Whilst I’ve no love for Manchester United I certainly don’t have the rabid dislike many football fans of other teams seem to automatically plump for. Odd too, my first ever Forest match was against them – it was the game when supposedly Fergie would’ve been sacked had it not been for Mark Robins popping up to score having escaped the attentions of Stuart Pearce.
Nigel Jemson had a goal disallowed that night too. I hadn’t been truly ‘bitten’ by the football bug then but walking down the steps to the front of the Executive Stand upper tier (as t’was then) afforded me a glimpse down onto the lower tier which was home to the leering Mancunians gesticulating up to us. I remember finding it distasteful more than offensive.
Fast forward a couple of years and I was in Wembley Stadium, for the second time that season, watching Forest play United again this time in a cup final (the Rumbelows Cup, no less). Because of ticket dodginess there were a lot of Mancs in our end, one of whom thought it okay to gob in the face of a fourteen year old me.
On reflection my Dad did well to keep it together and marshall his two lads around that day with no incident because the concourses were scenes of running battles that he seems to have spared me any memory of – as I only really know of such things from retrospective reminsces from fellow fans who probably quite enjoyed partaking in such things.
This reminiscing really has perhaps only suggested that really I should dislike Manchester United for personal reasons if I’m not going to blindly do so to follow the crowd. Maybe being so detached from the spheres in which Manchester United operate for many years has numbed me to indifference – maybe I can hold on to that rather splendid afternoon spent at Old Trafford where Pearce and Collymore netted to see us win 2-1?
Whatever the reasoning – and despite the lack of strong feeling – Alex Ferguson has been at the helm of the club since I really knew anything about football – so it’s quite monumental even to someone who is at best marginally interested in them when he steps down after over 26 years of service and a trail of silverware – and surely somewhat inevitable too, he ain’t getting any younger afterall.
There’s much to dislike about his legacy – of primadonnas crowding referees, of haranging officials when decisions go against them – but whilst that grates with my moral compass I’d point the finger at the powers that be in football who allow such shenanigans to detract from what should still be the beautiful game. Let’s face it, Ferguson might be a pioneer in such schtick but he’s not the only protagonist.
He should rightly be considered in the pantheon of football management greats for his achievements, and will leave difficult shoes to fill for David Moyes – particularly as he will remain in the corridors of power at Old Trafford. For the club to continue to meet its’ high expectations Moyes needs to oversee an evolution of the systems Ferguson has ruled for over two decades rather than the revolution a Mourinho type figure might have inspired.
On reflection, he was apparently instrumental in the appointment of Alex McLeish at Forest – so to conclude, good-riddance you purple-nosed bastard! (I jest).
To end sensibly, I do think if I were present as an opposing fan I’d be respectful toward him. It evokes memories of when our own great manager Brian Clough stepped down at Forest (in a much less auspicious position admittedly), but the respect he was shown by Sheffield United and Ipswich Town fans in our final games that season was a lovely tribute to the impact he had on the whole game – not just at Forest, Derby, (Brighton, Leeds) and Hartlepools as a manager.