For whatever reason, Sir Alex Ferguson decided to announce on May 8 that he was going to step down as manager of Manchester United when the season concludes on May 19. It could be because of his upcoming hip-replacement surgery or due to the fact that he’ll leave the club after reaching 1,500 games in charge. It’s also possible that club ownership and upper management talked him into stepping down before all of the suitable replacements, such as Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid and David Moyes of Everton, have been snapped up by somebody else.
Nobody’s really sure other than Ferguson and the announcement comes as a bit of a surprise since the 71-year-old recently announced he’s be staying with the world’s most famous soccer club for at least two more years. He said he was going to retire about 10 years ago, but changed his mind. However, this time there’s no doubt that he means it.
Ferguson leaves United with the reputation as one of the greatest managers in soccer history. Exactly where he ranks is certainly debatable. There are those who believe Liverpool’s Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley were superior to him in every way except for the total number of trophies won. But one thing’s for sure, he’s among the top five ever. He managed to win a total of 38 trophies with United since taking over the reins from Ron Atkinson back in 1986.
Ferguson was born and bred in the rough Govan neighborhood of Glasgow, Scotland and worked in the local shipyards before carving out a career as a professional soccer player. He’s come a long way from the streets of Glasgow to being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and has built a dynasty in Manchester over the years. After his playing career ended Ferguson got into coaching and was the manager at Scotland’s Aberdeen when United signed him.
Ferguson managed to win the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup with the small Scottish outfit and he caught the eyes of those in charge at Manchester. At that time, United hadn’t won a league championship in the top tier of English soccer for close to 20 years. Their last triumph had come way back in 1967 and Liverpool was the top dog in England. United figured they had nothing to lose by giving Ferguson the job and after three mediocre seasons, he led the team to the Promised Land.
The team’s fortunes turned around greatly once the Premier League was born in the 1992/93 season. Ferguson led his squad to the championship four times in the first five seasons of the EPL and won the league seven times in its first nine years. Ferguson won his 13th league title with United this season after losing it on goal difference to Manchester City last year. City earned the title on goal difference after scoring twice in injury time in the season finale last season.
Overall, Ferguson has led United to 38 pieces of silverware. Along with 13 league titles he’s won four League Cups, five English FA Cups, a World Club championship, and a pair of Champions League trophies. He signed or developed some of the greatest players of his era, such David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Bryan Robson, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin van Persie.
Ferguson sent out a press release after announcing retirement, but didn’t really give any specific reasons as to why he was stepping down and taking a director’s role with the club. He said he wanted to make sure the team was as strong as it could possibly be before resigning and after winning the title this season he has done that.
Ferguson wasn’t perfect though. He also made some bad signings and sometimes exhibited poor sportsmanship and a bad temper. He certainly won his fair share of silverware, but critics argue that he should have captured more with the talent he had at his disposal. The majority of his players respected and believed in him though and that’s what counts. He never rested on his laurels and usually went in search of as many trophies as possible by promoting attacking soccer. Love him or hate him, he’s certainly going to be missed by most soccer fans across the world, but not all of them.
As for who will replace Ferguson at Old Trafford, most sportsbooks list Moyes of Everton as the favorite with odds ranging from 1/10 (-1000) to 1/50 (-5000) with Real Madrid’s Mourinho ranging from 4/1 (+400) to 19/1 (+1900).