made the club a lot of money by deciding to leave.
Everyone keeps asking – how much longer has Ferguson got. Names of heirs keep getting thrown around. Jose Mourinho, David Moyes, Pep Guardiola. Whoever he may be, there will always be that statue looking at him, judging, there for the comparison. You should never say never, but it’s hard to think of anyone matching up to whatever Ferguson leaves behind. A statue, and a number of titles that seem impossible to beat or even reach.