In the week following the passing of Munich survivor Kenny Morgans, Old Trafford unveiled a statue of Sir Alex Ferguson honouring the manager’s contribution to the history of Manchester United.
United’s players will wear black armbands against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday as a mark of respect to Morgans, who was just 18 years old and an exciting prospect of Sir Matt Busby’s ‘Babes’ at the time of the disaster in Munich. The fleet-footed winger seemed destined for great things before the trauma he was forced to deal with, having epitomised Busby’s confidence in youth.
The belief that his predecessor showed in fledgling talent has been a hallmark of Ferguson’s own Old Trafford career. The Scot’s first home game in charge of United came against the weekend’s opponents, QPR, 26 years ago almost to the day. In this time Ferguson has emulated Busby’s achievements in respect of both longevity and the number of trophies he has won, while staying true to the DNA that makes up the club.
Indeed, Ferguson’s own achievements are underlined with United’s and Busby’s history. The famous side of 1999 was punctuated by academy graduates, with the treble completed on the day that would have been Busby’s 90th birthday. The European Cup success in 2008 marked the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster and 40 years since the Babes won the trophy at Wembley. Even the winning penalty was struck by Ryan Giggs, the club’s record appearance holder.
Busby was honoured posthumously with a statue in 1996, and now Ferguson is also acclaimed with one of his own to accompany the renaming of the North Stand last season, which commemorated 25 years in charge. The two men, who between them have delivered 17 of the club’s 19 league championships, are testament to the success that stability and hard work over a vast number of years can bring to a club.
This is noteworthy in the week that Chelsea disposed of Roberto Di Matteo just six months after delivering the club’s first European Cup along with the FA Cup. He is a young and promising manager that was not afforded the time required to build the club through his own hard work and dedication. Roman Abramovich has brought success and trophies to West London since he took over in 2003, but his style of hiring and firing that has seen nine managers dismissed over the same number of years is the complete opposite to the model of stability that is inherent at United.
Perhaps this is indicative of the result-driven nature of the game today, and we may never see a manager of Ferguson’s ilk at the top level again. There are also many temptations for managers to move on once they have achieved success rather than building a dynasty with one club, as can be seen in the case of Jose Mourinho, who has now won league championships in four different countries across the continent.
In 1956, Matt Busby was offered the opportunity to manage Real Madrid. The club’s President at the time, Santiago Bernab