Its hard to sum up what today has felt like to be a Manchester United supporter. In fact its been a hell of a week! But today, which was supposed to be a celebration of our 20th English top flight title, evolved into something on an entirely different level. Because today was Old Trafford’s final farewell to two of its favourite sons, Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Scholes.
Sir Alex’s retirementAfter 26 and a bit years at the helm of my football club, Sir Alex Ferguson bid farewell to Old Trafford after 1499 games in charge (He’ll make it 1500 next weekend). Everyone knows what an impact he’s had on the club since he took over from ‘Big’ Ron Atkinson back in 1986. 38 trophies including 13 leagues and 2 European Cups. That was the stuff of Liverpool folklore when I first supporting the red half of Manchester, and Fergie brought us back to the front of English football, making us the biggest football team in the world in the process. He’s spoiled modern-day United fans to the point where I don’t think they’ll cope with his departure. He’s all a generation has ever known, not to mention the success that will surely never be repeated. As they have been pushing for the past week, he made the impossible dream possible.
Farewell ScholesyIf that wasn’t enough, Paul Scholes also called time on his fabled career (for a second time) as he struggled to regain his fitness from a series of knee injuries. England’s most under-rated player by English fans, he never did quite get the recognition he deserved in his homeland. Europe is a different matter, with the likes of Zinadine Zidane, Xavi and Andreas Iniesta all rating him as the best player they ever played against. He will forever be remembered by the fans at Old Trafford for his amazingly accurate passing, control of the midfield, unbelievable eye for goal and blatant disregard for the art of tackling. We he was in his pomp, my friends and I used to joke that if Scholes didn’t get booked in the first ten minutes of a game we’d probably lose. Even in his mid thirties he was still the lynchpin of our midfield and he’ll be a tough act to replace. I’ll never forget his goal against Bradford, his hat-trick against Newcastle or his blinder against Barca in the Champions League semi-final! The ginger prince, always adored.
The celebrationsAs Fergie walked onto the pitch pre-game, Old Trafford was truly a sea of red as the whole stadium waved ‘Champions’ flags in his honour. The atmosphere was electric for the whole 90 minutes, despite a dismal game which truly took a back seat from what was an emotional roller coaster of an afternoon. When Rio Ferdinand grabbed the winner in the last few minutes, it seemed perfect that one of Fergie’s best ever signings popped up when needed and scored his first goal in five years. His celebrations showed exactly what scoring the winner in an otherwise meaningless game meant to him. Then it was time for Fergie’s speech, and in true Fergie fashion, he made it all about the club and his wife. He thanked everyone for the support he’s had throughout his career and spoke about his wife, Cathy, and her amazing support over the last 47 years. He gave a special message to Darren Fletcher and wished him well in his recovery. And most pleasingly for me, he took a moment to ask the fans to give his successor, David Moyes, the same time that he had to bring success to the football club. Always thinking of the club to the bitter end. Finally it was time for the title to be lifted, the medals to be dished out and the players celebrate on the pitch. An brilliant end to an emotional day.
The future?So where does the club go from here? A new manager for the first time in over a quarter of a century in David Moyes, who is tasked not only with the guidance of the biggest club in the world, but succeeding the greatest manager ever. The daggers will be out for him from the start, and if he doesn’t win anything in his first season there will be a section of our support who turn on him. Luckily, I just about remember the 80’s when it wasn’t all league titles and European adventures. The majority of true United fans will give him time, give him the chance to succeed, because that’s what we do at the club. The question at the moment though is will he have to do it all without Wayne Rooney, who has again thrown a transfer request in at Old Trafford. His time is seemingly up and I hope we can get top dollar for him to aid the acquisition of his replacement. Because the club is bigger than any one man, its bigger than Wayne Rooney, bigger than Paul Scholes and bigger than Sir Alex Ferguson. We will keep the red flag flying high above the great city of Manchester, because Manchester United will never, ever die.
#HADOKEN #sifesundays #ecnationals
Not a Superman fan but looking forward to this latest reboot