When I heard, I was in shock. The seemingly unthinkable had occurred. The greatest manager of our age was stepping down from his post as one of the most commanding figures in the modern game. The realization that the usual whispers and murmurings of his impending retirement, that had initially fallen upon upon deaf ears, were not something dreamed up on a fancy, was hard to take. There has not been a day I have lived without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm of English football's now most successful and famous club; Manchester United, and the days ahead certainly seem shrouded in mist and fog as a result.
As the reverberations of Sir Alex's imminent retirement continue to travel, it is worth considering what impact this has on the Premier League.
This is assuming of course, as indeed I think many are, that we will be one of the 20 teams comprising the best league in the world come August (as a result of our battling point at home to Stoke City on Monday night and Wigan's graciousness to twice throw away a lead at home to an out-of-form Swansea City on Tuesday). If Di Canio can indeed lead us to safety, we will be part of a league where I think there is potential for an exciting battle for the title once again.
Ferguson's retirement poses so many questions; many of which will be answered in the coming days as a replacement is announced. (I have to agree with the bookies that David Moyes is indeed the favourite for the vacancy. His mix of nurturing talent and success on-a-budget make him an attractive proposition for a club with a transfer kitty capable, for instance, of buying Cristiano Ronaldo back from Real Madrid as has been reported.. Certainly the term "a poisoned chalice" comes to mind , when referring to the behemoth of a shadow Sir Alex will leave on his successor, but I think Moyes is the best equipped for the job). Whoever does step into his rather sizable shoes will be expected to get results from the start. Although United were widely considered to have by far the best playing squad in the league (to which their winning the league title back from their "noisy neighbours" Manchester City at a canter has been attributed), it remains to be seen how much of United's recent success is solely down to Ferguson. My personal opinion is rather a lot.
There is a possibility that United could "become an Arsenal" in the next few years. They could go from being the team-to-beat, to settling for a Champions League finish. I realize this does not quite sum Arsenal up either; as in I do not see United becoming a selling club which struggle to finish in the top four, but rather, a drop in quality from The best to simply one of them. This would result in a far more open race for the title, and the top 5 clubs would consider themselves capable of a pop at the Premier League cherry. Would the new manager be given time if this drop in quality were to happen? How much of their transfer kitty will they want to spend with a new manager at the helm? It doesn't matter who the new man is; he has to adhere to the demands of keeping the title away from London and the blue side of Manchester. United will certainly appoint someone with longevity in mind, and their transfer dealings this summer will play a substantial role in the outcome of next season's title (as was proved with Manchester City's lack of marquee signings last summer). Money will need to be spent, and with cash-rich teams like Manchester City ironically realizing that now more than ever, the next few months will certainly be very interesting.
Of course, much of this is pure speculation, and United may continue to succeed at the same rate under their new manager as under Ferguson, but I think an exciting end to next season at both ends of the table is in store. Something akin to last season, when first City then United blew the chance to be champions of England. The Stadium of Light may have turned out to be the place where Ferguson's retirement plans stemmed. The agony he and his club suffered on 13th May 2012, at the hands of their bitterest rivals (accentuated by our own fans - something seemingly not forgotten!) seemingly ignited a fire within him which culminated in this season's almost obliteration of the competition.
Who can blame him, after such a turnaround, to walk away on a high.
I must admit though, an imminently Fergieless footballing landscape leaves a lump in the throat.