Ferguson leads tributes to Walter Smith
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has expressed his sorrow at the sad death of his former assistant Walter Smith, who has passed away at the age of 73.
"I am absolutely devastated," said Sir Alex. "Walter was a special person. He fought his illness with great courage. He was a great friend of mine for years and years, I had him as my assistant at United in 2004 and he was also my assistant when Scotland went to the World Cup in 1986.
"In all that time you were dealing with a man with great moral compass in how he lived his life and the friendship he offered so many people. His contribution to football with Dundee United, Rangers, Scotland, Everton and Man United was immense.
"He was only at United a short time," added our legendary former manager. "But he was fantastic. I lost Carlos Queiroz to Real Madrid and I knew I needed an assistant so I phoned Walter about it and he came for six months and helped us win the FA Cup against Millwall. He had a wonderful connection with people because he was a great listener, that was one of his greatest qualities.
"He listened and showed an interest in people and helped everyone he could. It’s such a loss to the game and to everyone that knew him. I send my sincere condolences to his wife Ethel and his two sons Neil and Steven. I’ll miss him greatly."
Smith had the short spell as assistant manager to Sir Alex during the 2003/04 season, which featured that 3-0 triumph over Millwall in the FA Cup final at the Millennium Stadium.
Later that year, Walter took charge of the Scotland national team, before returning to Rangers in 2007 for a second stint at the Ibrox helm. He also managed Everton between 1998 and 2002, while much of his professional playing career came with Dundee United.
Only recently, Sir Alex told us how Walter had been instrumental in convincing United to sign Wayne Rooney from Everton, describing the man who would go on to become the club's record goalscorer as the best young footballer in the game.
Our legendary boss also once revealed how possibly the best contribution on the field during his time with the Reds was in helping prepare the team tactically to overcome a formidable Arsenal side in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park.
The Scots had been reunited at Old Trafford after working together, proudly representing their country at the 1986 World Cup finals. Smith became Ferguson's number two for the tournament in Mexico, following the death of Jock Stein.
Rooney later added his own tribute to Smith on social media, saying: "Devastated to hear the sad news about Walter Smith. Great man and a legend of the game. Condolences go out to all his family and friends. RIP Walter."