Jon Dunham - Even the word ‘legend’ doesn’t quite do Sir Alex justice

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

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Before anyone gets carried away with the words that follow, I must point out that I am not a Manchester United supporter (although sometimes I wish I was).

But if you are a true fan of football and for one moment cast aside any rivalries, then all you can do is salute the job Sir Alex Ferguson has done at Old Trafford.

There seemed to a great deal of surprise as the news emerged of the United boss’ intention to retire at the end of the season. Maybe that surprise was because of the timing? But, let’s be honest, is there ever really a good time to end such a stunning career?

The superlatives to describe Ferguson’s tenure at Old Trafford have all been used over the past few days. Ultimately, the facts rarely lie. The long list of trophies and honours he has won tell the story.

But the thing that sticks out for me is the way he has managed to evolve with the game.

Football is a different world if you compare it with the late 1980s when Ferguson’s Manchester journey first began. Indeed, in this day and age he may not have made it to the 1992-93 season which ended with United winning the first-ever Premier League.

There are plenty of managers from Ferguson’s era who have fallen by the wayside over the past 26 years or so, mainly because they have been unable to move with the times.

That has never been a problem for him. If anything, he has got better and better like a fine wine.

Indeed, he does have things in his favour. Money is always useful, of course. And he leaves the club having had total control over footballing matters, although it is fair to say he earned that right.

But perhaps the most impressive thing he has done is put his faith in a club’s youth system and managed to develop world class players in the process.

Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, the Nevilles, Butt – the list is pretty much endless. All of them developed the Manchester United way, the Ferguson way.

Add to that some of the best players in the world, who want nothing more than to play for, arguably, the biggest club on the planet and it was always going to be a recipe for success.

Winning trophies on the scale Ferguson has over the years doesn’t just happen and United will probably find that out first-hand over the next few seasons.

The word ‘legend’ doesn’t even do him justice for what he has done, not only for United but for football in general.

The only thing that is certain once the dust settles is that football in this country will never be the same after this season. Ferguson will be missed, even by those who, for whatever reason, despise him.

The ability to evolve, to keep a dressing-room intact and to deliver trophies is not something every manager is blessed with.

Ferguson had it all and proved it. You may not like him. But everyone must surely respect him.