Fires still burning strong for Ferguson at United
LONDON (AP) — The touchline jigs after goals. The furious gum-chewing. The obsessive time-keeping. The outbursts against referees. The stream of silverware.
Alex Ferguson 's hairline is receding but not much else changes with the Manchester United manager, whose competitive fires are burning as strongly this season as they did when he arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 with the task of awaking a sleeping giant.
Having won 37 major trophies over 26 years, he has certainly done that, establishing himself as the most successful coach in English football.
But how long can this 71-year-old institution of the Premier League carry on?
Ferguson recently suggested that he still has "two or three years" left in him, keeping to a timeframe he laid out midway through through last season when he turned 70.
But it was another interview — given to French sports newspaper L'Equipe back in 2009 — which revealed the inner feelings of the Scot and which can still be used as a yardstick.
"Three things," Ferguson said, "can make me stop — my health; if I don't take pleasure (in the job) any more; and if I don't have the strength for a new challenge."
There appear to be few issues with his health — Ferguson had a pacemaker fitted at 62 but hasn't had any other major scares, despite being in one of the most pressure-filled jobs around.
He is clearly still relishing his job, too. With United sitting pretty atop the Premier League, Ferguson has been at his feisty best in recent months in reigniting his feud with Spanish coach Rafa Benitez, dismissing Newcastle as a "wee club in the north east" and claiming his top striker Robin van Persie could have been "killed" by an opponent's recklessness. He is currently fighting an FA misconduct charge for criticizing a linesman.
Then we come to the "new challenge" issue.
After Ferguson was hired by United, he spoke of his determination to knock Liverpool "off their perch" as the kings of English football. He achieved that at the start of the 1990s, and has seen off pretenders Arsenal and Chelsea since the turn of the century.
Now it's the turn of Manchester City, a rival from across the city, to challenge United's hegemony. Fuelled by the cash of its Abu Dhabi owners, City won the Premier League last year and threatened to change the landscape of English football with its big-spending ways.
The master at reinventing and reviving teams, Ferguson responded by strengthening his attack with the inspired signing of Van Persie and United is now on course to wrest the title back off City and extend its record haul of titles to 20. Another threat diverted — and this one not just from the "noisy neighbors" but a club with previously unseen spending power in world football.
Domestically, it could be the most satisfying coup yet for Ferguson. To many, it would be the ideal way to bow out.
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