WASHINGTON, May 8, 2013 — After 26 years coaching one of the biggest sporting clubs in the world and winning 38 trophies, Manchester United’s coach Alex Ferguson is stepping down. The news of Ferguson’s retirement on Wednesday stunned the soccer world and the sports world in general.
His success at United, including winning his 13th Premier League title this season, turned the club into a huge sporting franchise, becoming the first sports team in the world with a $3 billion valuation according to Forbes. United is now valued at more than franchises like the New York Yankees, Real Madrid, the Washington Redskins, and the Dallas Cowboys. The club, which is owned by the American Glazer family, has an estimated 650 million fans worldwide.
Ferguson’s influence was felt on the New York Stock market where United’s shares dropped by 5% when the markets opened today at the announcement of his retirement.
The 71-year-old is arguably the greatest coach ever in sport and his achievements will likely never be bettered. Ferguson, who will remain with the club as a director and ambassador, endured year after year at the highest level of the game, winning 13 league championships, two UEFA Champions League titles, five F.A. Cups, and four League Cup titles. Ferguson helped make United England’s greatest team (20 titles), eclipsing Liverpool (18 titles). Liverpool still has five European titles to United’s three.
Love him or loath him, the fact that Ferguson lasted so long at the top, winning so much of the time in a tough sport environment where coaches are fired on a whim, is stunningly amazing.
“It was important to me to leave an organization in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so,” said Ferguson in a statement.
Everton coach David Moyes leads in the betting to replace Ferguson. There is a belief that Moyes, a fellow Scotsman from the Glasgow’s area, is cut from the same cloth as Ferguson, with a competitive spirit and intense work ethic. That said, Moyes has failed to win a trophy with Everton in the past 11 years and has little experience at playing games in European competitions.
Ferguson’s greatest moment, likely came when United scored two goals in injury-time to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 at the 1999 UEFA Champions League final.
He was an imperial ruler at United, controlling many aspects of the club. No star player was bigger than Ferguson. He could be ruthless and confrontational with coaches, players, referees, and journalists. But Ferguson was also a humble man from humble roots and worked harder than anyone, arriving at the club a 7 a.m. every day.
“He would treat the groundsman and the tea lady as he would his star forward,” said Hull coach Steve Bruce, who played under Ferguson.
Ferguson developed a successful youth system at the club, which produced players like David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Robbie Savage, and Gary and Phil Neville.
In his early days at United, Ferguson had to fight and scratch to build the club. In his first four seasons he won nothing and there are stories that he was close to being fired after an eight-game losing streak during the 1989-90 season. But Ferguson survived and never looked back.
He is known as being a driven and passionate man with a temper that is quite ferocious and has been dubbed his “hairdryer treatment.” He once kicked a soccer cleat at David Beckham, which left the player with a cut above the eye.
Before he joined United in 1986, Ferguson earned success with Scottish club Aberdeen, winning ten titles, including a European Cup Winners Cup, something which would be unbelievable now.
His shoes are impossible to fill, and the question is, can United be the same club without him?
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email email@example.com
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