Sir Alex Ferguson: a salute to the departing king of English football
Fergie time. It's over. No turning back on this occasion. Sir Alex Ferguson is departing the stage he has strutted for 27 years.
Such was the shuddering impact of his resignation it hit the sporting world like an earthquake. It's hard to believe, but soon this truly great Scot will be a manager no more.
After the game with Swansea City on Sunday, when he will lift a 13th Premier League trophy, he'll bid farewell to his adoring flock inside Old Trafford amid an atmosphere super charged with emotion.
Expect tears from the United fans. Expect cheers from everyone else.
Over the next few days if you see people walking around with an extra spring in their step or a big smile on their face, it would be wise to assume that they are Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Spurs and Arsenal supporters.
While there is a mournful mood amongst the Manchester United faithful, feeling like they have lost a loved one, other football followers are jumping for joy because with Fergie's exit there is a glimmer of hope that the Red Devils will no longer be the dominant force in the English game.
David Moyes has done a fine job at Everton and is an astute manager with the same steely desire as compatriot Ferguson, but he will not strike fear into the opposition and referees like his predecessor.
Sir Alex Ferguson wasn't just a manager. He was THE manager who had the respect of just about all of his peers and every player who put on a pair of boots.
Through the years his mere presence on the touchline and those mind games gave United a goal start against many sides even before kick-off!
And you wonder why they kept on winning. Doing it all the while in that free flowing, all or nothing glorious fight to the finish style demanded by Ferguson, whose footballing principles are worthy of admiration.
He changed the landscape of the game in England, ending the dominance of Liverpool before seeing off challenges from Leeds, Blackburn, Arsenal, Chelsea and this season Manchester City.
He transformed United making them into one of the mightiest institutions on the planet today.
And he turned players like Peter Schmeichel, Roy Keane, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes (his top five in my book) into world class performers.
Like him or not, you are going to miss him.
It is true you know, we will never see his like again.
Ferguson has been in charge at Old Trafford for 27 years. These days most bosses don't last 27 months!
And if Moyes doesn't win a trophy in that time, he'll be one of them.
Having arrived from Scotland, where with Aberdeen he obliterated the challenge of the Old Firm, Sir Alex's first match in charge of United was at the now demolished Manor Ground in Oxford on November 8, 1986. His last game will be at the Hawthorns against West Brom on May 19, 2013.
In between he has inspired United to 13 Premier League titles, two Champions Leagues, one World Club Championship, five FA Cups, four League Cups and countless other pieces of silverware. In total in club management he has won an extraordinary 49 trophies.
His only regret I feel will be that he should have triumphed in Europe's biggest competition more than twice. Liverpool fans were never slow to remind him on his trips to Anfield that the legendary Bob Paisley won it THREE times.
Those who have got to know Ferguson down the decades will tell you he is a great man as well as a great manager, never shy in helping charities or those down on their luck.
Certainly he was always good to Northern Ireland, making regular visits, though his handling of the media did leave a lot to be desired at times. I wouldn't claim to know him at all, but curiously on Who Wants to be a Millionaire I was once a 'Phone a Friend' for Sir Alex and Eamonn Holmes, after a request from the latter.
I wasn't used. Fergie opted for his coach Brian McClair instead to answer a question about The Good Life. He has enjoyed that in his 71 years on this earth.
Here's hoping this sporting giant has many more to come.
Happy retirement Sir Alex... and on behalf of all those Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs fans out there, don't even think about coming back!