Goal.com's Keeshaanan Sundaresan pays homage to the man he considers to be an inspirational figure and quite possibly the greatest manager of all timeThere comes a moment in life when you take a step back and decide on whether to continue or move on. Some say it's an interesting decision to make, some say it's perhaps the hardest dilemma one would face in any circumstances. It would have probably been the latter for Sir Alex Ferguson.
The dreaded day was inevitable for so long, but it was never imaginable for most of the fans. Fergie wasn't only the gaffer of the club, he represented the never-say-die attitude that shines out of the team and is the epitomy of how passion is one's greatest asset.
When he arrived at Old Trafford as a bright young manager in November 1986, the club was languishing second from bottom in the league table, with some players being affected by drinking problems as well. But the Scottish kept calm and changed their morale. One month later, United recorded their first away win of the season against rivals Liverpool, and went on to finish 11th in the league table.
That kicked start a new era for the club and the man himself, and though he did encounter several difficulties at first, everything was history when United lifted their first league title under Sir Alex in 1993. The turning point arrived and the Red Devils started dominating English football from then on.
Per contra, the amazing bit about Sir Alex isn't only trophies and titles he wins but also the manner in which he runs the club in and out. From Day One, Fergie placed great emphasis on youth development and talent scouting and this was what essentially convinced the Board of Directors to not sack him during the difficult period earlier in his tenure.
When Ryan Giggs exploded into the scene in the 1991-1992 season, many could already see the kind of blueprint Sir Alex was trying to forge within the club. All of a sudden, United had a flurry of youth prospects bursting through their academy and it set precedence for the future of the club.
But his greatest impact on the history of the club only came a few years later in 1999, where the same talented bunch of youngsters who were already fully grown first team performers of the club by this time, inspired the club to an unprecented treble. They strolled to their fifth league title under Fergie, lifted the FA Cup and impeccably triumphed in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in injury time. If there was a moment to actually look back and credit the man for something he has done, it has to be him instilling the right attitude into the players.
Over his tenure with the club, Fergie has always been known as a traditional disciplinarian when it comes to serious stuff, but he knows the right balance between having fun and getting the job done as well. He depicted the value of trust and that every player deserves to be respected for who they are.
Eric Cantona almost quit the club after being given his lengthy ban, but Sir Alex salvaged the situation and Cantona went on to become an undisputed United legend. Similarly when Cristiano Ronaldo was being beleaguered with pressure from the English press after his 'eye-wink' incident in the 2006 World Cup, Ferguson was instrumental in convincing him to stay. The effort paid dividends as Ronaldo went on to become the World Player of the Year with the Red Devils.
Its things like these that make a legend of Sir Alex Ferguson. Liverpool's title dominance was broken and their record has also been shattered. Two European cups have also been added into the cabinet to close the gap between United and other supreme European sides. The Red Devils faced a plethora of revolutions in England itself, Arsenal's Invincibles, Chelsea under Mourinho and the Sheikhs at Manchester City, but took every single one of them to the sword as well. It never fails to inspire you.
But now that he has announced his retirement, you can certainly bet on this decision being the hardest one of his career. There always comes a moment when a gladiator has to step down from the main battle. But Fergie's aura has done enough impact to remain immortal within the Theatre of Dreams. To quote a stanza from Musa Okwonga's poem on Fergie:
"When the stars fade and our world comes to ruin
There will still be Fergie
And the gum he is chewing"
Guid cheerio the nou, Sir Alex!