Friday, May 10, 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson's Legacy Beyond the Pitch

      Sir Alex Ferguson is retiring after 27 seasons behind the Manchester United touchline. Without his runaway successes with the Red Devils over those 27 seasons, it's quite possible that I never would have been introduced to the Premier League, so I owe him a (small) personal debt of gratitude. On the pitch, his dynasty teams have defined the Premier League, and later European football and made Manchester United the team of the world. The football world of 2013 is amazingly different from that of 1986, but Sir Alex has managed to keep his same style and approach to the game while adapting to the new trends and vanquishing every possible understudy in becoming the next dynasty.

  Sir Alex was charged with bringing back the glory days of Sir Matt Busby and the Busby babes when he took over in 1986, and somehow he's surpassed that legacy and left one larger. His list of great teams is large and extensive, and if I somehow wrote about every one of them, this piece would be 10,000 words long. From his first double winning side with Eric Cantona, the treble winning side of 1999, to the Champions League winners of 2008, Manchester United have never been too far away from having a side that will be remembered in history.

   Sir Alex's eye for talent and taking risks also was amazing. The aforementioned Eric Cantona, purchasing Andy Cole, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo, and the list could go on in perpetuity. But even when the sum of the parts might not have been as strong as Newcastle, Arsenal, Chelsea, or now Manchester City had, his teams were always better, and even when they didn't win a trophy, United were always prepared to make a move so that they'd win another trophy or title.

  The best quality of the Sir Alex Ferguson Manchester United sides has been the ability to beat back their nearest challenger who wanted to become the next Manchester United, or dynasty side. No matter how stark the arrival to the scene, United would always gain the upper hand eventually. Whether it was the mid 90's Newcastle United squads, then Arsene Wenger's Arsenal teams including the Invincibles, to Jose Mourinho's upstart double champion Chelsea teams that immediately followed, or now the noisiest of the noisy neighbors at Manchester City, Manchester United always have fought back against the formation of new dynasties by stamping their own print right after, even if the United squad isn't all that glamorous.

  David Moyes, a great manager in his own right, has the unenviable task of replacing Sir Alex. Whether he is in fact the manager to lead United forward into a new era is debatable, and whether he will be able to live up to the standards at Manchester United is also debatable, and will be seen in the near future. There is no doubt though, that Moyes has incredibly large shoes to fill, and the legacy of trophies and dynasties will always stay at Manchester United no matter how much success he has in the dugout. But the legacy of Sir Alex Ferguson goes way beyond the pitch at Old Trafford, or even England.

  It's at my keyboard, and with the many children around the world wearing a Manchester United kit, because of what Sir Alex has done. He's made English football the global standard, and no one can replicate that.

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