As news broke this week that Sir Alex Ferguson intends to step down as manager of Manchester United later this month after 26 years in charge of the world’s most famous football team, Padraig Carberry of the Longford branch of the Manchester United Supporters Club recalled the Scotsman’s visit to the local area in 2001.
“He was extremely nice, very funny and very welcoming – nothing like the way he’s portrayed in the media, where he’s seen as a very serious individual,” Padraig said when contacted by the Leader this week. “His visit to Longford was a huge coup for the local supporters club.”
Initially, the supporters had some slight difficulties in making preparations for the Scotsman’s visit, as Padraig explained: “No one could actually believe he was coming to Longford. Even when we rang the Longford Arms Hotel to book the function room, they thought it was someone playing a joke at first.”
When Sir Alex did arrive, he spent an enjoyable day in the company of local Manchester United supporters in the town, and was the guest of honour at a special meal. “He spent the whole day in Longford meeting fans, signing autographs and getting photos taken with people. He had great time for the supporters,” Padraig said. “Then that night we held a special dinner in his honour at the Longford Arms, which was attended by around 130 people. It was a great occasion that everyone who was there will always remember.”
Twelve years on from that memorable visit, the news that the sport’s most successful manager is set to retire is still sinking in with Padraig and his fellow supporters: “The announcement came as a shock because it was so sudden, but it was going to happen sooner or later. He’ll be a hard act to follow.”
Another Scotsman, David Moyes has been named as Sir Alex’s successor, and Padraig believes he’s the right man for the job. “I think the appointment of David Moyes would have been carefully considered. He’s a manager who looks after the entire club – the first team, reserves and the youth academy,” he admitted. “Jose Mourinho would have been another option, but he doesn’t stay at clubs for long and only seems to focus on the first team.”
Manchester United remain well-supported in the Longford area, with the local supporters club boasting an impressive number of members. “We currently have around 160 members in the local supporters club, Padraig reveals. And with Fergie’s reign at an end, those supporters wait with bated breath to see what the future holds.