When there was only a matter of minutes remaining and Manchester United were 2-1 down to Southampton, I’m sure there were a multitude of Man U fans who thought that their season was taking another early slump. Sir Alex Ferguson was supposed to be celebrating his 1000th league game in charge but he looked far from happy on the side-lines. Last season Manchester United suffered a shocking home defeat to Blackburn, on what was the anniversary of 25 years in charge for Sir Alex, and it looked as if another big day for the legendary manager was about to be a bust. Of course that was until summer signing Robin Van Persie went on to score two goals, completing his hat-trick and securing all three points for his new team.
It was a game that had everything, from the drama of going behind twice to the home side, equalising efforts to bring Manchester United level again, a squandered penalty, a star man living up to the hype bestowed upon him and the glory of a late winner (or heartache if you are a Southampton fan…). In 1000 league games for Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson has seen it all but surely even he could not have predicted how this one would end up.
Apparently Premier League managers now average around 55 games in charge of their club, which is roughly one and a third seasons in the hot seat. Comparing this with the 1000 league games Sir Alex now has under his belt is as surprising as it is impressive for the Manchester United legend. 12 league titles, 10 manager of the year awards and a range of stars who have praised him as a father figure, the man deserved the result for his 1000th league game – even if, as some argue, his team didn’t.
Of course, for all the highs of his illustrious career, he has had some lows in the league as well. Manchester United may have overcome Southampton yesterday but back in 1996 Southampton gave the Red Devils a seeing to and defeated then 6-3. This isn’t the only time United have conceded 6 goals in a league game, as it was only last year that they were humiliated at home to their city rivals with a 6-1 thumping. This is Sir Alex’s biggest league defeat in more ways than one. The Manchester United boss has not been without personal controversy as well, as tales of flying boots in the dressing room and declining to be interviewed by the BBC for a few years live on in the memory of football fans.
For all the triumph and tragedy he has experienced, 1000 league games is an astonishing feat for any manager and should be appreciated as such. He said himself that it will likely be a record that is never broken and you would have to agree with him. It is a special achievement that all football enthusiasts should admire, regardless of what club you support. Thank you Sir Alex, for your contribution to Manchester United and to the football world. However, for the record, though he has a stand named after him at Old Trafford, Manchester United named a new stadium after me on Football Manager 2011 – jealous, Sir Alex?