There used to be a joke among the Manchester press corps that the day ManU Manager ALEX FERGUSON quit "we would all meet for a party" and "toast to his departure," according to Matt Dickinson of the LONDON TIMES. We would "remember all the bans, foul tirades, evasions, downright lies and collectively exclaim 'thank God he’s gone.'" However, "there will be no celebrations today because deep down, even as he pinned us to a wall and spewed rage over a perfectly true story or threw us out of Old Trafford with a Glaswegian 'f*** off', we knew that we were lucky to be working up close to one of the most extraordinary men in football and a personality so vast that British sport may not see its likes again." It is "not really the trophies that make Ferguson so remarkable, however much silverware he has won." It "is his character." In every part of his nature -- "the relentless drive and energy, warmth and anger, generosity and nastiness, vast ambition and grip on every detail -- he has dominated British sport on a scale that can only be looked upon with awe" (LONDON TIMES, 5/8). In London, Simon Kuper wrote despite his success, Ferguson "never kidded himself that he knew everything." He "always kept learning." He spent hours each day on the phone, sucking information from ex-players and fellow managers." His "enormous network extended far beyond football." Each contact "was nurtured till death." For Ferguson, "knowledge was power" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 5/8). Also in London, Simon Barnes commented, "Sir Alex Ferguson. Bloody hell, I never thought he’d do it. Even now I’m reluctant to acknowledge his retirement, afraid that he’ll sneak back and win the title next year and prove me wrong. Again." Barnes continued, "Is he the most significant person in the history of English football? Sir WALTER WINTERBOTTOM, Sir ALF RAMSEY, BILL SHANKLY, BOB PAISLEY, BRAIN CLOUGH as managers, Sir STANLEY MATTHEWS, BILLY WRIGHT, BOBBY MOORE, Sir BOBBY CHARLTON, GEORGE BEST, DAVID BECKHAM as players. Certainly Ferguson is on that list and maybe at the top of it" (LONDON TIMES, 5/9).
ONE LAST TIME: In London, Daniel Taylor wrote when ManU takes on Swansea City Sunday, a 58-year-old man named PETE MOLYNEUX "will lift up an old bed-sheet just as he did, infamously, in December 1989 when Alex Ferguson's back was pressed against a cold, unforgiving wall." The message back then "was short and to the point." The banner read: "Three years of excuses and we're still crap, ta-ra Fergie." It "has gone down in history, the nadir of Ferguson's reign." Molyneux, like many ManU supporters, "expects to be holding back the tears during Ferguson's 1,500th -- and last -- game in charge." His banner will read: "Twenty-three years of silver and we're still top, ta-ra Fergie." His legacy is "as solid as the stadium where his statue -- long overcoat, match-face, strict side-parting -- now rises behind the stand they named after him." His resume includes 13 "league titles for United, two European Cups, two Intercontinental World Cups, one European Cup-Winners' Cup, five FA Cups, four League Cups." Does "the Community Shield count?" There were "10 of them" (GUARDIAN, 5/8).
PAYING TRIBUTE: Tributes from notable football figures poured in Wednesday.
- DAVID BECKHAM: "The boss wasn’t just the greatest and the best manager I ever played under, he was also a father figure to me."
- Man U great BOBBY CHARLTON: "He is such a fantastic manager. He is a sensational person in every form and I am really delighted for him."
- ManU CEO DAVID GILL has hailed working with Ferguson as the "greatest experience" of his working life. Gill said, "The way he cares for this club, his staff and for the football family in general is something that I admire. It is a side to him that is often hidden from public view but it is something that I have been privileged to witness in the last 16 years."
- ManU Joint Chair JOEL GLAZER: "Alex has proven time and time again what a fantastic manager he is but he's also a wonderful person. His determination to succeed and dedication to the club have been truly remarkable."
- ManU Joint Chair AVI GLAZER: "I am delighted to announce that Alex has agreed to stay with the club as a director. His contributions to Manchester United over the last 26 years have been extraordinary and, like all United fans, I want him to be a part of its future."
- UEFA President MICHEL PLATINI: "He is a true visionary and I hope that, having helped us in the past through various coaching initiatives, he will continue to collaborate with UEFA to share his fantastic knowledge with the next generation of up-and-coming European coaches who all wish to emulate his achievements in the sport" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 5/8).
- EPL CEO RICHARD SCUDAMORE: "The Premier League has had the privilege to witness many great players, managers and teams. No one has made as great a contribution to the Premier League than Sir Alex Ferguson" (EPL).
- FA Chair DAVID BERNSTEIN: "Sir Alex Ferguson's achievements are truly remarkable -- he is genuinely one of the greatest managers of all time and certainly of the modern era. His contribution to English football has been outstanding in every regard and, in The FA's 150th year, it is something that should be celebrated "(SKY SPORTS, 5/8).
- Sports Minister HUGH ROBERTSON: "His enthusiasm for our national game is boundless and I congratulate him on a remarkable managerial career'' (SKY SPORTS, 5/8).
- Barcelona's SERGIO BUSQUETS: "Ferguson is a coach who will always be remembered. His retirement is a loss for the football world. All the things he won and that he always stayed at the level of the best Coaches is amazing" (FOOTBALL ESPANA, 5/8).
- Barcelona's DANI ALVES wrote on Twitter: "It is like removing a myth of football. He is the kind of professional that helps make this occupation meaningful! Thanks Sir Alex Ferguson" (Twitter).
- Professional FA Chair GORDON TAYLOR: "The game of football will be a lot poorer place without him. He has been quite simply the best" (THE NATIONAL, 5/8).
- Former ManU player LOUIS SAHA tweeted: "WOW, Ferguson s'en va. J'espère que sa santé est OK. C'est l'homme le plus important dans ma vie après mon père." ... ("WOW, Ferguson leaves. I hope his health is OK. This is the most important man in my life after my father. I have a huge respect for this football god.") (L'EQUIPE, 5/8).