Liverpool host Manchester United on Sunday and it’s only fitting I try to write a few kind words about Fergie. Two years ago this would have been an impossible task, but his retirement has made this task simpler. Whilst I’m aware that these guilty pleasure series articles cover players – and I’ve read a few of them from Liverpool fans waxing lyrical about the likes of Keane, Van Nistelrooy and Berbatov. Those rival players deserved the praise they received and in the past caused misery to Liverpool fans but eventually after a few years they’d all moved on and the rest is history. However, the same cannot be said for Alex Ferguson. A constant thorn in my side for the best part of 20 years and boy was I glad to see the back of him (discounting his first 7 years).
I started supporting Liverpool from the mid 90’s and I’d heard legendary tales of the great Shankly and Paisley and all they achieved and won within the game. They’ve gone down in history as some of the greatest mangers of all time and rightly so too. I must confess I envied the older Liverpool fans that witnessed those glory days because their memories seemed a million miles away from what I was witnessing. I pined for a manager that had messiah-esque qualities and unfortunately it was my peers, the Manchester United fans, who had the bragging rights over yours truly.
Make no mistake, I absolutely detest the man, especially the way he influenced the referees’ decisions. If they were drawing 0-0 at Old Trafford you just knew United would be awarded a dubious penalty and they’d go on to claim the 3 points. Let’s not forget the pivotal point of the match which was referred to as “Fergie Time” where time literally stood still, until Fergie’s men scored. I genuinely thought he had magic powers or at the very least nicked Bernard’s watch (you’d have to be a 90’s child to appreciate that reference). I loathed the way other managers wouldn’t stand up to him and if they did, like Rafa or Wenger, his cronies of the likes of Big Sam would channel his inner playground bully. The thing I hated most about Fergie was the fact that he was a winner, and for that reason alone he was an untouchable in the modern game. Manchester United had that cutting edge, they had the Fergie factor and so many times he got one over us, knocked us off our perch if you will.
However, if he were Liverpool’s manager I’d love him for all those things. Even as a rival fan I always respected what he’d achieved, and it pains me even further when I think back to the treble winning season and look back at the squad he’d assembled in particular that midfield. It was perfectly balanced with Giggs and Beckham on the wings and Scholes and Keane marshaling and dictating the middle of the park. They even made the likes of Yorke and Cole into goal scoring machines and let us not forget Schmeichel, probably one of the greatest of all time. In more recent years he had one of the most lethal front lines with Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney. That trio were so devastating and no defender in the Premier League looked forward to that battle. Granted Fergie had some great players at his disposal and that makes his job easier but the thing that impressed me the most was how his Manchester United teams would evolve and deal with players leaving. I also have to give a mention (through gritted teeth) to his last title winning team. Not because they were exceptional but purely because they were the worst team I’ve witnessed win the league. Sure some could argue that the league was poor but I honestly don’t believe any other manager could win the league with that squad. Again it’s that Fergie factor element that I keep referring to.
Since his retirement I no longer fear the worst when playing against Manchester United, sure we’ve had some poor results against them recently but that’s been largely down to our own woeful performances ridden by individual errors. The day Fergie stepped aside Manchester United lost their immortal powers. They’re just a team with average players but with great history (does another club come to mind?) and I’m sure their fans will bang on about the good old days much as we have for the best part of 25 years.
So this is my ode to Fergie, thank you for making my childhood, adolescence and adulthood miserable. You will no longer make me feel like this and I’m glad you’re gone!