United saddened by the loss of Gerard Houllier
Everyone at Manchester United joins the football world in expressing our sadness at the loss of Gerard Houllier and we send our condolences to his loved ones.
It was announced on Monday morning that the former Lens, Paris Saint-Germain, France, Liverpool, Lyon and Aston Villa manager had passed away at the age of 73.
Houllier is best known for his six-season spell at Anfield and, during his time on Merseyside, the respected Frenchman developed what was already a friendly relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Reacting to the loss, Sir Alex said:
“The news has come as a total shock this morning. Gerard Houllier was still a young man at the age of 73.
“Gerard became a really good friend during his time at Liverpool. We remained great friends after he left and he was always a great ally to have.
“He had fantastic football knowledge which he gained during his extensive and varied career. When we saw each other at UEFA meetings or other events, we would often enjoy a chat, he was always great company and I will miss him dearly. He was a true gentleman.
“It is a sad day for the football world and my thoughts are with his family at this desperately sad time.”
FRIENDS AND RIVALS
In his autobiography, 'Managing My Life', Sir Alex recalls how his friend Houllier played a role in United signing Eric Cantona from rivals Leeds back in 1992.
“Well, when we played Leeds earlier in the season and beat them 2-0, Bruce and Pallister were raving about him in the bath after the game and last week I was talking to Gerard Houllier, who has a very high opinion of his abilities.
“The next few minutes were spent talking about Cantona’s reputation for being unorthodox and possibly disruptive. Obviously we had to consider the danger that he would be bringing too much awkward baggage with him. But, from what Houllier had said about him, it did not seem that he was the big bad wolf portrayed by the media, so I was prepared to bet on the Frenchman.”
After leaving Liverpool in 2004, Houllier returned to his native France to achieve success with Lyon and later became a part of the France Football Federation. He was then tempted back into English football with Aston Villa in 2010, but ill health later forced him to retire.
Houllier revealed at that time how his old rival Sir Alex had checked in on him, saying:
“He came to see me at the hospital. He has got that human warmth. I had a few managers who came – Sir Alex, of course, Arsene Wenger my friend, and Sven-Goran Eriksson came as well.
“The rivalry [with Sir Alex] is something healthy for football but there is no rivalry between us two managers. There were a few opportunities where sometimes he gave me a call and some help.
“Look at his tremendous record with different teams. I think he is a genius. Getting to the top is something - staying at the top is another thing completely. I had a good record against him – that is what Sir Alex said - ‘you are more successful against Manchester United than even Bob Paisley.’
“He’s been a friend for a long time, before I came to England and even after. We met at coaches’ get-togethers organised by Andy Roxburgh at UEFA and sometimes on holiday. We’ve been friends and whatever happens in the game we will remain friends.”
We send our condolences to Gerard's loved ones at this time.