One thing is clear: Sir Alex Ferguson deserves a statue. Twenty-six years in charge at Manchester United, 12 Premier League trophies, two Champions Leagues, one Cup Winners’ Cup, five FA Cups and four League Cups (and that’s without his haul at Aberdeen); and incredibly, he’s still at the top of his game at the tender age of seventy, pushing forward with a rarely-witnessed insatiable desire to win, all the while keeping up with the rapid changes in the modern game.
So, it’s established that he’s earned the right to be immortalised in bronze. My only question is: why now exactly? The award-winning sculptor Phillip Jackson was commissioned to produce the statue, unveiled today in front of a huge crowd including ex-United stars like Eric Cantona, Ruud Van Nistelrooy (his first return to Old Trafford since leaving) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to celebrate… twenty-six years? It just seems a little arbitrary.
I have a slightly old-fashioned view about commemorative monuments. To me they possess far more poignancy and significance when the immortalised individual in question has either passed on or is at least no longer in ‘active service’. It’s a strange image to think of Sir Alex walking into work, glancing over to his statue and seeing fans standing around admiring its glory. Wouldn’t that feel a bit morbid? To reiterate, I am in no way saying the statue isn’t justified- and as a United fan I will celebrate its unveiling everyone else- but the timing just seems a little peculiar. If plans were in motion to produce a statue, wouldn’t last year have made more sense, after 25 years in charge? In marriage terms, it seems tantamount to celebrating a silver wedding anniversary one year too late, after staying in with a curry in front of the TV the year before.
Thierry Henry’s statue is another example where it ended up all feeling a bit weird. Erected in bronze alongside Tony Adams and Herbert Chapman in recognition of his remarkable stint at Arsenal and his impact on the Premier League, his return to the Emirates as a player on loan from New York Red Bulls last year saw him in active service for the Gunners at the same time as his bronze version stood- or kneeled more accurately- outside.
Like the array of knighthoods immediately dished out to young Olympic champions over the past two Games, it just seems a little premature. I personally can’t think of a more poignant retirement present, and I just feel it’s a bit of shame that United seem to have used up their commemorative arsenal (for want of a better word) before he has called an end to an unprecedented epic career. He’s got the knighthood, the CBE, the stand named after him and now the statue. Let’s leave something for his retirement, or at this rate he’s going to the be the recipient of the most underwhelming gold watch in history.
Follow Fabio on Twitter at @Fabzucci
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