COMMENTARY | The greatest football manager of this generation, perhaps the greatest boss in the history of modern day professional sport, is set to bow out. It's possible that his replacement could be named before the end of the day.
Manchester United confirmed on Wednesday morning local time that Alex Ferguson will be retiring following the completion of the 2012-13 Premier League season. The club posted the following comments from Sir Alex on their official website: "The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time.
It was important to me to leave an organization in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so. The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one."
Ferguson went on to say: "Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both Director and Ambassador for the club. With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future."
Since Ferguson took over at United in 1986, the club has won a total of 38 trophies. The 13th and final Premier League title of his managerial career was clinched on April 22 of this year when United defeated Aston Villa 3-0 at Old Trafford. United also won Champions League twice under Sir Alex.
Assuming that certain reports are accurate, we already know who will replace Ferguson. Sky Sports News is reporting that current Everton manager David Moyes is in the "pole position" to take the gig. The Times went one step further on Wednesday afternoon local time, announcing the move as a done deal. Moyes, known for doing more with less while at Everton, is out of contract this summer.
The staggering numbers (it's regarded as a known fact and not an opinion that nobody will ever match Ferguson's successes) tell but a fraction of what Ferguson has meant to United and to world football. His eye for spotting and then getting the absolute best out of young talent, players with names such as Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, Rooney, and Ronaldo, helped make United more than just a top English side. They are a world famous brand, not to mention the most popular team on earth.
That, above everything else, may be Ferguson's most important contribution to the club. Through Ferguson, United have avoided the image held by other successful sports franchises located around the world. The championships won by the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees last decade are, for example, seen by many as titles that were bought instead of achievements earned. The same can be said about the run Manchester City enjoyed a year ago.
Nobody outside of "United haters," however, see dollar signs when they think of that club. They envision the famous red shirts and the smiling gray-haired grandfatherly figure lifting a trophy. Ferguson made United, whether supporters of other teams want to admit it or not, the club that you would want your top-flight franchise to be.
While trying to come up with an American equal to Ferguson, the name that popped into my mind ahead of the likes of Lombardi and Jackson was Hall of Fame baseball manager Connie Mack. Neither man was loved by all, but both commanded and earned the respect of their peers unlike any other boss before them; and maybe even after them, as well.
Perhaps most ironic about that association is that Mack was, during his tenure as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, much more Moyes than he was Ferguson.
It would be easy to be cynical about today's news. I could write about sponsorship deals and an ownership group that has what seems like an endless supply of money. To do so would be a disservice and a dishonor to a man who means so much to so many. There is unquestionably plenty wrong with modern football. Alex Ferguson doesn't even make my list of such issues.
He never will.
Zac has been covering Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, New York Red Bulls, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- Alex Ferguson
- Manchester United