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As Sir Alex Ferguson retires, it's now over to Portadown's Ronnie McFall to take the lead as European football's longest serving manager

Claire Cromie

Manchester United’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson has retired - which means Portadown FC boss Ronnie McFall becomes the longest serving manager in European football.

Shamrock Park boss McFall has been at the helm of Portadown since 1986 - the same year Fergie took charge of Old Trafford.

McFall has never made any secret of the fact that he is a big admirer of Ferguson and the two even came up against each other when United played a friendly at Shamrock Park in July 1996.

And the Manchester United chief sent a special tribute to the man who was second to him on that list when they both celebrated 25 years at their clubs.

“I would just like to congratulate you on reaching that milestone which I experienced a few weeks ago — 25 years,” said Ferguson at the time.

“I know exactly what you are going through, all these emotions, frustrations, bad days, good days, you name it, you’ll get them all in a 25-year spell.

“The amazing thing is you’ve survived. You’ve shown fantastic determination and conviction to get through these years because it’s not an easy profession as we know.”

In a message of support, sent via BBC Northern Ireland, Ferguson added: “I would like to say to you on behalf of myself and all my players and staff at Manchester United well done on an amazing achievement.

“Good luck, continue, keep going — it's not easy but keep going.”

Parallels have been drawn between McFall and Ferguson — and not only because they were appointed to their respective managerial posts within a month of each other.

Both claimed their first silverware in 1990 — the Irish League title for McFall ahead of Ferguson’s team lifting the FA Cup — before going on to guide their clubs to unprecedented success.

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