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Sir Alex Ferguson – one of a kind.

I’m used to listening to my friends regale me with tales of their football club’s managerial woes. Whether it’s O’Neill in or Hodgson out, the twisted world of modern football doesn’t appear to lend itself to stability.

One minute my pal’s beloved Sheffield Wednesday are Alan Irvine’s blue and white army, the next minute they’re Gary Megson’s barmy army. If I supported Middlesbrough I’d still only be recovering from Gordon Strachan’s time in charge and if the misfortune of being a Leicester city fan was bestowed upon me I wouldn’t have a clue if my team would even have a manager in the morning – never mind who it might be. Even if I supported the filthy rich Chelsea my head would still be spinning from a post-Mourinho hangover and legion of pretenders who have failed to fit the special one’s crown.

Not many football fans can say they’ve only ever known their club to have one manager. My mate who follows Crewe Alexandra, if he’s not too busy painting ‘Gradi Out’ on an industrial sized bed-sheet, has been a rare recipient of a lifetime of managerial consistency. Most Arsenal fans of our generation were too busy rolling around in nappies to know who George Graham was and have been weaned on a diet of Arsene Wenger.

Yet nobody has been afforded the privilege Manchester United fans of our vintage have enjoyed.

For 25 years Sir Alex Ferguson has been the only man to roll with the punches on football’s journey from the murky, hooligan-ridden late eighties to the corporate, prawn sandwich-munching 21st Century.

For 25 years he has adapted and thrived in front of an ever-changing backdrop, cultivating one of football’s greatest dynasties.

A European Cup Winner’s Cup winner with Aberdeen, in 1986 Ferguson moved to a Manchester United far removed from the global brand it is today. A sleeping giant, United fans had become accustomed to mid-table mediocrity, looking enviously down the East-Lancs road as bitter rivals Liverpool cleaned up the silverware.

After a rocky start – the type that wouldn’t be afforded today – the first trophy was finally clinched, the 1990 FA Cup. The Cup Winner’s Cup followed a year later and the juggernaut was picking up pace.

The signing of Eric Cantona was the final piece in a puzzle six years in the making as ‘Dieu’ inspired United to their first league title for 26 years.

In the 19 years that have passed United have won the league 12 more times and are now the most decorated club in domestic football.

He’s ‘knocked the scousers off their perch’, won the battle for supremacy with Wenger’s Arsenal and seen off Abramovich’s new age Chelsea – all whilst keeping faith in a policy of youthful verve and attacking football – an ideology ingrained within the club.

And now, as he fast approaches 70 years of age, he is faced with the task of taming Barcelona and seeing of a revolution at Manchester City before it can properly begin. It’s a challenge he’ll relish.

Sunday the 6th of November saw him bring in his Silver Anniversary as manager of Manchester United Football Club. As he made his way to the Old Trafford centre circle before the game against Sunderland, the old terrace he first stood before 25 years ago sat proudly with its new name – The Sir Alex Ferguson stand.

It was a fitting tribute for a feat that is unlikely to be repeated.

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Paddy Madden

Former sports editor (2011-2012).
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