By Iain McCartney.
It certainly does not seem like twenty five years since Aberdeen lost their coveted manager to Manchester United. Mind you, it doesn’t seem like that I have been married for twenty-six years, but that is another story!
If the Aberdonians found the departure of their manager hard to take, then those of Glasgow’s big two went out and had a few more drinks than usual to celebrate getting rid of the man who had caused them more sleepless nights than Tennants Lager onto the other side of Hadrian’s Wall. There were certainly no chorus of ‘Haste Ye Back’.
There were few celebrations in Manchester either, as no-one quite knew what the new manager would bring. There were of course a few smiles of satisfaction at boardroom level at Old Trafford, but even there, the appointment was accompanied with hope and not a guarantee.
I had actually seen Ferguson the player (probably the only season ticket holder at Old Trafford that can make that statement), turning out for St Johnstone and as a football loving youngster had also obtained his autograph. I had also witnessed what he had achieved with Aberdeen, but like everyone else had little idea of what lay in store on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal.
However, it didn’t take me long to realise that something was bubbling away in my adopted city and I ignored the ‘Fergie Out’ banners, gave Ralph Milne my 100% backing (and still do), as he was simply a stop gap and Fergie, like me, knew that with Dundee United he had been an able enough player.
I had no concerns when he waved goodbye to Hughes, Ince and the Russian. Better players had left before. After all, I had watched Man United strive to European Cup glory, scrap for First Division survival and plunge to the depths of the Second Division. I had also stood in the Leeds end, in hope more than fear, as our faint Championship hopes under Dave Sexton failed to materialise.
Whatever the future held, bring it on.
Would I ever see United win the championship again? I began to wonder when we were pipped by Leeds. But then, like a good wine or malt whisky, the correct blend had been found and it had slowly matured and was ready for everyone to taste and savour. Twenty-five years on, we are still drinking it and it tastes as good as ever.
Thankfully United have no record of hiring and firing, as who can imagine what we might have endured had the United board listened to the support as they had done with Dave Sexton. There would certainly be considerable empty space in the memories section of the old brain box.
Memories. That is what Sir Alex Ferguson has given us. We have endured dire ninety minutes, but they have certainly been outnumbered by the good times. Everyone will have their own and for everyone, we should say ‘Thanks Sir Alex’.
My wife knows that Barcelona in ’99 was the best night of my life. She understands. She has stood on the terraces with me. Celebrated Norman’s goal alongside me at Wembley in ’85. She can tolerate my ‘affair’. My daughter even goes now to worship at the feet of the maestro.
Who can forget the rainy night in Rotterdam, even those two semi-finals against Oldham at Maine Road that played their part in that European Cup Winners Cup Story. Brucie’s two goals in that dramatic afternoon against Sheffield Wednesday and the Blackburn Rovers game that was soon to follow.
Fortunately, I can relive the Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United story whenever I like, as I have a huge archive of newspaper reports and cuttings from the days of Newton Heath until now. It’s all there.
Oh, and I also have the programme from a young Alex Ferguson’s Scottish League debut for Queens Park against Stranraer. I got him to sign it and for once he was lost for words.
Unfortunately, he will not be sitting in the Old Trafford forever, my thoughts on that will keep to another day, but on Saturday afternoon, the stadium will rise as one as the grey haired figure in the black coat emerges from the bowls of the tunnel and makes his way down the pitch side, or will they give him a guard of honour? Quite possibly. It is then that all the memories will come flooding back and we can all say our thanks to the man who has given us so much.
Thank you Sir Alex for the past twenty-five years.
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