Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Man U facing life without Fergie

Fans will expect a lot from new man on sidelines

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"However long we live, we never forget the time when we were young." -- Pel©

Young people experience the world in a manner unique to them.

They are passionate about things; they put themselves out there; they are insecure; they often feign confidence to hide the tremors of self-doubt. They seek safety in family and anything and anyone they can count on.

To them the world is limitless and exciting, but there are times when it is also scary and disappointing. And they recoil to those dependable things that provide reassurance.

This is why young people obsess about things like music, film and sport. They can come home from a bad day at school and play an encouraging song; they can escape the doldrums of their teenage boredom by watching a movie. They can satisfy their craving for inclusion by supporting a soccer team.

While the world is new and their way in it unsure, these things are part of their formative experience. And for many young people, Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United exit will prove exactly that.

United, which earlier this spring won a record 20th English title, claims to have nearly 660 million fans around the world. No doubt a good number of them weren't even born when Ferguson was appointed at Old Trafford in 1986, and starting next Sunday when the 71-year-old manages his 1,500th and final match for the Red Devils they'll be faced with a new reality they always knew was coming but will nevertheless struggle to get used to: life without Fergie.

And he was very much "Fergie."

From the weekly press conferences in which he called out rivals and dropped side-splitting one-liners to his ever-present figure in the dugout or on the touchline, chomping on his gum and checking his watch, Ferguson took on an almost grandfather-like persona at Old Trafford -- a sort of patriarch whose very existence served as both an anchor to the past and guarantor of survival.

With his retirement, United goes into uncharted territory, as do many of the club's supporters.

David Moyes -- the 50-year-old Everton boss picked to succeed Ferguson -- possesses many of the same attributes his fellow Scot took south from Aberdeen more than 26 years ago.

He, like Ferguson, hails from a hardscrabble neighbourhood of Glasgow and transferred the family work ethic to club management in his mid-30s. Like his predecessor he is a no-nonsense disciplinarian and has a good eye for talent. He is also a staunch Labour man.

United is confident Moyes cannot only pick up where Ferguson is leaving off, but also usher in a new era of longevity and success.

The club's fans, however, will be wanting a bit more than that.

Especially the younger ones.

They'll expect a figure of confidence on matchdays, a familiar face in the paper the next morning, a heartening voice coming out of the television set and filling the living room with the kind of dependability and reassurance they don't yet trust the world to offer.

Spot kicks

-- Paul Scholes is expected to announce his retirement ahead of Sunday's match against Swansea at Old Trafford. The Manchester United midfielder, 38, initially hung up his boots following the 2010-11 season but returned in January 2012 and has appeared in 40 matches for the Red Devils since.

-- Ferguson's retirement announcement kicked off another round of speculation regarding the future of Wayne Rooney, who had a falling out with Moyes after the publication of his 2007 autobiography. And while the two have since buried the hatchet various reports have the 27-year-old attacker heading to either Chelsea or PSG in the coming months.

-- Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho revealed his sadness at Ferguson's retirement in a Friday interview with Sky Sports, saying, "It will be difficult for me, and I think all managers, to go to Old Trafford and play against Manchester United without this mythical figure waiting for us."

jerradpeters@gmail.com Twitter @jerradpeters

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2013 C5

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