Leader: The hairdryer silenced

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The careers of most football managers, like those of most politicians, end in failure. However, in this, as in so much else, Sir Alex Ferguson is an exception. Although, in the last game they played before he announced his retirement as manager, Manchester United succumbed to a feeble home defeat to Chelsea, they did so as Premier League champions. This was Sir Alex’s 13th League title and the 38th trophy overall that United have won during his 26-year tenure.

Sir Alex is perhaps the last old-style “manager” of the modern era, an autocrat and obsessive whose control of the non-commercial activities of his club is total. It is unimaginable that he would have tolerated the kind of cohabitation with a “technical” or “sporting director” imposed on his counterparts at Manchester City or Chelsea.

His managerial style – confrontational and fuelled by irrepressible energy –was formed in the hard school of Scottish football in the late 1970s. There he managed first St Mirren and then Aberdeen, with whom he broke open in spectacular fashion the duopoly operated by the Glaswegian “Old Firm”. Sadly, the Scottish footballing diaspora to which he belonged is no longer the significant influence on the game it once was.

The last time Manchester United sought to replace a serially successful Scottish knight as manager, Sir Matt Busby in 1969, they chose Wilf McGuinness. He lasted a little over a year. Sir Alex’s successor has been warned.

This article appears in the 13 May 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Eton Mess

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