Sepp Blatter, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo hail Manchester United hero Sir Alex Ferguson at statue unveiling

By Pippa Field, photos by Chris Higgins

With a list of trophies longer than the rollicking a time-keeping official is regularly accustomed with, Sir Alex Ferguson would be forgiven for not knowing what his proudest moment at Manchester United was – but the unveiling of his very own statue is one of his best.

Following the renaming last season of the North Stand into the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, the club commissioned world renowned sculptor Philip Jackson to create a nine foot statue to stand outside the 102-year-ground.

And after the statue’s unveiling at a special ceremony led by Eammon Holmes, the 70-year-old spoke of his pride before making a point of thanking all those who had worked for him.

“It’s a really proud moment for me. It’s a fantastic honour,” he said.

“Normally people die before they see their statue, so I’m outliving death but I’ve had an incredible journey at this club.

“I’ve been very privileged to deal with such great players from 1986 right through until today.

“They’ve given us all enormous pleasure.

“All the coaching staff, all the medical staff I’ve had over the years, they’ve all played their part.”

The statue, showing the manager standing defiantly with his arms crossed, was unveiled by his wife Lady Cathy.

Chief Executive David Gill explained that as Ferguson’s great supporter but also someone that he is slightly scared of, Lady Cathy was the perfect person to unveil the tribute to her husband.

Ferguson thanked his wife of 46 years before joking that she would be coming down weekly to see the statue.

“I would just like to say that the boss – she is a fantastic person,” he added.

“Someone has to control me and she’s the only one that can.

“But she has promised every Saturday she’s going to come down and bow to the statue along with my three sons, my daughter-in-laws and all my grandchildren.

“They’re all going to come down in a bus.”

As well as hundreds of fans, and the current United first team, former United players Eric Cantona, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Edwin van der, Peter Schmeichel, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Gary and Phil Neville attended.

And his achievement of winning 37 trophies – including 12 Premier League titles, two Champions League titles, five FA Cups and four League Cups – drew praise from Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA.

“Sir Alex Ferguson is unique,” said Mr Blatter in a pre-recorded video message.

“He’s unique because he has put a high standard on his club.

“I am proud and I wish well to him in the future, to his family and to his family that is Manchester United.”

Other pre-recorded messages included former Reds ace Christiano Ronaldo saying Ferguson was 100% deserving of his tribute and David Beckham thanking his former boss for giving him his best career moments at Old Trafford.

Paying a lengthy tribute to the manager, Mr Gill thanked Ferguson for bringing the glory days back to the club.

He said: “Everyone can speak about the success you’ve had on the pitch the last 26 years.

“About the teams you’ve built, the players you’ve developed, the hair-dryer treatment, and the Fergie time.

“But the greatest thing you brought back to this club we all love is respect.

“Respect for the staff, the players young and old, for the fans, for the history and heritage of this great club and for the Manchester United way.”

The statue is positioned outside the entrance to the Sir Alex Ferguson stand.

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