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Thank you Sir Alex


There is no human being alive that has given me as many happy memories as Sir Alex Ferguson did in his position as Manchester United manager.

I was fortunate enough to have started supporting the club when Ron Atkinson was the manager and access to most matches was on VHS tapes brought back to Nigeria and then on radio via the BBC World Service.

I don't remember where I was when Sir Alex replaced Big Ron. I know I was not sad to see Atkinson depart as I had been aware of Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen thanks to my weekly dosage of MATCH and SHOOT magazines. So I felt we were not going to be worse off with him in charge.

It is emotional writing this even though, somehow, I have been expecting it since 2011. I believe that, had United defeated Barcelona in that year's Champions League final, he would have quit that summer. It will be incredible to watch United start next season without him in charge. I have so many great memories. I'll try and share a few here.

The 1990 FA Cup win was huge. I was so nervous listening to the commentaries on BBC World Service for the first match, which ended 3-3, I thought my heart would burst open. During the replay I took out my lucky shirt that I had worn five years earlier when Kevin Moran got sent off against Everton and United still won, and had it on as I listened. At the final whistle I was exhausted.

The next season's cup win was very good. Satellite TV was in Nigeria and I remember travelling miles from my university campus to watch it only to find out that Eurosport were not showing it live. I tried to get back to campus and catch it on BBC World Service but never made it on time.

So, I had an agonising wait for Sports Round-up to know the score. When I heard it, I jumped on the back of my friend so suddenly it was a miracle we both did not collapse in a heap.

Throughout my time in the university I was taunted by my friends that United would not win the title in my lifetime. Something about that '92/93 campaign midway through it told me we just might win this time.

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With ten games to go, I looked at the run-in we had and pointed out to a friend that we had to win those games. No margin for error. For weeks after United won that title I was walking around with a pleasant persona. Only my close friends knew why. It was not like these days when everyone supports a European club.

The first double season was one I followed more on television thanks to the arrival of SuperSport to Nigeria. It was an absolutely fabulous year as Nigeria joined in on the act by winning the Nations Cup and also going to play at the Fifa World Cup in the US in '94.

That was one of my favourite United teams - Schmichel, Parker, Irwin, Bruce, Pallister, Ince, Keane, Kanchelskis, Giggs, Hughes and Cantona. They had skill, speed, strength, sheer forceful personalities and took no prisoners on the pitch. Sir Alex said he once got them into his office to tell them off because of too many cards and suspensions.

When Arsene Wenger's Arsenal won the double in ‘98 I was duly worried, for that Arsenal team was built like they were going to last forever. However, Sir Alex went in the summer and got Stam, Blomqvist and Yorke as he believed the club had suffered through injuries the previous season.

A lot has been made of winning the Champions League final against Bayern Munich but I believe it was the two semifinals that charged the team forward.

However, the FA Cup semifinal replay victory over Arsenal at Villa Park, despite being a man down, was so key to that season. He started that replay without Cole and Yorke but Sheringham and Solksjaer ran the Arsenal back line ragged that night. A gamble that paid off when Giggs scored the winning goal. Living in London at this time, it gave me great pleasure to watch the horror on the faces of Arsenal fans.

Most players in that United team that night have said at various times that defeating Arsenal gave then the impetus to attack their remaining fixtures. One was in Turin against Juventus. In the first leg at OT, Juve had run United ragged and so in Turin Nicky Butt started instead of Scholes to partner Keane and give United solidity.

It worked for all of six minutes. Juve and Inzaghi, scored two quick goals inside the first 11 minutes. Every United fan will point to that TREBLE-winning season as the One. It certainly was the most dramatic. Goals from Keane, Yorke and Cole turned the match around to the horror of the home fans in Turin.

That Champions League final win over Bayern was the most emotionally exhausting for me. I went straight to bed after the trophy presentations.

What makes Sir Alex so special, apart from his longevity, is how he has managed to keep pace with how football has changed. He has built and torn down teams. For him, Manchester United comes first. The team is supreme and he is in charge of the team.

I have been at Old Trafford many times where we have spent most of the game chanting "Stand up if you love Sir Alex" and you see many young Manchester United fans who have known no other United manager. This is as much a shock for them as it is for us older ones.

He saw off the initial challenge of Arsene Wenger, took on the wealth of Chelsea and City and bruised them both and then crowned it by breaking the league record held by Liverpool, the sworn enemies in the north.

There are people better placed than I am to eulogise the great man but I have to say that he brought joy to millions of United fans like me worldwide. We always believed that with him there we will be alright. So on behalf of all United fans worldwide I say thank you Sir Alex, God bless you.

Join me on Twitter for more Sir Alex memories: @CalvinEmeka


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