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Thursday, 7 August 2008

Every Single One Of Us .....

This is a tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson, taken
from another site, I thought it was absolutely
brilliant and have reproduced it here.

It was written by Morris Sheftel:

Football's inexorable treadmill leaves little
time for respite or reflection. During a summer
dominated by Euro2008, the shameless duplic-
ities of Calderon, Blatter and Platini, and the
greed of perfidious Ronaldo - to say nothing of
the onrush of the Olympics and the start of yet
another football season - there has been little
enough in celebration of Manchester United's
outstanding double of League and European
Cup championships last May, nor of the place
in football history that must surely be accorded the club's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.

In statistical terms, Ferguson's career is, quite simply, incredible and would
be so even if it were fiction. The end of last season brought him a tenth English
league championship in 21 seasons as United's manager. No other manager in
English history even comes close: Bob Paisley won six with Liverpool, Matt
Busby five with United and Herbert Chapman four with Arsenal and Hudd-
ersfield in the 1930s. If we look outside England, Rinus Michels won five
league championships (4 with Ajax and one with Barcelona) whilst Fabio Capello
won seven (4 at AC Milan, 2 at Real Madrid and another at Roma; another two
at Juventus were subsequently set aside because of match-fixing). Only in
Scotland is Ferguson's achievement matched: Jock Stein, his friend and mentor,
led Celtic to 11 Scottish titles.

In all, United won 702 (58%) of the 1210 league games played under Ferguson
to the end of May. That surpasses even the record of Matt Busby: 576 (50%)
wins out of 1141 games. And Ferguson's teams lost only 18% of their competitive
games, compared with 26% under Busby. Since the inception of the Premier
League, Ferguson's record has been even more remarkable.
In the 16 years of the Premiership, United have totalled 155 more league points
than Arsenal, their nearest chall-engers, 221 more than Chelsea and 244 more
than Liverpool. That's nearly 10 points a season better than Arsenal on average,
nearly 14 points better than Chelsea and more than 16 points better than Liver-
pool - astonishing margins. In the process, United also played the more attractive
football consistently, averaging 1.97 goals per game (compared with 1.69 for
Arsenal, 1.58 for Chelsea, and 1.6 for Liverpool) and defended better (conceding
0.87 goals per game compared with 0.88, 0.98 and 0.98 respectively for their
main rivals).

If all that were not enough, Ferguson has also brought United two European
Cups, a European Cup-Winners Cup, five FA Cups (a record for a manager) and
two League Cups, 20 major trophies in all. Against that, Michels won a total of 14,
Paisley 13, Capello 9, Busby 7 and Chapman 6. But there's more. Before joining
United in 1986, Ferguson led Aberdeen to 3 league championships, 4 FA Cups,
one League Cup and a European Cup-Winners Cup in Scotland.
There's also the matter of two European Super Cups (one with each club) and
an Intercontinental Cup (United beating Scolari's Palmeiras in 1999 to become,
so far, the only English winners of that trophy). That's 32 overall, ahead even
of Stein's 29 in Scotland (and achieved in a much tougher competitive environ-
ment). Along the way, there have been three English League and FA Cup
doubles (the first to do it twice and then three times), and one League and
European Cup double. Above all, in 1999 Ferguson led United to the treble of
League championship, FA Cup and European Cup, the single greatest achieve-
ment by any club in English football history and something unmatched in Europe's
main leagues (England, Italy, Spain, Germany and France).

You could not make it up. However much partisanship might colour our percep-
tions of the relative merits of the great managers, indisputably Ferguson stands
pre-eminent in the history of English and European football.

Yet statistics do not give us the full substance of the man. It is all too easy to forget,
given the global monster that United now is, that Ferguson took over something
of an empty shell in 1986, a club living on (fading) memories of the Busby era, as
much about tabloid notoriety as football achievement. With a ferocity that many
found difficult to live with, he removed the drinking culture that he found, got rid
of some outstanding players who had lost their way, confined the media to the
fringes of the club's business, resurrected the club's youth development system,
built a professional training and coaching system still unsurpassed in England,
and demanded and got (as the price of being at the club) a unity of purpose and
clarity of focus that turned talented players into winners. (What might a team
including Robson, Muhren, Strachan, Whiteside, Stapleton and McGrath have
won with Ferguson driving it, instead of the nothing that it did in fact win?)
Perhaps his greatest achievement has been that he has managed to blend the
demands of a more tactical and defensive modern game with the attacking verve
and individual swagger established by Busby as the United way of playing, a way
that made a provincial club the best supported team in the world. It was a chall-
enge that defeated previous United managers (including even Busby in his late
years) but Ferguson's teams have managed to provide plenty of scope for indiv-
idual expression within the framework of team organization. Thus, players like
Cantona, Giggs, Rooney, Ronaldo, Scholes, Sharpe, Yorke, Cole, Beckham, And-
erson and others have developed into artists who could stretch the imagination
of those lucky enough to watch them while they still played winning football.
These skills have been paraded through four successful United teams built by
Ferguson. If the first (1990-2) was something of a transitional side, the other
three - 1993-4, 1999-2001 and 2006-8 - have all been great ones. The treble in
1999 must rank that side as the greatest of them, indeed as the greatest in English
club history, not only for the magnitude of the success but also for the flair and
style with which it was done. It exemplified what all Ferguson's teams are about -
skill and flair embedded in a high level of organization and a ferocious team spirit.

All this marks out Ferguson as something more than a successful coach and places
him in the ranks of those great managers who can 'build a club', as the saying goes,
men like Michels, Stein, Shankly, Clough, Nicholson, Wenger. In this company,
Busby stands supreme: we cannot begin to imagine what it took to turn a bankrupt,
provincial club without a stadium into one renowned throughout the world, to change
the ethos of football in favour of youth and flair, to drag English football into Europe,
to resurrect the club after the Munich air crash (by contrast, Torino have never
recovered fully after losing their great team in a 1949 air crash) and to win the
European Cup just a decade after Munich. Yet Ferguson, too, belongs here, adapting
the Busby legacy to new realities and taking the club to new heights.

It is only in his relations with the media that Ferguson can be considered less than
successful. If it is true he has had to deal with a more unscrupulous and contemptible
press than any that Busby, Shankly or Stein faced, it is also true that his constant
conflicts with them have done neither himself nor his club any favours. It has enc-
ouraged a sustained campaign against the club by the London media so that United's
enormous contribution to the community and to Unicef and other charities gets a
Chinese-government type media blackout. And it has led to a media caricature of
Ferguson with little basis in reality but with a life of its own. The ranting bully terror-
izing his players does not square with their fierce loyalty to him or with their unshake-
able will to win games from seemingly hopeless positions or with the flair and joy they
so often bring to their play. Nor does it square with the esteem in which he is held
throughout football, or with the appreciation by other managers of the support and
generosity he accords them or, for that matter, with the help and friendship he has
extended to individual journalists facing crises in their lives. The wealth and fame he
has achieved in football, and the political and business circles to which he has access
as a result, have not altered his friendships, most of which go back to his youth, or
his focus on family ties or his social values. Perhaps that is a truer reflection of the
nature of the beast than the media picture, and perhaps once he's retired and
no longer threatens them, they will finally give him his full due.

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