Salut! Sunderland, in common with other corners of the world of communication, may have given the impression in past coverage of Manchester United that it regards Sir Alex Ferguson as an ill-tempered, boorish bully who considers football a game to be played according exclusively to his rules, his timekeeping, his interpretation of a handsomely rewarded manager’s duty to talk to the public via the media and his preferences as to the outcome of all matches or competitions.
This, we now acknowledge, was an unjust and irrational assessment.
Far from possessing the least hint of an unworthy, unsportsmanlike philosophy, Sir Alex is a genius, the irreplaceable doyen of his trade and as generous and warm-spirited a human being as you are likely to encounter.
In recognition of the misleading and indefensible nature of past references to him, we have agreed to pay an appropriate sum, expressed in terms of a free Salut! Sunderland mug with its own special design, and this will be commissioned and then dispatched to Sir Alex as soon as he writes in to claim it.
Fact is that we believed much of that all along. Whatever reservation can fairly be held on matters of style, the substance speaks volumes for itself. Sir Alex is indeed a football manager whose record makes outstanding seem an inadequate adjective.
Not all non-Manchester United supporters hate Man Utd. As a boy, I cried when my mother told me the plane had crashed. I nearly cried again when Bolton Wanderers refused to accept the fairytale script and allow the survivors to win the cup. When United play in Europe, I want them to win. There is no need to make excuses or apologies to the babyish sections of MUFC support that decided to loathe Sunderland because of some harmless banter at the end of last season; when they win the league or domestic cups, I am happy to applaud.
And the constant factor in all the successes of the past quarter of a century – two Champions League triumphs, 13 Premier League titles and the FA Cup five times – has been Sir Alex, the manager for 27 years. That it might have been a reign lasting many fewer years, so close was he to being fired before winning his first trophy in 1990, is a sobering reminder of the fickle nature of football even then.
Salut! Sunderland, or this part of it, wishes therefore to withdraw the sarky start to this edition of How Dare We? marking his retirement at 71, pay generous tribute to one of the few figures of any sport to merit the term “legend” and express the hope that he enjoys a long and happy retirement with as much fine Burgundy and racehorsing pleasure as any man can fit into life.
See all Salut! Sunderland’s articles recalling May 5 1973 and the run that took SAFC to FA Cup glory: https://safc.blog/category/fa-cup/may-5-1973/
But we leave the last word of this article to a Manchester United supporter, Dom Raynor, editor of ESPNFC.com, in his excellent Who Are You? interview prior to the recent SAFC v MUFC game.
Q: Looking at SAF’s record, the footballing achievements are outstanding and the passion, even at the age he has reached, beyond question. Do you simply overlook the boorishness we also see in him as a price worth paying for his genius?
A: Everything he does is well calculated and so the pokes and jibes and boorishness are all part of the package that makes Manchester United a success. But he can also play it the other way and one of his most masterful performances was the press conference after Wayne Rooney handed in his transfer request when Fergie appeared shocked a dewy-eyed… Rooney signed a new deal shortly after. The success Fergie brings enables us the fans to overlook many things, but sometimes I have to laugh, as some of the utterances he comes out with are so ridiculous that even he must wince when saying them. However, I would hazard a guess that all the critics who claim they can’t stand Fergie would have him as manager of their club in a second, particularly if they could roll back the clock.
** Life With Sir Alex: buy it or anything else you need via the Salut! Sunderland Amazon link, Saves you, helps the site pay the bills …. go to http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0752883402/salusund-21 and navigate from there