“Football, bloody hell”. It’s one of the most famous quotes attributed to one of the sport’s most famous sons, on his most famous night of all.
When those words were uttered directly after steering United to the treble in 1999, Sir Alex Ferguson achieved greatness. After his retirement in 2013, his record of 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions Leagues gave him the immortal status of the best there’d ever been.
But Fergie, bloody hell. You gave us a scare this weekend.
The news of his brain haemorrhage, operation and presence in intensive care it puts everything in perspective. Sometimes things are bigger than football.
There were reports yesterday that he was up and speaking to his family in hospital. The signs seem good.
All of Manchester and the football world is wishing him a speedy recovery. The banner held up by City fans during their celebration on Sunday was a touch of class.
Everyone at Manchester City wishes Sir Alex Ferguson a full and speedy recovery after his surgery #footballfamily
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 5, 2018
Hang in there Sir Alex. Thoughts are with the family and close ones.
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) May 5, 2018
Trust me there’s more blue runs through my body than anyone. But I pray & hope this legend & gentleman of a man pulls through his ordeal. Come on Alex.x pic.twitter.com/guiZnEBKgf
— Ricky Hatton MBE (@HitmanHatton) May 6, 2018
There’s been so much written and said about him in the last few days, it’s hard to know where to begin. All United fans, and anyone involved in the game, will have their own personal Fergie story. A moment that stands out above them all.
For players it’s probably the dreaded hairdryer. For the press it’s any number of expletives in the pressroom days before the cameras came in. For fans it’s the victories and the style of play that stands out.
For me, growing up in a South Stand seat from the 1991/92 season, the team under his charge was all I knew. And I learnt a few things from the great man about how the game should be played.
First and foremost, I found out that he was very rarely wrong. Too many times I questioned his team selections to see him proved right. The Da Silva twins in midfield at home to Arsenal? David May starting the 1999 FA Cup Final in place of Jaap Stam? Ok, it worked.
His trust in his players and the virtues of always promoting youth stand out.
The Class of 92 owe so much to him and his bravery of ousting well-known established first-team players and replacing them with graduates from the youth academy.
That would never happen now. And it’s still so surprising that it happened then.
But above all, he cared about the entertainment factor. He held true the values of Sir Matt Busby in understanding the lives of the fans and how much they looked forward to a Saturday afternoon of sparkling football.
Winning was never enough, it had to be done in style.
His presentation 10 days ago to Arsene Wenger before the Frenchman’s final appearance at Old Trafford said it all. A heated rivalry, given over to respect and a love of what united the two men – football and the right way to play it. And he looked so well.
Fergie, all of Manchester wishes you a speedy recovery.