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Alex Ferguson – Thanks, mostly. Sort of.

Submitted by on May 10, 2013 – 9:55 pmNo Comment

FergusonFingersI belong to a generation of Manchester United fans who just about remember United being shit. For the most part, granted, we have enjoyed nothing but the attacking, trophy winning teams of Alex Ferguson. We have been blessed with phenomenal football and more great memories from single Ferguson sides – of which he’s created quite a few – than most football fans will get from a lifetime following their club. If you’ve managed to get your head around exactly what that man created then you’re doing better than me. It’ll take a while to fully sink in. It may take until David Moyes’ first press-conference.

When United lost a derby 5-1 at Maine Road in September 1989 it took over five years for that pain to go away. Well, for us school-age Reds it did. Five long years of blue taunts and, despite us winning derbies in between, that scoreline kept haunting us until 1994 when we put five past them at Old Trafford in November and they finally shut the fuck up. By contrast, City scored six at Old Trafford 18-months ago and it barely gets a mention. It doesn’t matter. Yes, it was horrible, of course it was, but it was forgotten because derbies under Ferguson have become just two games a season. Two important games, no doubt, but just two games amongst fifty or sixty-odd others which make up United’s bid to win everything going, which was a dream usually over by Christmas before the early 1990’s

Those derbies are no more important than two games against Liverpool, which we all want United to win but are no longer the end of the world if they don’t. And that for me is how best to evaluate Alex Ferguson’s time at Manchester United – a shift in expectation and belief that there are bigger prizes to win than local games and greater and more fitting stages than Anfield and Maine Road. We could never have got our heads around that after losing 5-1 at Maine Road or 4-0 at Anfield pre-1993. He leaves United with us fans gutted not to make finals rather than glad we got as far as the semis. It is an astonishing transformation and a reign that will never be matched by anyone ever again.

He’s not without criticism though. His behaviour at times has not been befitting of a great man. A great manager, of course, but only the most staunch Fergiephile could hold him up as a truly great man. Some of us are and will forever be upset and disappointed (to put it mildly) that neither Ferguson nor his debt-fearing mate, Gill, did anything to prevent our football club ending up in the hands the Glazer family. Worse still was his snubbing of anyone who questioned the owners, especially us mard-arse “United FC” lot, or his continual defence of Malcolm and his lads at every opportunity when we could all see that they were bad for United. The man who feared no one in football was, in the eyes of many, reduced to a boss’s man and an apologist for their withdrawal of hundreds of millions of pounds of our club’s money.

There are other unanswered questions about Ferguson, like his often odd transfer dealings, the involvement of his son in some of those and his association with Magnier and McManus, which left no one in any doubt that a fair amount of shit had to be swept under a Wilmslow carpet. They’re a blot on his time at United, as is the way he behaved to some of the press and media, and because football is more than just 90 minutes of kicking a ball about, for some of us it will forever be tarnished. A balanced assessment of Ferguson’s time at United, as fantastic as it was to watch, can’t ignore the not-insignificant negatives. Still, we could’ve ended up with Terry Venables, George Graham or Graham Taylor, eh.

As journalists cease fawning over him to sell papers, I’m sure they’ll start to turn on him to achieve the same end, but that’ll come after Moyes’ honeymoon period is over. For now though, as a United fan this is a time to remember the many unbelievable experiences that we had following Ferguson’s teams. I was fourteen when United won the League in 1993, twenty when Solskjaer secured the treble in 1999 and twenty nine when John Terry missed a penalty to hand United their 3rd European Cup in Moscow. We’ve seen and done more along the way than fans of any other team could ever contemplate and it was made so by Ferguson. I wish you’d done something to keep those Americans away from our club but for all the good things you did do for United – thanks.

Ferguson Sevens…

Here are A Fine Lung’s 7 unforgettable, non-trophy-winning United moments under Ferguson;

  1. Old Trafford – United v Liverpool – League, New Year’s Day 1989

Champions Liverpool had won the league by 9-points from United the previous season. John Barnes put Liverpool ahead in front of a Scouse-packed Scoreboard Paddock. A minute later and with 20 to go, Russell Beardsmore went on a great run into the Liverpool box, crossed for McClair who volleyed in and we were level. Hughes put United in front a few minutes later and a Beardsmore volley sealed the win. Outside, people celebrated like we’d won the League. We didn’t, of course, but beating them meant everything.

  1. Villa Park – Aston Villa v United – FA Cup, January 2002

Whoever had the idea of playing an FA Cup game at 7pm on a Sunday at Villa Park is either a genius or a moron, depending on whether you’re talking to West Midlands Police or a United fan. United were 2-0 down and seemingly going out when Solskjaer gave us hope on 77 minutes. Following a brilliant volleyed equaliser from Van Nistelrooy, Reds behind the goal and along the Doug Ellis Stand spilled onto the pitch to celebrate with the United team. Seeing how easy it was to get on, hundreds did likewise when Ruud rounded Schmeichel in the Villa net to win the game. It was a breath-taking end to the game and debate still rages as to whether there were more people arrested that night than attended the Stone Roses’ gig at Spike Island.

  1. Maine Road – League, November 1993

A few days after an embarrassing European Cup exit to Galatasaray, United went to Moss Side and were two Niall Quinn goals down at half time. “Two nil up and you fucked it up…” sang delighted blues behind the Kippax at half time as they threw Turkish Delights over the fence at United fans. The song and the confectionary came their way after the final whistle. Cantona scored two to level the game and Roy Keane slid in at the far post to win it in front of hundreds of United fans who had tickets in the Platt Lane end. “Two nil up and you fucked it up, City is your name…”

  1. St James Park – League, March 1996

United were under massive pressure from Keegan’s Newcastle in what was billed as a title decider. In reality, there was loads of work still to do, much of which Cantona did himself, but it tipped things in United’s favour. United were second best throughout the game and it is easy to imagine how a Newcastle win would’ve given them the belief they could get the title. Instead, Cantona’s goal was a huge psychological blow, not least of all for Keegan, who ended the season ranting on live TV before seeing United lift the trophy at Boro. We loved it, Kev.

  1. White Hart Lane – Spurs v United – League, September 2001

Probably one of the best-remembered United comebacks under Ferguson. When Ziege put Spurs 3-0 up before half time more than a handful of United fans left the ground dismayed. A completely different United team came out of the second half and dismantled Spurs. Andy Cole started the fightback and Laurent Blanc made it 3-2 with still over half an hour to play. Ruud got the equaliser and Veron and Beckham sealed the win. It was as rampant a 45 minutes as most of us there had ever seen and pure United.

  1. Villa Park – Arsenal v United – FA Cup, April 1999

Keane’s sending off, Schmeichel’s penalty save and one of the greatest goals ever scored. This tie needs no more description. “I’d be happy if we feel like this a week today” said a good mate of mine as we left Villa Park. A week later we played Juventus in Turin…

  1. Turin – European Cup Semi, April 1999

Losing to Dortmund in the semi two years earlier and then losing Cantona had haunted me. To be 2-0 down against the mighty Juventus with just 15 minutes gone brought back all that pain. We needed to score three away from home against one of Europe’s elite. The dream was over. Again. No single goal has changed the complexion of a European tie more so than Roy Keane’s glancing header to make it 2-1. United visibly grew with that goal. Yorke equalised before half time and a solid second half was rewarded with an Andy Cole winner to take us to that final against Bayern. They kept us locked in for an hour afterwards and it was our own private party – “we’re all off to sunny Spain, to see Man United…”

 

 

 

 

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