LONDON - Sir Alex Ferguson is out of a coma and showing promising early signs of recovery following emergency surgery on a brain haemorrhage.
British football’s most successful manager remains in intensive care but has been sitting up talking to family and friends at Salford Royal Hospital, where he was admitted on Saturday.
Surgery went very well and the 76-year-old’s response to treatment has given encouragement and cautious optimism to those close to him. However, they recognise it will still be a slow road to full recovery as he continues to be assessed.
News of Ferguson’s condition has rocked the football world, which has rallied to support the United statesman who won an unprecedented 38 trophies during 26 years at Old Trafford before retiring in 2013.
United’s club captain Michael Carrick opened up on Monday night over how the news left him particularly shocked.
"I was devastated," the midfielder told MUTV. "I got a text on Saturday evening and it didn’t really sink in. I spoke to a few people at the club to get a rundown on how he was doing.
"The whole world showed their support and I was just concerned about him, as an ex-manager and a friend — as he was to everyone. It was the effect he had on everyone. He means a lot to me, as he does to this club.
"It was a tough night on Saturday and we were waiting for some positive news. We were all praying for him and thinking of him, Cathy and the family. It’s a tough time for everyone but I’m thinking positive and hoping he will pull through."
United have been inundated with goodwill messages for Ferguson from around the globe and Carrick added: "It just shows you the mark of the man and the respect he had. The whole football world is incredible but outside of that as well, from all corners of the globe and different walks of life, people have shown their support. That’s the effect he had on people."
Ryan Giggs, the former United winger who is now the manager of Wales, echoed Carrick’s sentiments. "It was a huge shock as the news filtered in," Giggs told BBC Wales. "He has been the biggest influence in my career, both on and off the pitch.
"But I gather that the operation has been a success. I think the next couple of days are crucial. Now is the time to pray and hope he can make a full recovery. I know he is a fighter and that is what makes me think that he will be able to make a recovery."
United defender Phil Jones, who was signed by Ferguson from Blackburn in 2011, said he was "like a father" to him and was pivotal in helping him settle in.
"I am devastated," Jones said. "He is such a legend in my eyes. He is the one gave me that opportunity to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world. He’s taken me under his wing like a father.
"It was shocking but I know his character. I know he has that fight in him. Hopefully he’ll recover well. He has got all his family and friends around him, the support from all the players and staff at United and football around the world. We are all rooting for him. I’m sure he will be fine."
Midfielder Juan Mata also dedicated his weekly blog to Ferguson. Although the Spaniard was signed after he had retired as manager, Mata spoke about his lasting impact at United.
He said: "All of us were overwhelmed by the news about Sir Alex Ferguson’s health condition. This circumstance has had a huge impact on United, as you can imagine. All of us are united right now, wishing Sir Alex a speedy recovery. He has been a unique and fundamental figure in the football world over the last few decades.
"I’ve never been coached by him, unfortunately, yet I know well his legacy on this club, that winning mentality and fighting gene that we must honour in the last three games of the season, especially in the FA Cup final. To achieve that, we are going to work hard while we eagerly await good news about Sir Alex’s recovery."