Football needs Sir Alex Ferguson

Cracking post by Henry Winter, one of football’s best and most respected journalists. Find the original post here.


However abrasive Sir Alex Ferguson can be, football needs Manchester United manager’s qualities.

Ferguson’s a fighter. Such men have their rough edges, their pointed elbows and ludicrous outbursts, but they also have their principles and prizes.

So as the camera focuses on him tonight as he glares from the technical area, willing his team to victory over Marseille, the viewer must consider certain truths about Ferguson often missed amid the cordite smoke.
Ferguson is a winner, a flawed genius and a national monument who deserves occasional protection from those intent on desecrating his reputation. The Manchester United manager’s actions can bring shame on the game and himself but Ferguson’s phenomenal achievements as a builder of teams, motivator of millionaires and relentless pursuer of trophies should always stir respect.
Sadly, if inevitably, one of the most fashionable pastimes is to pillory Ferguson. Admittedly, he makes it easy. His railing against referees is tiresome and causes problems down the ladder into the grass-roots. His rancour with the media is unnecessary and unfortunate because the multifaceted Scot is probably the best interview in town.
Ferguson is one of the most interesting men to be encountered in life, let alone football, even for those not fascinated by fine wines and thoroughbred horses. So here’s an unfashionable view. The game will miss Ferguson when he retires. Shorn of Ferguson, the landscape of English football would resemble the Himalayas without Everest. He will leave such a hole that even the Special One, Jose Mourinho, might take time to fill it.

Why? Simple. Few possess Ferguson’s hunger, his willingness to rise early every day to organise players, plot opponents’ downfall and travel around scouting teams and potential recruits. He’s a real football man and, like the sport itself, imbued with many positive qualities as well as negative.

Ferguson has soon to visit the FA to explain his recent inelegant comments about Martin Atkinson. He’ll probably receive a chunky ban, confined to the stands for four or more games, and he’ll deserve it.
Referees’ jobs are stressful and difficult enough without Ferguson chipping in. He needs to think about the ramifications of sulphurous remarks, to the game that rewards him so handsomely, to his club and to the referee.

After the FA beaks have handed down their punishment, let us hope they ask Ferguson if he has anything to say. He could point out that the FA lacks the sort of strong leadership he embodies. In times of adversity, as we’ve seen recently, Ferguson’s a far, far better manager than Arsène Wenger.

He could suggest that some gratitude is due from the FA for nurturing England players such as David Beckham and Paul Scholes, accelerating the development of Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Chris Smalling. His United academy has not produced many gems of late but Ferguson could have a little jewel in Ravel Morrison (if the attacking midfielder learns the demands and disciplines of being a pro).
Ferguson could advise the FA on how to build up an impressive stadium while enjoying success on the field. However painful he can be at times, English football needs the fighting spirit of Ferguson.