There are only a handful of things that are certain in the world that we live in: The sun rising in the day and falling in the evening, the fact that the number two comes after the number one, and so on and so forth. One of the other certainties in life -- for someone of my age at least -- was taken away from us on Wednesday.
The prying inevitability that one day, everyone retires, just did not come into our rationale upon hearing the news that Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United's greatest ever manager, will be leaving the game come the end of the season. The rumours circulated on Tuesday night; some people believed them, yet the majority of the fans I saw put it past 'Fergie' to go out this way. Sure, the title is wrapped up, but you always got the sense that Ferguson wanted to go out with the trophy in which he coveted the most: The UEFA Champions League. Instead, on a Wednesday morning, most of us found out about his retirement via Manchester United's new official twitter account -- a good boost for the accounts followers, that's for sure.
In a way, it almost serves as a reflection of the man: it is not about the past for him, it is about the future. It has always been a mantra by which he's managed these Manchester United teams so well; careful planning of the future, the blooding through of youngsters. We see the fruits of it now. Phil Jones, Rafael, Chris Smalling, David De Gea, Danny Welbeck. All young starlets that under the tutelage of Sir Alex, have not only emerged as competent Premier League players, but have won Premier League titles. They are champions. No-one can ever take that away from them. Surrounding his young vibrant players, Ferguson has carefully splashed doses of experience: I'm looking at Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra, the re-born Rio Ferdinand to name a few.
Ferguson knows the perfect blend between continuity and change. Between youth and experience. Between "shutting up shop" and "going for broke". When to keep a player and when to let them go. We all know about Fergie's splashes in the transfer market - most recently the acquisition of Arsenal frontman Robin Van Persie - but the way in which he has kept around the senior players that won him his first Premier League title is not only admirable, but serves as a model that clubs - including my own - should follow. Sure, there have been times where Ryan Giggs' lack of pace and energy have cost United the three points, but there are other times when his nous and experience has come up trumps. I'm thinking of the Manchester derby, in which Ryan Giggs' stoppage-time pass to Michael Owen sealed not only the game, but put the Red Devils on course for the Premier League title that year.
Like anyone, Ferguson had his detractors and his weaknesses as a manager. He spent his later years neglecting the central-midfield area of his team, when it was clearly the area that needed the most strengthening. There are the times in which he's criticised and disrespected referees (Phil Dowd, anyone?) and I'm sure it will be addressed in the future, but at this moment, wherever your footballing allegiances lie, we owe him some respect. It is hard to argue with his résumé: 13 titles, two Champions League crowns, five FA Cups and four League Cups. However, those numbers do not speak of the dominance he has achieved, and the winning mentality that is now instilled and will be forever associated with Manchester United Football Club.
Like many, I've never been the biggest 'Fergie Fan'. I find his attitude toward referees and other antics as sometimes classless. However, on the pitch, his United teams have far surpassed anything we have ever seen. The man from Glasgow has taken Manchester United, and turned them into a dynasty. The like of which me won't see again, especially with the rate at which managers are disposed of in today's game. If he wasn't around, my Arsenal team would probably have more Premier League titles than they currently do.
Think of all the players that have learned from Ferguson and have now become managers, pundits and figures in football. Gary Neville, for example, is widely seen as the best pundit in England. His wealth of knowledge and insight comes from years with Sir Alex. Steve Bruce, Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Bryan Robson among others have all landed coaching jobs after playing for the Scottish manager. That speaks volumes.
Where do United go from here? Fans will be upset, players will be too, but Sir Alex wouldn't have left the club if it wasn't in stable hands and had a good plan in place. Fergie will stay around as a club director and ambassador. Whilst it is undoubtedly deserved, it will create a huge looming shadow over whoever takes the hot-seat.
And for me, there is only one man big enough for the job, at this current moment: Jose Mourinho.
Sure, he may not provide the stability of Sir Alex - few will - but his persona is the only one gargantuan enough to fill the void of Ferguson. After Mourinho has a reign in charge, you can start planning longer-term, as United like to do, but I just feel "The Special One" would provide a transition to a "Post-Fergie Era" that few could.
However, it seems as though Manchester United will be replacing one Scotsman with another--in the form of David Moyes. It is awfully early to comment on the Moyes reign, but it must be said: his name isn't one that will fill United fans with excitement. David Moyes has won nothing of note during his spell at Goodison Park, yet is often commended for the way in which he squeezes a lot out of a squad constructed on a tight budget. Is this really what Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United deserve?
Alas, the analysis and chatter involving the beginning of Moyes' spell at Old Trafford will be rife in the coming weeks, it is time to remember the legend that built the house that Moyes will talk into in the summer.
The word legend is overused in football and sports in general, but it doesn't quite describe Sir Alex Ferguson aptly. It is not hyperbolic to call him the greatest manager ever. He is a bastion of English football; an icon. You will be missed, Sir Alex.