Sir Alex Ferguson's legend was cemented at Old Trafford on Friday when Manchester United FC unveiled a huge bronze statue of the manager outside the stadium to help mark his 26 years at the club.
It is not an honour the English side bestow lightly – only managerial great Sir Matt Busby and the 'United trinity' of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton have been exalted in similar time immemorial fashion. But, having guided the Red Devils to 12 league championships, five FA Cups and two UEFA Champions League successes in just over a quarter of a century in charge, Sir Alex probably merits it.
His longevity at Old Trafford was encapsulated by today's guests. His first captain at United, Bryan Robson, was in the company of the likes of Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Peter Schmeichel, Gary Neville and Ole Gunnar Solskjær, as well as the entire current squad. There were also video messages from Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham, who praised the 70-year-old's undimmed passion and declared him a "born winner".
That passion is not immediately apparent on the 2.75m statue, sculpted by the award-winning Philip Jackson, which shows Sir Alex in more studied form, arms crossed and surveying his surroundings. "I've tried to portray him as a man of great determination, as a thinking man," said Jackson. "But also with the humour he has in abundance, so there's just a slight smile in the corner of his mouth."
His subject paid tribute to "the boss", wife Cathy, but for the 2,500 in attendance he is the only one they consider worthy of that title. Great rival Arsène Wenger was not understating it earlier in the day when he said that, when the Scot does retire, "it will be a huge hole". But Sir Alex's shadow will loom as long as his statue is at Old Trafford.
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