MANCHESTER, United Kingdom – Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson quipped that he was “out-living death” after a bronze statue of him was unveiled outside Old Trafford on Friday.
The nine-foot statue was commissioned in November last year to mark Ferguson's 25th anniversary at the club, when the North Stand was renamed in his honour.
The statue was revealed by Ferguson's wife, Cathy, in front of a star-studded cast of present and former United players, as well as fans.
“It's fantastic, a really proud moment,” said Ferguson.
“Normally people die before they see their statue, so I'm out-living death.
“I've had an incredible journey at the club and I've had so many great players, some of whom are here today.
“They should build this statue for them all, because they've been absolutely marvellous. From 1986 right through to today, the players have given us enormous pleasure.
“Everyone has had a part to play, from the players to the coaching staff, medical staff and, of course, the fans.”
Ferguson, 70, has now been in charge at Old Trafford for 26
years, winning 27 major honours in that time, including two Champions League titles and 12 Premier League trophies.
The current United squad was joined by former stars including Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Edwin van der Sar, Peter Schmeichel, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, and Gary and Phil Neville.
David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo Ä both of whom bore the number seven shirt with distinction for United before joining Real Madrid Ä sent pre-recorded tributes.
“What an amazing day for you, your family and for the club,” said Beckham.
“I just want to say thank you for everything you have done for me. My time at United was without doubt the highlight of my career and I cherish it.”
Ronaldo said: “Well done boss, I think you deserve it 100
Ferguson has become one of the most iconic figures in British sport during his long reign at United.
Phrases such as 'the hairdyer' (a half-time blast aimed at under-performing players) and 'Fergie time' (a reference to United's reputation for scoring goals in injury time) have become embedded in the country's football lexicon.
“People can talk about many things like the hairdryer and Fergie time, but the most important thing you have brought back to this club is respect,” United chief executive David Gill told Ferguson.
The Scot, who announced plans to retire in 2002 before changing his mind, thanked his wife for her support, but joked: “Cathy has promised that every Saturday morning she's going to come down here and bow to the statue!” – Sapa-AFP