BY ASHLEY GREB
Like night follows day and day follows night, everything comes to pass, eventually.
It’s a simple principal; we’re born, we grow and sometime after peaking, we start towards tragic decline and our ultimate demise. Granted there are no hard and fast rules – even for the most experienced philosopher – but rummaging about in the old grey matter, this scientific brain can’t think of a single aspect of life on this planet in which this concept doesn’t apply so, why do football fans struggle with it?
Forget football’s undoubted achievements for now, annals also meticulously document every downward spiral of our former greats. From the rule makers of the Clarendon Commission to Sheffield and Hallam, North End’s invincibles, and the pass masters Queens Park; before the century was out all had cemented their place in history, but now…
Fast forwarding through the 20th Century; Uruguay ruled the world, Real ruled Europe, Pele & Co brought us beauty, football “came home”, and Liverpool’s boot room laid its foundation stone. Every single one gave us displays of sport greatness – the work of genius – and though some eventually return, for a period every one was unavoidably gone.
Whatever else is written about 2013, the end of another dynasty now sits tantalisingly on the tips of the football hacks’ tongue. Whilst he’s been so rightly held up as a deity by the faithful at both Pittodrie and Old Trafford, since the Scotsman fled the East Stirlingshire dugout, this moment was coming.
Though not working alone – his backroom staff all too often forgotten – the names on the teams Sir Alex produced will fill the “all-time squads” of more than one generation’s school children long into their retirement. Legend will tell how he made the average look good and the greats appear sublime.
As with other imposing leaders, grown men have showered him with every emotion; from fawning adulation to terror-ridden obedience. He was a master; he had it all. In decades to come the same grown men will recount fables for grandchildren of an Alex Ferguson who could move both mountains and hairdryers with real Jedi mind tricks.
When the time came for him to step down, a cynic might argue, his cunning and guile once again became his tools of choice. Scholes was gone and Giggs running towards his own gardening time; the new recruits hardly scratched the surface of their quality. What worked in twenty greed-ridden years since the premier league’s inception was now being outbid by shades of blue.
Whatever else one might call him – and I have, often – Fergie was no fool. He looked into his crystal ball one last time and knew it was time to step down. He’d done all he could and even chosen his successor; just as the elves left middle earth on their ships, Fergie was going to the comfy prawn sandwich seats nearer the sky.
Just months later his former side have predictably waned and the new beleaguered manager is taking the flak from all and sundry. If these people had listened to Echo & the Bunnymen, they’d have known it was coming; yet whilst the #MoyesOut campaign gathers some mindless pace, some in the media bizarrely argue that he (Moyes) will be given time just because his predecessor was (a quarter of century ago under much different owners), others have merely stamped on their hats in a fit of petulant rage. In this, modern football is just mirroring society most modern of ailments; unrealistic aspiration and a blind reluctance to accept the truth.
Without learning from the histories of all other dynasties, some followers of this globally branded club cannot even smell the coffee, let alone wake up to reality. Me, I couldn’t give a shit. Good as Fergie was at managing sides, I was jaded by his antics and bored of the headlines afforded him. Great but not perfect – he chose the wrong Glaswegian successor – he kept United at the top for too long; both football and I needed this to change.
United’s day will come again however for now, as Kanute-like supporters stand mindlessly hoping to halt the predestined tide, they need to accept that nothing ever lasts forever; Fergie is gone. Just get over it.
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ASHLEY IS THE AUTHOR OF ‘THE LONG WAY’