When the rumours about Sir Alex Ferguson retiring first surfaced on Twitter late on Tuesday evening, sparked by Daily Telegraph journalist Mark Ogden, I was sceptical.

CAPTION | Words. (Image | The Guardian)

End of an era | Some commentators have dubbed Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement the “fall of the footballing Berlin Wall”. (Image | The Guardian)

After all, Ferguson had planned to retire back in 2001, only to recant. The venerable Scot was such a fixture in British football that the thought of him no longer prowling the Old Trafford touchline, while incessantly chomping on a stick of chewing gum, seemed a too absurd a prospect to countenance.

During one press conference, Ferguson answered a question from a journalist querying how long he could go on managing for. Sir Alex said: “I’ll outlive all of you, that’s for sure.” While this was a sharp riposte, it was the sort of joke that appeared to have an inescapable truth at its centre.

To sum the man up is difficult, for we all remember Ferguson in different ways, but for me, there were always certain parallels between Sir Alex and Don Vito Corleone, the eponymous lead from The Godfather.

Although Fergie surely never put in phone calls to get somebody “whacked”, it seems fitting that one of the greatest football managers of all time bears a striking resemblance to one of the greatest film characters of all time.

For Ferguson also appeared to run his domain with the omnipotence of a Mafia don. Naturally, this is again only a metaphor, but it is true that he was in absolute control of what went on at Old Trafford. Were anyone in a position to undermine this dominance? I think that Don Corleone put it rather well.

Yet in my view, the primary reason as to why Ferguson enjoyed such success was that every decision he made was geared towards a single aim, which was to win trophies for Manchester United.

Whether tweaking formations and playing styles, selling established players, placing his trust in young starlets, refreshing the coaching staff, playing mind games and even supporting the questionable Glazer regime, it was all to win, and keep winning.

Part of why I still find it hard to accept that Fergie is finally finished as a manager is that without realising, he has been one of the sturdy, enduring figures of my life growing up. Much like the Queen, or Margaret Thatcher.

I may not always, or ever, have liked them, but they were always there. Interestingly, both figures often proved to be a bane to the people of Liverpool.

Despite vacillating on Ferguson the man, I was unwavering on Ferguson the manager. There is no club that would not have wanted him in charge. I remember United scoring a crucial late goal during the title run-in last season. Martin Tyler, commentating, exclaimed: “Manchester United do NOT. LET. GO!”

His is a line that could just as easily apply to Sir Alex, and many of the quotes that we will be certain to hear on Ferguson could similarly apply to Manchester United, as they are two entities completely indivisible from each other.

No wonder some people are finding Ferguson’s decision to retire so tough to accept, because he has been in charge of the Red Devils for over a quarter of a century.

He was a man who always had to have the last word, so it is appropriate that this post should end by paraphrasing the great man, using perhaps his greatest quote of all. Sir Alex Ferguson’s retired, bloody hell.

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