The recent announcement of the retirement of two Manchester United legends made world news, as Sir Alex Ferguson – without doubt one of the all time greats of world football management, and David Beckham – a face famous even to those with no intreats in football – bid the game farewell and look to pastures new. What kind of legacy have they left the game, and what next for these two very different individuals?
Starting with Ferguson, there are simply no bigger shoes to fill in global sport, as he has led the club to sustained domestic and international success over a remarkable two and half decades in Manchester. When it’s not unusual for a third of incumbent managers to be fired every season, Ferguson has literally rebuilt the club from the doldrums it found itself in the 1980s, to one of – if not the – biggest club in the world relative to fan base, exposure and finance. Having turned seventy he kept his cards characteristically close to his chest and it was only a day before when the story leaked to – and was believed by – the media, as health concerns and the desire to ease back from the managerial pressure finally made the decision for him.
As Ferguson received plaudits and eulogies for across the world, with the great and the good of not just football but the whole spectrum of society paying tribute to his loyalty and conviction, only one sport story could possibly rival the enormity of his retirement. Never a man to push the brand, David Beckham – England’s most capped outfield player and the only British player to win league titles in four separate countries – announced he was finishing in a high having just won Ligue 1 with Paris St Germain.
While Beckham is 38, and if anything has pushed his retirement date a couple of years later than most midfield players (in part thanks to the easier game he has had in six years with LA Galaxy), his announcement likewise received global coverage as another era passes. Nobody can take away Beckham’s success or achievements, indeed no Englishman has ever fared as remotely well as he has overseas, in part his adaptability to foreign cultures is assisted by his globe hopping role as a prominent brand ambassador. As one of the worlds most recognisable faces, it’s fair to say that many more people will put his name to his face than they may with Ferguson.
While a player may get away with having a poor match or run of form, and to be fair Beckham has had a few over his career, in management Ferguson has only ever been in serious trouble of redundancy at the earliest phase of his career at Manchester Utd. His policy of constant revolution, and ruthlessness with selling on players he considered has past their best was key to his long term success – indeed Beckham was without doubt one of the highest profile victims of his consistency. Whatever the future does hold for these two giants of the game, their careers for this reason, and however divergent will always be partially synonymous together.