‘A great leader of people’: Tony Blair salutes Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of statue unveiling

By Pippa Field

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is among those who are hailing Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of the unveiling of his bronze statute at Old Trafford tomorrow.

Having already cemented himself as the club’s most successful manager collecting 37 trophies in 26 years, 70-year-old Ferguson is set to be immortalised in a new statue.

And ex-Labour leader Blair – who met Ferguson through the manager’s links to the party – couldn’t praise the Scotsman highly enough.

“He’s one of these people that has a strength of character that immediately marks him out as a leader of people,” said Mr Blair

“He’s a great competitor but he’s also got huge integrity, to himself and to what he believes in.

“I think that’s quite unusual in life to find people like that and when you find them they’re very special.”

Admitting that he still sees Sir Alex from time to time, Mr Blair also described the strength of the manager in supporting people even in hard times – something that United fans will have witnessed over the years.

He added: “If you’re in a tough situation and everything is coming down on top of you and you feel you’re slowly getting surrounded by the people that want to put you in a deep dark pit, Alex is the type of person you’d want standing alongside you because you’d know you were [then able] to give whoever came after you a good fight.

“Alex Ferguson is a great coach which is obvious; the less obvious [thing about him] is that he is a great leader, a great character, and, above all, for those of us who are supporters and friends of his, a great human being.”

A special ceremony is to take place tomorrow afternoon to mark the unveiling of the statue outside the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, formerly known as the North Stand.

United have invited all of Ferguson’s captains from his 26-year reign at the club, as well as numerous influential players and figures from the game.

Veteran midfielder Paul Scholes, who has spent all his 18 years at United playing under the legendary manager, praised the Scotsman, and admitted he would be hard to replace.

“There is such a hunger and desire about him that really drives his players on – he knows how to keep you motivated throughout a season,” Scholes said.

“Somebody’s going to have to come in one day and manage this team and if they do half as well as he does they’ll be successful.

“There’s nobody like him I know that – but somebody’s got to give it a go.”

United legend Sir Bobby Charlton – instrumental in bringing Ferguson to Old Trafford in 1986 – said the stature was a fitting tribute to the current manager’s achievements.

He said: “It’s a honour that the public get a chance to go and look at the statue and marvel at his record.

“He’s a very, very capable person and manager and I think the statue will be there forever. It’s a marvellous tribute.”

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