Home > Features >

Alex Ferguson’s magnetic appeal extends beyond football

Alex Ferguson's magnetic appeal extends beyond football

Alex Ferguson… the heartbeat of Manchester United © Getty Images

Arunabha Sengupta recalls the day when he had interrupted his pilgrimage of English cricket grounds to visit Manchester United, shrine of Sir Alex Ferguson, the longest-serving manager of the club, who announced his retirement on Wednesday after a 27-year-old association with the club.

Summer 2011. We were standing at the Brian Statham End of the Old Trafford Cricket Ground. Above us loomed the Neville Cardus Gallery, on top of the Red Rose Suite.

Beside me, my new friend Mark was eyeing the ground where he had seen half a century’s cricket with the delight of a 10-year old. I was quite lucky to run into him in front of the Old Trafford Lodge just before walking into the ground.

Now he shielded his eyes from the early morning sun and pointed towards the looming conference centre ‘The Point’.

“That is a recent addition,” he informed. “Opened in 2010. An eyesore of sorts, especially if you’ve seen the ground in the older days.”

It was the second English ground after The Oval to host a Test match in England, way back in 1884.
“My first Test here was Jim Laker’s match in 1956,” Mark said proudly. “I was too young to see the original pavilion. German bombardment destroyed the Member’s dining room in 1940. It had to be rebuilt.”

Mark talked me through the way the ground had been used as a transit camp for soldiers returning from Dunkirk. Despite the damage, cricket had resumed soon enough. German Prisoners of War had been paid to prepare the ground for the Victory Test in August 1945. “Since then the pavilion has been renovated again. It had started leaking in 2003.”

I looked up at the press box above us and smiled. “I was just trying to reconstruct how the ground must have looked during the days that guy walked around here,” I jerked my head towards the Neville Cardus gallery.

Mark laughed. “Sir Neville? Quite a character.The gallery, though, is a recent addition. Earlier the press writers used to be cooped up in a small box. Derek Hodgson called it a wart on the face of Venus. The Cardus Gallery was built in 1984.” He paused. “And two years later, the other great man arrived in Manchester.”

His eyes swept across the ground and looked beyond the boundaries of cricket.

“Great man?” I asked, following his gaze.

“Sir Alex. He came over in 1986,” Mark laughed again. “Those days when McGrath and Robson were sloshed. Managed to raise them from 21st to 11th that season.”

I nodded. We walked towards the gate beneath the Old Trafford Lodge. Somehow, almost by mutual consent, we walked out and made our way across Warwick Road and Matt Busby Road.

Mark went on talking about the title hat-trick, UEFA Championships, Gordon Strachan and the many abuses hurled at the officials. He chuckled about the controversy over the stud rights of the racehorse Rock of Gibraltar. It was a short walk of around five minutes. Unfortunately, it would be more than another year before the unveiling of the bronze statue. Soon, the two cricket loving souls stood in front of the Old Trafford Football Stadium, the home of Manchester United and the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.

Greatness does that to you. The greatness of some names  transcend borders between sports and can make one break away from the most focused of quests.

It was not a product of any of the famed Ferguson mind games. It was just the magnetism of a supreme sports personality.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Kolkata

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 (09:30 IST)   at Dhaka

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014 (03:00 IST)   at Hamilton

More

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 24, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 72 runs

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 21, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 6 wkts

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 17, 2014  at Dharamsala

India won by 59 runs

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 14, 2014  at Visakhapatnam

Match cancelled

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 12, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Australia won by 1 run

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test at Dubai

Videos

Amla feels Proteas more acclimatised to conditions

Pakistan eye victory as Australia reel at 59/4 at stumps on Day 4

Suresh Raina gifts Aditya Garhwal an autographed bat

Dwayne Bravo says West Indies pull-out had everybody’s consent

Bangladesh gain upper-hand over Zimbabwe at stumps on Day 1 of 1st Test

David Warner and others with records related to hundreds in consecutive Test innings

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Duleep Trophy India New Zealand New Zealand vs South Africa 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of New Zealand 2014 South Africa vs New Zealand 2014

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Younis Khan considered skipping Tests

Michael Clarke: Younis Khan is one of the gentlemen of our game

Duleep Trophy 2014: Central Zone to meet South Zone in final

Pakistan eye victory as Australia reel at 59/4 at stumps on Day 4

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: David Warner admits that Australia is not scared of big targets

Younis Khan scores 26th ton to establish Pakistan record

Younis Khan becomes seventh Pakistani cricketer to score two hundreds in a Test

Virat Kohli and others with 20 ODI hundreds

David Warner and others with records related to hundreds in consecutive Test innings

Strangers, Brothers and Cricket— the English novelist CP Snow’s lasting passion for the game

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

642 Posts | 9 Fans

Virat Kohli's Family Meets Anushka Sharma

अभिनेत्री हुमा कुरैशी ओरिफ्लेम की ब्रांड एंबेसडर

Has Bigg Boss 8 made Karishma Tanna the most hated person?

Pranab Mukherjee returns home after visit to Norway, Finland

Revealed: First look of Amitabh Bachchan-Farhan Akhtar’s Do!

7 reasons why having sex during pregnancy is great for your health

Videocon Infinium Graphite with gesture control feature launched, priced at Rs 10,499

Rupee up 19 paise against dollar in early trade

Twitter introduces Audio Cards to listen to music directly from your timeline

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here