Alex Ferguson took the long view

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 May, 2013, 2:35am

In a profession where fame is fleeting and job security fickle, Alex Ferguson is a singular exception. The fact that most readers will know who we are talking about without prompting is testament to that. This may be due partly to the global media coverage of his retirement after 27 years as manager of Manchester United, the world's most famous football club. But it is also because his name is synonymous with the club among a loyal global fan base.

The glowing tributes to the 71-year-old Scot have focused, understandably, on his achievements, such as 13 league titles, two European league championships and five FA cups among 39 trophies in all, and the generations of famous stars he has nurtured, bought and sold as one of the most astute football minds of his era and a canny manager of fragile egos and grating personalities. There was little room to dwell on the lean times, but he had them. They are worth pause for reflection.

In these days of multi-millionaire players and billionaire club owners looking for quick results as a return on their investment, it is hard to believe that Ferguson lasted four years without the smell of a trophy after landing the manager's job at Manchester United - a club then starved of the success it had once taken for granted.

He nearly didn't last and was said to have come within one defeat of getting the sack. In 1989, a year before he broke the drought by winning the FA Cup, a white banner held aloft by fans at the club's home ground Old Trafford read: "3 years of excuses and we're still crap, ta-ra Fergie".

It was during those lean years that Ferguson worked tirelessly at laying the foundations of future dominance that won him acclaim as perhaps the greatest manager the world has ever seen.

Fans are already saying they feel sorry for his anointed successor, David Moyes, because he has to try to live up to his fellow Scot's legacy. Perhaps they need not, if the club's American owners reflect that even the greatest coach needed time to prove himself.