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A tribute to Sir Alex Fergusson

Vinay Surath
908   //    26 May 2014, 11:37 IST
Sir Alex Fergusson
Sir Alex Fergusson was at the helm at Old Traffford from 1986 to 2013

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  ? Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make no mistake, the world’s always trying to change you. Whoever you are with, a few family members, a few hundred friends, many acquaintances, some enemies, some colleagues who like you, some who don’t, those who envy you, those who look up to you, or even those who look down on you; it’s difficult to stay true.

Sir Alex Fergusson however defied the odds many times. He was an extra ordinary leader of men, a perfectionist, one whose relentless pursuit of improvement made it easy for him to ignore the rest. He could simply let all criticism fade, without a wink of it registering in his all-encompassing mind. Rather than change him, he used it as a stepping stone for further upgrades.

To be at the helm of Manchester United, a club which he arguably made the biggest in world football, in the years of unmatched success, meant many things.

  1. He had to manage some of the biggest egos on planet earth with salaries far exceeding large company incomes.
  2. He had to be a father figure for the next generation of football players many a times.
  3. He, being an ageing statesman that inculcated in his players each day, the values of the past days in a dynamic world of glamour and big bucks.

Imagine all that and you’ll begin to comprehend the sheer size of achievement that is Sir Alex Ferguson – manager (retired) extraordinaire, Manchester United Football Club. The fact that he had remained true to himself throughout his tenure that spanned more than two decades is a feat that dwarfs even his accomplishments as the manager of England’s most successful club.

I started watching football only in the mid-90s, when it was occasionally broadcast on Prime Sports, and I guess because of lack of options I was watching Manchester United games more than anything else. And they grew on me. That set of players, Beckham, Scholes, Keane and Giggs more than anyone else. But my love for United started with a young striker, mostly plying his trade as a super sub, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. His enthusiasm and talent made me a United fan for life, even without the understanding of how club football works. I felt inspired by the enthusiasm of the substitutes in this team. Unlike in other clubs, where people on the bench whined and wondered how this club was different from others, the players were genuinely enthusiastic on given any opportunity to fight for the cause for Sir Alex.

Everyone had a job, and everyone did his best to fulfill it. It was only during the Beckham transfer saga that I began to understand that this culture was unique because of the man at the helm of affairs. He was ruthless, with his desire to win the most visible quality. He was the ultimate boss; he kept you happy even when you weren’t playing, he kept you on your toes even when the title was in your hands, he kept you motivated even when the world was against you, and he kept the desire in you, no matter what. That hunger, that desire will be almost impossible to replace, and the world is finding that out rather quickly.

Like everyone else, he had his flaws. His detractors would often point to them, but it never bothered him, or if it did, he used it to give himself more wind. He had created more teams than any other manager in recent times, all at the same club. His guiding principle remained the same and his efforts usually borne great fruit.

I’ll definitely miss his enthusiasm on the sidelines; his almost child-like celebrations, his constant gum chewing, his comments, his arrogance at times, and his undying love for all things “football”. It’s hard to imagine that the person I’ll miss the most on a football pitch will be someone who made his greatest success when he wasn’t on it. Thank you Sir for staying true, thank you so very much!

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