I know this is a bit of a strange blog entry given that this is a Lincoln City blog, however, most of you know that I am also a Manchester United fan. This season I got a season ticket and although I have decided not to renew it next season (I simply can't afford it), I am pleased that it has come in a season where United will lift the Premier League trophy in the final game at Old Trafford, however, that will now only be a background story to what will turn out to be the last time Sir Alex Ferguson will take charge at Old Trafford.
This morning came the news that Sir Alex Ferguson is to retire, bringing to an end the career of the greatest manager that the British Isles have ever produced. I know Liverpool fans will argue for people like Paisley, but in terms of pure amount of trophies and how he has turned around Manchester United's successes in a near 30 year period is quite astonishing.
For me personally it will be extremely strange. I started supporting United in the late 80s, so Ferguson is literally all I've known at United, and it will now seem strange looking back at all the season reviews to see what will become the former manager at United.
I can't say I'm actually surprised really, afterall, it was going to come at some point in the near future anyway. He's 71 and with the increasing health problems associated with that age, it is probably the right time to retire and actually have enough time to enjoy the retirement. Yes, he will be staying at the club in a director capacity, but the stress and strain of management will no longer be on him and in that sense, it's probably the right choice for him, and more importantly his family.
Looking back at his time in charge of the club, there are many great performances that I could use to pick as a fine example of the Ferguson era, however, I am going to choose what was actually a very poor performance, the 1999 Champions League Final. For 90 minutes of that match United were awful and Bayern Munich should have been miles out of sight before Sheringham scored just as the match entered extra-time......about 60-90 seconds later Ole Gunner Solskjaer popped up with the winner in what is arguably the most dramatic finish to a final ever.
Infact, it was the perfect end to a Champions League campaign where United hadn't actually won that many games. Untied had to come through the qualification rounds against LKS Lodz and in the group United only beat Brondby, infact out of 12 games in the Champions League (minus qualification rounds) that year, United actually only won 5 (6-2 vs Brondby, 6-0 vs Brondy, 2-0 vs Inter Milan, 3-2 vs Juventus and 2-1 vs Bayern), but the important part was that United didn't actually lose any of the other seven and remain one of the few teams in the competition's history to actually win the trophy without losing a match.
It certainly hasn't been easy getting to be known as one of the world's elite. These days a lot of fans just expect United to get to the latter stages of the Champions League, whereas in the 90s it wasn't uncommon to see United head out of Europe (in any competition) early, including going out of the UEFA Cup on penalties to Torpedo Moscow in 1992/3, losing 3-1 to IFK Gothenburg in 1994/5's Champions League group stage and Rotor
relative obsurity, players such as the numerous youth team players that made it through the ranks, Beckham, the Neville brothers, Scholes, Butt, etc, to those that came from other clubs, Solskjaer, Vidic, Ronaldo, Evra, Schmeichel and many, many others......we'll just ignore the likes of William Prunier, Massimo Taibi, Kleberson, Djemba Djemba and Bebe for this section.
So who to get in as a replacement? Well the obvious names are being banded about, Moyes and Mourinho being top of that list, whilst a whole plethora of ex-players are also being linked, in particular my favourite ever United player, Ole Gunner Solskjaer. Whoever gets the job will have probably the hardest job in football as the success over the last near-27 years means that all United fans have a heavy level of expectency, and it will certainly be interesting to see if the fans stuck by a new manager if they didn't win anything for a few years, similar in many ways to how United did at the start of the Sir Alex reign.
But for now, I would just like to say thank you to Sir Alex for all he has done for the club I have supported since childhood and giving me some of my favourite memories from my youth.