Ferguson calls time on incredible legacy
Published: 08.05.13 / Written by: David Gold
Sir Alex Ferguson will go down in history as one of football’s greatest figures.
The Scot has left a remarkable legacy at Old Trafford after a long and illustrious career which has spanned over a quarter of a century.
Thirty eight trophies have been accumulated in that time, including 13 league titles. Two Champions League triumphs, five FA Cups, four League Cups, a Cup Winners Cup, World Club Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Inter Continental Cup and a number of charity shield victories have been lifted by Manchester United captains from Steve Bruce to Roy Keane, Gary Neville to Rio Ferdinand.
It is a remarkable, remarkable record.
That Ferguson will be one of the greatest managers ever to have been involved in the sport is beyond any shadow of doubt. What will be debated is precisely where he stands in history. Certainly none have had his capacity for longevity and reinvention. Rinus Michels left Ajax before their third successive European Cup. Johan Cruyff’s remarkable Dream Team could not save him from the sack at Barcelona after eight years. Pep Guardiola was only at Barcelona for only four years. Jose Mourinho seems incapable of remaining in the same place for more than three years, let alone manage a legacy of almost three decades. Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, Helenio Herrera, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Valeri Lobanovskiy, Guy Roux, Matt Busby, Ernst Happel, Marcello Lippi, Bela Guttman, Albert Batteux, Jose Villalonga, Brian Clough, Dettmar Cramer, Stefan Kovacs, Luis Carniglia Miguel Munoz, Arsene Wenger, Louis van Gaal, Arrigo Sacchi, Fabio Capello, Vincente del Bosque, Carlos Bilardo. Ferguson is part of an illustrious club.
Few can come close in longevity to Ferguson but one who comes nearer than most is the legendary Albert Batteux, who presided over Reims during their glorious era of the 1950s, when they were arguably the best team in Europe bar Real Madrid of course. Batteux was also key in St Etienne’s glorious period at the late 1960s which made them France’s most successful club.
Jose Villalonga, whose side denied Reims European Cup glory, presided over the glorious Real Madrid team of the late 1950s and early 1960s. His swashbuckling team were clearly the best team of their generation in world terms and they came to dominate the game.
There was Helenio Herrera, and then Jock Stein, won the European Cup with Inter and Celtic respectively, but neither could achieve sustained success in Europe. In that Ferguson ranks ahead of them, and with the likes of Carlo Ancelotti and Ottmar Hitzfeld, Rinus Michels, Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Dettmar Cramer, Stefan Kovacs, Luis Carniglia.
Also some managers who are distinctly average have won the European Cup – Tony Barton, Roberto di Matteo and Frank Riijkard for example, whilst others such as Arsene Wenger have never lifted the trophy. Therefore pure trophy counting will not suffice and does not do Ferguson justice. His team reached two more European Cup finals and dominated English football so thoroughly for over a decade, these factors have to be considered too.
But none can boast the same staying power as Ferguson, nor the ability to rebuild teams over and over again. Michels left Ajax after their first European Cup triumph. Real Madrid’s golden age was under a succession of managers. Johan Cruyff could not rebuild Barcelona, Louis van Gaal’s Ajax were broken up.
For that, Ferguson will rightly take up a place alongside the very greatest managers the game has produced. He arguably did not have the same impact on the game as Michels, or Cruyff, but his is a unique achievement in being able to rebuild so many times and remain at the very top of the game. For that, Ferguson may not quite be the greatest, but he certainly shares company with the best to have ever managed.