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)

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 29, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Harare

India tour of England 2014

Aug 30, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Nottingham

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 30, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Dambulla

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 31, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Harare

India tour of England 2014

Sep 2, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Birmingham

More

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 27, 2014  at Harare

South Africa won by 7 wkts

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Aug 27, 2014  at Basseterre, St Kitts

No result

India tour of England 2014

Aug 27, 2014  at Cardiff

India won by 133 runs

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 26, 2014  at Hambantota

Sri Lanka won by 77 runs

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 25, 2014  at Harare

Australia won by 198 runs

Photos

Don Bradman's ducks

Videos

Dhoni praises Raina's century in 2nd ODI

Shahrukh Khan scores a hundred!

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 2014: Kashmiri students bashed up in Punjab for supporting Pakistan

MS Dhoni did not cross the line, clarifies BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel

Suresh Raina: Ravi Shastri gave us a lot of confidence

MS Dhoni heaps praise on Suresh Raina for match-winning knock

Australia Australia and South Africa in Zimbabwe 2014 England England vs India England vs India 2014 India India tour of England 2014 India vs England India vs England 2014 Pakistan Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka 2014 South Africa Sri Lanka Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 2014 Zimbabwe Zimbabwe Triangular Series 2014

Shahrukh Khan scores a hundred!

Shakib al-Hasan won’t be allowed to participate in CLT20 2014

Justice Mukul Mudgal: We will submit an interim report in Supreme Court

Ramesh Powar quits Rajasthan Ranji team after receiving NOC from BCCI

Lalit Modi: I don’t see myself playing any role in BCCI elections

Ganesh Chathurti XI: Kapil Dev, Amit Mishra and Dodda Ganesh among India players to feature

Suresh Raina’s new avatar on India’s tour of England 2014

Four best partnerships between Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers

Aaron Finch rapidly emerging as Australia’s key batsman

Ravindra Jadeja: India’s go-to man against England in ODIs

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

666 Posts | 6 Fans

12 runs in one ball

Is Mouni Roy the new golden girl of Colors?

NGOs pursue education for all

Ebola facts — frequently asked questions (FAQ)

The Quality of the Indo-U.S. Relationship Matters More Than the Quantity of Dialogues

Why adding every part of coconut to your diet is a healthy idea

Apple iPhone 6: Everything we know so far

Shahrukh Khan scores a hundred!

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Ganesh Chathurti XI: Kapil Dev, Amit Mishra and Dodda Ganesh among India players to feature

US Open 2014: Petra Kvitova move into third round at the Flushing Meadows

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here