It was a touching scene to behold. We all witnessed it; from die-hard fans to bitter rivals, from constructive critics to myopic naysayers, football enthusiasts all around the world tuned in that Sunday afternoon.
Sir Alex Ferguson emerged through the tunnel at the Theatres of Dreams as the manager of newly crowned champions Manchester United for the last time after over a quarter century. As he waddled unto the Old Trafford pitch, the stadiums speakers bellowed out the smooth but apt notes from timeless classics of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”. Admit it or not, we all sat there in our living rooms and pubs in awe of the man. We didn’t tune in to watch the crowned champions play football against Swansea City alone (they had already been given a Guard of Honour at the Emirates Stadium by now-distant rivals, Arsenal) we all watched to be part of history. As the music serenaded the atmosphere for a befitting soundtrack, the classic song from Ol’ Blue Eyes became all the more most appropriate.
Fergie certainly did do it his way.
As the new season kicks off this weekend, the Premier League will experience life without Sir Alex for the first time since it was founded in 1992. Since his appointment in 1986, he has seen 18 managers go through the revolving doors between Man City’s Maine Road and Etihad stadiums, 17 managers at Chelsea and 9 managers at bitter rivals Liverpool. Sir Alex will be the first to tell you that it has not being the rosiest of beddings. Like every other manager on his first few weeks at the new job, he went through the change in management usually experienced at any workplace. The “New Guy” scenario.
Taking over from Ron Atkinson who had won two FA Cups in the space of five years but had failed to recreate that winning spirit with a series of bad results, he was promptly replaced by the high-flying manager at Aberdeen who had broken the stronghold on the Old Firm’s dominance in Scottish football. Ferguson saw his work was cut out for him and immediately faced the situation squarely in his dressing room by ridding the club of its heavy drinker’s reputation and improving discipline and obedience to his policies with help from his trusty assitant Archie Knox and on the pitch with his Captain Marvel, Bryan Robson.
After stabilizing the ship from a lowly 21st place when he joined the club, they finished at 11th position and it was now time to improve and build on what he had started. By the next season, he moved to buy big players like Steve Bruce and Viv Anderson, and as the seasons went on, he bolstered his team with the Mark Hughes’s, the Gary Pallisters and the Paul Inces of the footballing world. It took him six long years, but he finally did what no other United coach had done since the great Matt Busby – he won the league.
Many other times Ferguson has had his career hanging in the balance, his job was once famously saved by a late winning goal by an obscure player in an FA Cup match. He has had his fair share of fan-bashing; there have been banners hanging from the balconies, screaming from his head believe it or not. He knows all about the doldrums of humiliation and defeat and perhaps it is the desire to succeed that has fired his belly for almost 40 years as a manager. He understood what his duty was, he understood who his supporters were – the staff, the board and of course, the fans – and he strived to improve game after game till alas he saw victory and restored glory to the illustrious club. Fergie always knew that the journey to success wasn’t a swift and painless one, it required guts, sweat, grit and a unquenching desire to win, and never give up. Over the years, he poured that spirit into all his players, his marquee signings, his fledglings, his famous trophy-winning Classes. But now, he is gone from the game for good. We thank him for all the good memories, for the moments of glory he gave United fans, for the contribution to the development of English football, for the controversial rants and flying boots. And who can ever forget the fabled chewing gum that never got swallowed for 26 years.
As he rounded up his unrehearsed and inspirational speech to the Old Trafford faithfuls, he made one very unmistakable and resounding instruction in his managerial final Will and Testament – “[to the board, staff and fans] YOUR JOB NOW IS TO STAND BY YOUR NEW MANAGER.”
There has been a lot of anxiety over transfer market activities of David Moyes and his purported inexperience in reading the market correctly. This is only made purportedly more evident with the appointment of the seemingly inexperienced Ed Woodward, who was United’s former ace bean counter who is really just a couple of weeks older than Ryan Giggs. The nervous feeling is completely understandable; Moyes himself admitted that it has been a baptism of fire since his started his job at OT. Unfortunately for him, it is not going to get any easier. He has not even started. But what is a coach without the support of his players, his staff, his board or his fans?
Its is usually very difficult picking Fergie’s concentrated Glaswegian accent for Africans like us, but I knew Fergie wanted his message on “the new job” to be as clear as possible over the microphone to the fans in the stadium and across the world.
David Moyes is the new gaffer at Old Trafford. Fergie is never ever going to come back. The next time you will see Fergie at the stands from a close-up, he’ll be sitting up in the director’s box, looking stately and dignified like Sir Bobby Charlton always does. You won’t see him rush down the steps from the technical area to spray fire and spittle at the poor fourth official over a ref decision. No more players will likely have their hairline recede from his hair-drier treatment; perhaps no one will trade stories of boot-scars over with Beckham in the future.
Moyes is the new coach. Let us give him the benefit of the doubt Fergie wouldn’t leave his beloved United in a state he wasn’t sure they could build on, or give the management of the club to someone who didn’t fit the job. Over the years, the faithfuls criticized Fergie, but we gave him his way.
As a lover of music and poetry, I like to collect music and reflect on the lyrics and its application to life. Since I mentioned the great Frank Sinatra, who went through trials in quest for success and glory, his song “My Way” is a point of contemplation for every individual who has always wanted to make a difference borne out of need to succeed despite all odds, and with whom a lot of confidence has been entrusted.
I share the lyrics with you below:
“And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and ev’ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way,
“Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way”
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!
Yes, it was my way”
Let us do our new job. Let us allow Moyes do his thing.
Written by Victor Ilofuan