Where do you go, when the personyou equate a whole obsession to, simply leaves?
If you truly love an entity, and then the very soul of the entity is removed, could you still love it the same?
Yesterday, the 8th of May, just another day at Manchester United.
But, within my lifetime, which is not very much, it will go down as the worst day in the history of the club. The day the club lost its heart.
For me, it was the day Football died.
On the 8th of May, Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement.
There are always great men. In every generation, in every sport or discipline, there will always be men who are a cut above the rest. And while you do feel sad when they end their careers, you look forward to the next great talent with excitement and enthusiasm.
But just once in a while, you come across an anomaly. The sort of person who, even to the eternal optimist, is irreplaceable. A person who has redefined the very concept of greatness.
For me, personally, it was not the trophies. It was not the success, although successes were fondly celebrated.
It was the passion, which, after 26 years at the same club, still caused a 71-year-old man to jump up and down with glee at a goal, that caused him to scream in sincere anguish the moment he felt his team suffered an injustice, that brought out his fiercest protective instinct the moment his boys looked vulnerable.
The sight of Sir Alex Ferguson standing on the touchline, grabbing a player by his collar and screaming at him to raise his performance, is the perfect example of his unbridled pride in the club’s philosophy. The players were like his children, but if they did not stand up to the level that is required at the club, then even his children were not exempt from a lambasting. That was Alex Ferguson.
And then, on the other hand, when a player was ridiculed and tormented, as happens a lot nowadays, there was no stauncher supporter of the player than The Boss. He would stick by them through a hurricane and come out none the worse for wear. That, too, is Alex Ferguson.
He was not a father figure to the team, he was a father figure to the club. To the players, the staff, the board and the fans. There was not a single soul connected to Manchester United who did not look to this day with dread.
Since 1999, when on a fateful night, I watched my first Manchester United match with Roy Keane pulling back a 2 goal deficit against a Juventus packed with legends, there was something about this team that captured my attention. A few weeks later, they did it again, historically, to win the Champions league, scoring two in the final two minutes of the game.
Having witnessed that as my first taste of club football, I believe it was out of my hands, I was in love with the club.
But I realize today, it was in fact Sir Alex Ferguson’s philosophy that had caught my eye. A team that played fast, breathless football. A team that did not acknowledge defeat and till the last second ran their socks off. And more often than not, that resulted in an unlikely victory.
A team that no matter what the opponent or the occasion, never once abandoned their style. Every one of these traits was ingrained into them by Sir Alex. And it was these same traits that made me fall in love.
I will, to my death, continue to support the club, but if I am honest, Sir Alex was a huge part of the image of Manchester United in my head.
So now I ask the question, having lost Sir Alex, where do I go from here?