Sir Alex Ferguson Was the Greatest Manager of the Modern Era...Maybe Ever

Simon EdmondsCorrespondent IMay 8, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 22:  Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United celebrates victory and winning the Premier League title after the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on April 22, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It is an audacious title, and one that I'm sure a lot of football fans out there will try their best to dispute.

With today's announcement that Sir Alex Ferguson will, after 26 years, be stepping down from his role as manager of Manchester United, it left me pondering in my morning shower whether or not the beautiful game has ever seen such a successful leader of men. 

Certainly Sir Alex's trophy count alone is enough to rival any would-be king of kings, with 13 Premier Leagues, 5 FA Cups, 4 League cups, 2 UEFA Champions Leagues and a collective 14 other pieces of silverware massed in his time at Old Trafford.

Fergie rules the roost in regards to championship victories, and has in his quarter of a century at the Red Devils transformed them into one of the elite teams in the history of world football.

But aside from just these golden glories, Ferguson has added so much more to the sport of football itself. Say what you like about the youth systems in Spain and Germany right now, but Sir Alex was the real pioneer of this scheme, with his 1999 treble-winning side being plucked from the United youth academy. 

Players such as Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes would go on to form the solid base around which United would build one of the most feared teams in footballing history. 

This faith shown in his younger stars is something that Fergie continued on to this very season, with the likes of Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, David De Gea and Phil Jones all featuring prominently for United this campaign despite their relatively tender ages. 

The policy of adopting younger players into the starting XI is no longer a rare occurrence. In fact, if anything, thanks to Sir Alex, this type of management has become encouraged across European football, being seen as a huge positive step as opposed to a risky throw of the dice it once was.

The Barclays Premier League has for the past 21 years molded itself into the ultimate sporting showcase, packed full of spectacle, excitement and outright skill. The most watched league in the world owes a huge debt of gratitude to the flying Scotsman who for practically every one of those 21 seasons contested the title with his red army.

The thrills and excitement that we have come to know and love from the BPL are in no short part thanks to the gum-chewing, glasses-wearing, red-face-turning Scotsman and his side of loyal warriors. 

The fan-base that United's success under Fergie has achieved across the globe has brought a huge amount of revenue and publicity to the league. Right now in these fledgling stages of Sir Alex's retirement, one is already struggling to see how the BPL can ever really be the same again, Fergie-less.

But what speaks loudest about Sir Alex's majesty isn't his countless titles, his development of youth football, or even his ability to make any game of football a spectacle. No, it is the clear love and adoration from fans, players and even fellow managers have for the man from Govan that promotes him to the upper tiers of the managerial hierarchy.

This is drastically emphasized by the amount of time that individual players spend at the football club. Ryan Giggs will be entering his 22nd consecutive Premier League season in August and, whilst this speaks volumes for his ability as a player, it also is a perfect example of how a world class player has never once been tempted to stray from the club and manager that he loves playing for.

Even those who do stray from the path seem to regret their decision, with Cristiano Ronaldo's time in Madrid seemingly being one long lament (off the pitch) to the lost home he once knew (of course, his on-field ability has if anything improved in Spain, but just this year Ronnie announced how "sad" he was at the Galacticos).

Today is a scary one for fans of Manchester United. For the first time in over a generation the club will find themselves without a manager come the end of the season. 

Numerous potential replacements have already been churned out of the rumor mill, which include Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti (Look at all these Chelsea connections), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Roy Keane, Michael Laudrup, Jurgen Klopp, Jupp Heynckes and David name a few!

All we know right now is that Sir Alex won't be here for the 2013-14 season. It's a sad day, but one that really puts the achievements of Fergie into context. Well done Sir Alex, the greatest manager in football. 

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