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)

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 30, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 2, 2014 (13:30 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Khulna

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 5, 2014 (14:05 IST)   at Adelaide

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 6, 2014 (13:30 IST)   at Ahmedabad

More

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 15, 2014  at Ahmedabad

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 7, 2014  at Bengaluru

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 30, 2014  at Hyderabad

Match cancelled

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014  at Hamilton

No result

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 3 wkts

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test

Videos

Tendulkar provides teaser on upcoming book

Duleep Trophy 2014-15 final: Central Zone 214/4 at stumps; lead by 111 runs

Live Cricket Score: Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test, Day 2 at Abu Dhabi: Pakistan reach 517/4 at tea

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Younis Khan continues piling up records for Pakistan

KL Rahul could be opening option for India’s tour to Australia

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Central Zone Duleep Trophy Duleep Trophy 2014-15 India Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Zone South Zone vs Central Zone Sri Lanka Sri Lanka tour of India 2014

PCB honours Nobel Prize for Peace winner Malala Yousafzai

Pakistan 517/4 against Australia at tea on Day 2 of 2nd Test

Misbah-ul-Haq becomes fifth Test captain to score century after age of 40

Younis Khan completes 5th Test double century; Pakistan continue to dominate Australia in 2nd Test

Duleep Trophy 2014-15 final: Central Zone 214/4 at stumps; lead by 111 runs

Rohit Sharma looks to strengthen career after an inconsistent year

Younis Khan equals Javed Miandad’s record of most 150+ scores by Pakistan batsman

India vs Sri Lanka 2014: Manish Pandey showing signs of fulfilling potential

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Younis Khan continues piling up records for Pakistan

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

678 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Younis Khan century during Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test at Dubai

India A vs Sri Lanka: Fringe players look to impress

NGOs pursue education for all

Dance Basanti from Ungli: Put on your dancing shoes and practice the Basanti move!

Weight Loss Tip #59: Eat oranges to lose weight

Sensex surges 150 points in early trade to regain 27,000-mark

PricewaterhouseCoopers partners Google to offer business solutions to clients

Google X Lab working on nanoparticles to help detect diseases early

Priyanka Chopra has the best no make-up selfie on Instagram, think fans!

Lisa Haydon: I slept off midway while watching the original Shaukeen!

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here