If you’re a football fan and follow Manchester United with some degree of visibility, it is certain you’ve been asked, in so many words, ‘how do you feel?’
There will be those who overreact, carrying on in a manner that’ll furrow brows and compel you to expel deep, disgusted and dumbstruck breaths.
They’ll say stuff like they’ve been vomiting and shaking uncontrollably. Don’t worry yourself about their well-being, they’re not suffering a very serious ailment that probably requires urgent medical attention, they simply don’t realise grief, shock and surprise is not a competition.
You know the sort of fan we can expect that behaviour from.
As for me?
I’m not sad, not at all.
I’ve complete control of my nervous system, faculties and the porcelain need not fear a visit from my freshly digested dinner.
I feel incredibly proud and privileged to have lived through Ferguson’s tenure and full of nothing but respect and gratitude for what he has brought me personally, my Club and fellow fans. That it coincided with the most spectacular, sustained and incomparable era of success a sports team has ever experienced is no fluke or coincidence.
We needn’t go through his achievements, publications around the world will waste column inches telling us what we already know and appreciate.
They’ll attempt to contextualise or compare him with others in the same caper.
The only thing worth indulging in is the opinions and comments of those who worked with and played under him.
Their praise is celebration enough of a man with genuine claim to the title of ‘Greatest of All-Time’.
I’m not alone in saying that Ferguson hasn’t so much defined as quite legitimately been Manchester United in my years following the Club.
It’s a role he earned and a position he dominated from, changing the landscape of football in Britain and re-introducing it to the world following years of controversy and negativity.
I saw a quote recently that said “everything ends badly, or else it wouldn’t end” – Ferguson goes out with a 13th title, a 20th overall for the club.
He goes on his terms and at his time, with us wanting more from him. It mirrors the departure of Fergie’s most crucial and influential worker in a lot of ways, the enigmatic Frenchman Eric Cantona.
It was without warning and before plenty were ready that he said goodbye to Old Trafford, and so it is for Fergie.
As for who will be the first after Fergie?
Well, everyone has an opinion.
For me it can only be one man.
Ferguson has been a source and pillar of great comfort for United fans, footballs equivalent of the security blanket. He has ridden out every storm and risen above and beyond every challenge. He’s been the sharpshooter in the saloon that has seen off every upstart looking to make a name for themselves by knocking him off. He who steps into the job could quite quickly become the first in what could quite easily become a vacuous breach should he prove unable to take the hits levelled at him.
From our point of view it’s tough to not consider the following: how do you replace the best ever? From a man who demanded and deserved unwavering faith and trust we turn to those who must now get this call right. Liverpool are where they are because they’ve scarcely gotten the call right when the hard decision had to be made. They’ve been too clever by half and taken unnecessary risks – hiring the unproven to deliver the sorts of success they’ve never really experienced as a manager.
The role demands a certain type who can handle its rather rare requirements.
It demands the sort who has a track record of winning the trophies we’ve been winning. Who has a cabinet lined with the medals we have collected.
He has to be acutely aware of and prepared to embrace the skepticism, comparisons and impatience of those who’ll lazily compare him to the man he has the unenviable task of replacing. He has to be his own man and establish his own character.
The sort who has treated or believed 4th place to be a trophy needn’t apply. The Club needs a manager that will act as a sort of buffer between Sir Alex and the next generation of United manager. It’s not that he needs to fail for the job to become easier, not at all, he simply has to perform in a manner that clears history and sentiment from their path.
This is a post that hasn’t been available for longer than I’ve drawn breath. For the manager searching the want ads there has always been the possibility of jobs at powerhouse clubs like Real Madrid, Liverpool, Milan et al if they bide their time. But never United. What was not beyond the realms of possibility for some managers with the dream or ambition of taking charge of Europe’s elite was simply out of the question if they were interested in United.
If you’re a premium wine dealer in the Trafford area I hope you’re about to sell a bottle so expensive the name and price tag is simply vulgar each and every week. There’s a glass or two that needs to be consumed in the wake of wins between two old friends, once enemies, now co-workers.
Come the final whistle at the Hawthorns we’ll never again see his typically unique but equally awkward celebration that greets a goal, or the comically aghast gesticulation that was reserved for the near miss or misbehaving player.
The Greater Manchester vendors of chewing gum will likely take a hit, with the economy Fergie single handedly propped up likely to come on hard times.
He’ll no longer have to check his watch with quite so much angst or regard for what the timepiece has to say. Players will no longer fear the hair dryer and fans will have to get used to a door on the manager’s office that oscillates at a tick above once every quarter of a century.
The one quite poignant and inescapably but unavoidably dormant sight that’ll sit there, just waiting to be seen? The image that will strike the world as more than unusual and inspire a generous sprinkling of uncertainty? Come opening day 2013/14 there will, for the first time since 1986, be someone else in the manager’s chair at Manchester United.
There is nothing more to say than four very simple words: Thank you, Sir Alex.