Sir Alex at 80: How he inspired supporters
Sir Alex Ferguson turns 80 today - 31 December - and fans have been sending in messages in their thousands to wish the boss a happy birthday.
One key theme in the words sent in from around the world has been that of inspiration: fans who have felt driven and empowered to follow their dreams by Sir Alex.
Across every continent, there are thousands of people - and not only Manchester United supporters - who follow the value system which Sir Alex instilled at United and dictated his management.
The Govan-born boss has regularly outlined his belief that success comes when everyone at the club’s role is viewed equally. He had a fantastic ability as manager to create an environment in which such a belief was followed by all. With an uncanny knack for remembering names, the Scot has long had the skill of listening well and making whoever he speaks to feel like the most important person in the room.
That character trait has rubbed off on thousands of Reds in their own lives. From a wide array of industries and countries, we received message after message which thanked Sir Alex for his inspirational set of values.
MESSAGES FROM FANS
Here's a selection of birthday messages in which supporters cite Sir Alex's influence and inspiration on them.
“May you and your family be happy for many long years! From the poor town of Govan, all the way to the top of the world football - you were (and still are to this day) a pure example of "work hard, and never stop working hard.”
Aleksandar Petrov, Bulgaria
“Every day you managed you gave us the best lessons on and off the field.”
Karim Amr, Egypt
“Best wishes on your birthday Sir Alex. Everyday I take inspiration from you on the virtues of life to move forward- dedication, honesty, excellence, compassion among others. Wishing you great health and thanks again for inspiring millions every day.”
Pushan Pal, India
“Sir Alex, through the way you built your teams over the years, inculcated a sense of pride in wearing the Manchester United shirt, brought out the best in individuals who might have ended up as average players elsewhere and taught them the value of dedication and hard work, you have always been a role model for me in the way I have approached the troubles in my own life. You represent a set of values that have been and will be a guiding light to many across the world. Here’s wishing you a happy 80th birthday and many more to come!”
Kartik Kota, United Kingdom
“I have been a United fan my whole life, but you have been a personal inspiration to me, especially as I’m now a senior manager in public service. I have read your books; your values and beliefs on leading people match my own. Your moral compass is so strong and how you deal with people has been a blueprint for me: people are people, who, regardless of stature or rank in an organisation, make an equally valued contribution. I try to mirror that every day in how I deal with people in mine. Thank you, Sir Alex, for giving every United fan the greatest night of their lives in 1999 and thank you for making me a better leader. Many happy returns to a very special man whose good deeds for people have gone largely unseen but your influence has reached an infinite number.”
Kerrie McLaughlin, United Kingdom
“Dear Sir Alex. Happy birthday! I also want to say thank you. As a 36-year-old I can honestly say you gave me decade after decade of joy from football. Your humility and attitude is something I’ve sought to develop in my own nursing career. When I have job interviews, I often quote you or use you as an example of an inspiring leader. I’ve learnt to expect high standards and to work hard, but I’ve also learnt to protect my staff and build relationships with them from your examples. Forgetting football, your character as a man has taught me everything I have needed to be a good person. It’s unlikely I’ll ever see you in person so I’m so glad of this opportunity to tell you how important your influence has been on me. Thank you for everything you have done for this football club. There will never be another like Sir Alex Ferguson and I am so blessed to have grown up to see the greatest manager and greatest team play live. Happy birthday, Sir, and many happy returns. God bless you.”
Matt Roberts, United Kingdom
“Happy birthday Sir Alex, I've never had the pleasure of meeting you but, you will always be an inspiration not just to myself but to every working man and woman in Britain. Your grit, determination, discipline and sheer will to win will always be legendary. You will always be god-like to us Manchester United fans, but also as a fellow family man, I respect all you have sacrificed and been through with your family. I want to wish you a fantastic birthday and wish you and your family well for the coming year and many more to come.”
Jamie Anderson, United Kingdom
“Wishing you the happiest of birthdays Sir Alex Ferguson! Thank you for all you have done for the club we all know and love so much. Thank you for inspiring so many people to be better both on and off the pitch and thank you for always helping us believe in hope, even when things seem tough. You brought us all hope through your managing ability and through your strong sense of direction, and we are all so eternally grateful for all you have done and all that you are. Thank you Sir Alex, you are a legend! Happy birthday!”
Rhys Westerveld, Australia
“Happy 80th Sir Alex! And many more to come! You've been an incredible influence and example for me and millions of Reds worldwide. The ruthless determination and never-give-up attitude of your teams is what has been an inspiration even to people like me whom you've never met, but indelibly helped. Wishing you a fulfilling journey ahead.”
Dr Bharat, India
“Happy birthday boss! You're an integral part of my upbringing even though I’m in Nairobi. You work ethic and a particular recognition to the blue-collar working class as told in your documentary has always resonated with me. You continuously inspire me with your never-say-die attitude and I consider myself extremely lucky to even know of you. It would be a dream to meet you one day. For now, I just wish you good health and a very splendid day and year ahead. Thank you boss.”
Alex Muhia, Kenya
“Dear Sir Alex, I just want to wish you an amazing birthday and want to thank you personally for all the great memories and happy times you gave me as a United supporter in my childhood years. To say that I idolised you is an understatement. I went to see you talk in San Francisco when you did your book tour and everything you said had an impact on me as a person. I always try and remember what you say about taking an interest in the people you work with and respecting them just like you did with all the United players. Thank you so much for your leadership while at United and for making us the world's greatest team.”
John Coyle, United States
“You and Anson Dorrance inspired me to become the coach that I am today. I've studied every article, book, and video that I can find about you, to try and take the best parts of you to add to myself. Without a role model like you, I wouldn't be the coach that I am today. Even if I never get to meet you in person, the impact that you've had on my life has changed me into not only a better coach, but a better man. I'm so thankful that I get to pass those lessons along to my players. My favourite line of yours was "If you give in once, you'll give in twice" and I've used that idea so many times that my players can finish the line for me. I'll never let my teams give in and it's all because of you. Thank you, Sir Alex, and well done. Happy 80th birthday!”
David Kenney, United States
“Dear Sir Alex, the greatest there has been in my lifetime. Thank you, congratulations and many, many happy returns on your 80th birthday. The Treble and your leadership around that era is what has made me a United fan today. No greater sporting success story is etched in my mind. As a leader in education, I feel fortunate to be able to read your book and learn something from you and apply it in my profession. In '99 I was able to meet the team at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick and one of the biggest regrets was not having the opportunity to meet you. Ryan Giggs had to suffice! May you have the most memorable and fulfilling day yet. You deserve it and much more.”
Melissa Muscat, Australia
“'Once you bid farewell to discipline, you say goodbye to success’ - this quote of yours has really inspired me in many ways. The way you still sit in the stands and watch us play, should be an inspiration to everyone. Thank you for being there always. Wishing you a very happy birthday, Sir Alex.”
Sukanya Saha, India
“Happy birthday, Sir Alex. I wish you and your family lasting health and happiness, in many more years to come! Your words in Leading on page 13, second last paragraph, I still live by those words. ‘It always pays to listen to others. It's like enrolling in a continuous, lifelong free education, with the added benefit that there are no examinations and you can always discard the useless comments.’ Thank you, Sir Alex, for being so inspirational!”
Iskandar Kamel, Malaysia
“Happy 80th birthday Sir Alex Ferguson. Ever since I started supporting Manchester United you have been the boss and you’ll always be the boss. I’ve learnt a lot about leadership from you. The best example is that you always humble yourself and greet everyone in your big team including cleaners. You are the best. To many more years, boss.”
Waleed Abdalla, Kenya
“Dear Sir Alex, congratulations on your 80th birthday. What an inspiration you are to players, staff and fans alike. You are also a role model as a husband and father, influencing other men to be better. Enjoy your day and a glass of red or two!“
Elinor Green, United Kingdom
“Happy birthday Sir Alex! Thank you for make me love this club since I was nine years old, for the winning mentality and for teaching me to never give up. Happy birthday and Happy New Year, Boss. Always United, peace.”
Rangel Mango Ferreira, Brazil
You can send your birthday messages, memories and anecdotes to Sir Alex here.