Thursday, December 8, 2011

The 2011/12 season is starting to become an annus horribilis for Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United.

Weakly crashing out of the Carling Cup and the Champions League in the space of seven days, and chasing down their Manc rivals in the Premiership title race with a string of stuttering performances, is not what the spoilt United fans are used to.

And neither is Fergie.

When you add United drawing City in the Third Round of the FA Cup next month, it’s not inconceivable that Man U could finish the season trophyless.

There is the good old Europa League to aim for now, although I look forward to Fergie playing the kids and crashing out of that at the earliest opportunity.

What a difference a year makes.

United’s 12th Premier League title was secured by nine points and they seemed to be putting together another squad of amazingly talented kids. The future looked as rosy as Ferguson’s cheeks.

Ferguson will be 70 years old in 23 days time. At his age, and with 37 major career trophies to his name, should Fergie have got out when he was ahead and quit at the top?

Obviously I’ve never been in any sort of similar position. All I know is that I can’t wait to retire.

I’ve always been puzzled by players who play on past when they should. I know there’s the whole missing of the game and not knowing what to do with themselves. That’s a buzz I’ll never know to fully judge.

Long term managers also know no other life. It’s what they love doing.

Outside of football, I feel the same about actors who make really shitty films when they don’t need any more cash.

Why would you not go and enjoy your money and rest on your laurels, knowing full well that the legacy you’ve left behind will stand the test of time?

Why risk tarnishing it and going out on a low point in your career?

Let’s look at this from the viewpoint of another sport I closely follow – gridiron, American football, throwball, call it what you like. Let’s be more precise, Canadian Football and the CFL (Canadian Football League).

My team is the Vancouver based BC Lions. They’ve just won their sixth Grey Cup (Canada’s equivalent to the Superbowl).

I know most of you don’t care about such a sport, but bear with me. There is a point!

The Lions Head Coach, Wally Buono, has the best winning record as a coach in CFL’s long history and this was his fifth Grey Cup triumph, and ninth final appearance. The win for the Lions came in their own home hosting stadium, becoming only the third team achieve this feat.

Buono is 61 years old, 62 in February. He has a good eight years on Sir Alex, but after the triumph he has retired as Head Coach.

There’s not going to be anything better than what he achieved this season, so why not go out on the top? Several of the veteran players have/will be doing the same.

Back to proper football now, and so Fergie should have done the same thing as Buono last May.

I know football is in his blood. He would probably happily coach till he dropped down dead. One of his mentors, Jock Stein, did just that and you could arguably say he died doing what he loved most.

It’s not my, or anyone’s decision to make, just Ferguson’s. But will he make the correct decision at the right time?

I’m no Man United fan, far from it, but with all that Sir Alex has achieved in the game, I’d like to see him retire on a high.

Maybe he still will win a Premiership, FA Cup and Europa League treble.

If he turns this season around and does that, then that surely must be the tipping point for his retiral.

Let’s just hope he doesn’t keep going on till he drops or until people start to say he’s lost it. This season is his hardest in a long time, but of course, Man United are experts at the second half of the season revival.

It would be horrible to see arguably Scotland’s greatest football manager bow out after a season of despair and failure.

If the past seven days are anything to go by, then he has possibly his toughest five months of his managerial career ahead, as he looks to salvage some pride and keep his reputation in tact.

That’s just as important as silverware.


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