Happy birthday Sir Alex, have a great day

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A statue of Sir Alex Ferguson outside Old Trafford. AFP Photo

Paul Kennedy

It’s wrong really to abuse my position as a columnist with Việt Nam News for my own personal gain. But what the hell… It’s Christmas after all.

I’m going to take this opportunity to dedicate my column this week to wish a happy 80th birthday to someone I know very well indeed. Someone I’ve been close to for the past 35 years, a man I admire a great deal, even though really and truly, I should detest him.

Eighty years ago today, on Shieldhall Road in the Govan district of Glasgow, Scotland, Alexander Chapman Ferguson was born. He would go on to become the greatest manager football has ever seen.

As a Liverpool fan, Sir Alex was a constant thorn in my side. When he took over at Old Trafford in 1986, Liverpool were far and away the top team in England.

Ferguson pledged to ‘knock Liverpool off their perch’ and over the next decade he did just that, and more besides.

After a slightly uneasy start to his career with Manchester United, he went on to dominate English football for decades.

During his 27-year tenure as United boss, players came and went, teams changed, and tactics were tweaked and adapted as football evolved in the 90s and early 2000s, but the one thing that remained constant was that Ferguson produced winning teams time after time.

I won’t list the trophies he won during his reign at United, I don’t have enough space. But it’s safe to say no one will ever come close to repeating his success.

I’ve never met him, but I’ve been in the same room as him numerous times during post-match press conferences when I covered Premier League games way back when. There’s an aura about him that’s difficult to explain. It’s a combination of fear and the utmost respect.

I’m guessing at his home in Cheshire in the UK today, he’ll be celebrating turning 80 with probably a glass of red wine or maybe even a whiskey. I’m going to be marking his birthday by watching Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In, a documentary made about his life that was released earlier this year.

In the trailer, it talks about how after he suffered a heart attack a few years ago, his main concern was losing his memory, and not being able to remember what an amazing life he has led.

And while obviously I never want that to happen, if he does become a little forgetful in his old age, as we all do, there are plenty of reminders for him.

Like the statue that is placed of him outside Old Trafford.

Another is being built for the Pittodrie Stadium where he managed Aberdeen FC, or the road named in his honour, Sir Alex Ferguson Way, close to Manchester United’s ground.

I don’t think it’s any surprise that since he retired from Manchester United, the team has suffered. Any football club, or any company for that matter, will always struggle to replace a great leader.

And that’s truly what Fergie was, a great, great leader.

I know he’ll never read what I’ve written, and I know he doesn’t even care. But I’d just like to say, happy birthday Sir Alex…. I hope there are many more to come. VNS

Trailer for the documentary about Sir Alex Ferguson.

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