Belfast Telegraph

Farewell Alex Ferguson, your time is up

By Billy Weir

Breaking news. I can exclusively reveal, in Jim White style, that Sir Alex Ferguson is alive and well and did not pop his clogs last week.

I admit that the evidence would suggest otherwise for when White is allowed temporary permission to break the terms of his ASBO so he can stray further than six feet from a giggling blonde and leave the Sky Sports News studio to go somewhere in person, you know it is serious.

It's akin to when Kate Adie was despatched anywhere on the news, you knew that wherever it was had opened the curtains that morning and found itself (a) in deep doodoo and (b) it was only going to get deeper and (c) all the shovels had been confiscated.

And so White was airlifted into Manchester as news of Lord Govan's departure gathered pace and set the tone for the rest of the week as the world experienced a tremendous upsurge in levels of sycophancy, absent-mindedness and two-facedry of the highest order.

No finer place to begin than on Football Focus who had circled the wagons early and had a special late night edition before it has been officially confirmed that Fergie had passed on.

You knew it was special because they told us so as this was no ordinary Football Focus, oh no, it was Fergie Time: A Football Focus Special, and they had some special guests rustled up to tell us everything we already knew about Fergie's time at Old Trafford.

In effect this meant Robbie Savage revealing that he used to live beside Fergie but never saw him because he left early in the morning and came back late at night. This was nothing to do with managing United, he was just avoiding Savage.

Dion Dublin was there also with his anecdote that just keeps on giving that if he hadn't broken his leg, Fergie would never have signed Eric Cantona and history would have been very different and Peter Reid was there because ... I'm not quite sure but he was a manager in Manchester too for a while but didn't have the managerial nous to sign a big forward and break his legs.

You know when it's a big story about United when Christopher Ecclestone is wheeled out. The former Dr Who is a massive United fan and he began with a haunting monologue set to pictures from the past.

"In 1986 shipbuilding on the Clyde was contracting, the Govan yard in Glasgow was struggling," he said.

"But 1986 was a year when a product from Govan was exported. It went into a single market in another industrial city.

"He went into a single market in another industrial city and if at first there was little yield on the investment, it wasn't long before this was a production centre like no other – success on an industrial scale." Yes, yes we get the point.

Channel Four news were also at it, Jon Snow even eliciting opinion from a bemused Alistair Campbell and news hasn't been dominated by shock Fergie news to such a scale since toe-sucking was all the rage.

Every bulletin was dominated by sport as the world awaited confirmation of who would replace the irreplaceable one. David Moyes was the chosen one. A craggy, irascible, bad-tempered Scotsman who loves to badger referees and moans all the time – nice to see United have broken from tradition.

Sky Sports didn't, right up to the end they were sucking up to Fergie, his swansong against Swansea (handy that), giving ample opportunity to turn up the levels of lickiness to 11.

"He's taken United from the wilderness in 1986 to the pinnacle of football," said Ed Chamberlin, although I could swear big Norman Whiteside scored a goal in a FA Cup Final in the wilderness of Wembley in 1985, but 'it's now a powerhouse of a club'. I think you'll find that is down to Dion Dublin.

Chamberlin was joined by United greats Peter Schmeichel, Gary Neville and Dwight Yorke (Dion was unavailable) to wax lyrical, although the highlight pre-match was Neville's attempted interview with the shy and retiring (again) Paul Scholes. The less shy and definitely retiring (well, unless Moyes makes a hames of it) Fergie was the star of the show doing his best Tammy Wynette impression after the game as he ordered everyone to 'stand by our new man-ager'. If it hadn't been for Mark Robins against Forest there would have been a D.I.V.O.R.C.E. long before it was necessary to break poor Dion's leg.

Over on Match of the Day later that evening, Gary Lineker began by saying 'we'll start at the end' and he was joined by Michael Laudrup and Malky Mackay for some insight and Mark Lawrenson, to model his new range of shirts that are more Harry than Jimmy Hill.

It was shoes though that were in fashion, Laudrup explained that whoever took over at Everton had big shoes to fill but not as big as the ones at United while Lawro wondered what the Spanish for big shoes was and show-off Gary was able to tell him. I wonder what the Spanish is for 'shut up Lawro or I'll trail you and that big collar of yours across the studio?' but the final word went to Gary.

"Alex Ferguson has finally walked away from Old Trafford, Fergie Time is up and we'll miss him," he said, as Dion Dublin arrived with a big pair of red shoes and a set of crutches for Wayne Rooney.

Belfast Telegraph


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