Wed, May 14, 2008 - Page 20 News List

United titles inspire Ferguson to carry on

AP , LONDON

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, left, holds the trophy after winning the English Premier League following his team's 2-0 win against Wigan in their English Premier League soccer match at JJB Stadium, Wigan, England, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

Move over, Sir Alex, and give someone else a chance.

Aren't 10 Premier League titles in 16 years enough? And, at age 66, aren't your arms tired from lifting 21 trophies in 22 seasons at Old Trafford?

Why not call it a day if Manchester United beats Chelsea in next week's Champions League final? What a way to go out that would be.

But Alex Ferguson isn't ready to retire. Not this season, and probably not next.

In fact, bookmakers William Hill are saying it's even odds that Fergie will still be at Old Trafford at the end of the 2011-2012 season and only 7-1 that United will have added three more league titles by then.

It's not that there aren't any suitable replacements for Ferguson.

Blackburn's Mark Hughes, Wigan's Steve Bruce, Sunderland's Roy Keane, Birmingham's Alex McLeish, Celtic's Gordon Strachan and Milton Keynes' Paul Ince all played under Ferguson, and his current assistant, Carlos Queiroz, would be another candidate.

Rangers' Walter Smith and former England coach Steve McClaren also had spells as his assistant at Old Trafford.

But they're not the ones hoping for him to step down.

Arsenal's Arsene Wenger, Chelsea's Avram Grant and Liverpool's Rafa Benitez would likely prefer him to walk off into the retirement sunset, too, because United without Ferguson wouldn't be the same force.

Although Arsenal and Chelsea have won titles during Ferguson's long reign at Old Trafford, Liverpool hasn't added to its record of 18 championships since 1990.

Now, United is one short of that record and that's one of the reasons Ferguson wants to stay around.

He recalls what it was like when he arrived at Old Trafford in 1986. Although it had won the FA Cup two seasons before, United had not won the league since 1967.

"Obviously I had to build a team when I came to the club. A lot of big, big decisions were made at the time and we cleared the decks," said the former Aberdeen manager, who broke the Celtic-Rangers monopoly in Scottish soccer by guiding the Dons to two league titles and a Cup Winners' Cup triumph over Real Madrid.

"There was no structure of winning anything. It was a baseless team in the sense there were no trophies to tell players about and nothing to defend -- so that was hard work."

The son of a shipbuilding worker in Glasgow, Ferguson knew all about hard work and expected it would take time to forge a team capable of winning titles.

He was close to getting fired when three seasons passed without a title until an FA Cup triumph in 1990 started the wave of trophies that began to flow regularly into Old Trafford.

Although he inherited stars such as Hughes and Bryan Robson, Ferguson got the best out of the likes of Keane, Bruce, Ince, Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel. He introduced teenage stars David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville.

Now Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez enrich an already talented lineup and United has won two league championships in a row.

The result has been title after title and United fans are happy to gloss over flops such as Juan Sebastian Veron, Laurent Blanc, Fabien Barthez, Kleberson, Diego Forlan and Louis Saha.

Hostile toward most newspaper reporters, Ferguson refuses to attend post-game interviews and has boycotted the BBC for years over reports alleging his agent son was taking kickbacks. He fell out with Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy. But he neatly sidestepped the fans' fierce opposition to the 2005 takeover by Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer and his family and has rewarded the new owners with two league titles.

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