Sir Alex at 80: The legend's letters to fans
As Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates a landmark 80th birthday, we asked Manchester United fans from around the world to wish the legendary manager a happy birthday.
In response, thousands of you sent in your favourite memories of the team under Sir Alex’s management, your stories of meeting the boss and there were also some incredibly touching tales of kind gestures from the great man.
Throughout his time as our manager, the Scot dedicated a great deal of time to contacting fans in times of need. Whether it be a child struggling with illness, a parent coping with grief or any kind of troublesome situation, Sir Alex would take some time to pen a letter.
As one supporter, Jackie Berry, wrote, “you are the greatest of all time without question, but what makes you so special is the kindness you have shown people with handwritten messages of support when they faced difficult times. Wishing you a happy birthday, Sir Alex, and much love to Lady Cathy and your family.”
Recipients of those letters were among those wishing Sir Alex a happy birthday over the last week, and their messages were wonderful to read. Here are some of our favourites...
“Happy birthday Sir Alex! You took time to write to me after our son was born at 28 weeks, weighing less than a bag of sugar, and gave me positivity in those dark times. That bag of sugar is 21 years old next month. Thank you.”
Michelle Daniels, United Kingdom
“Happy birthday Sir Alex, thank you for the wonderful memories you gave us. My late father was a steward at Old Trafford for over 25 years, as well as being a former home and away supporter, and he adored you. On his passing we received a letter from you offering your condolences. That letter meant as much to me as winning the trophies we won. The personal touch and the class shown by you in that moment meant the world to me. I missed out on Barca ‘99 but made it to Moscow in ‘08; I had to be there for my dad. You made wounds heal that night, I know my dad was with us on that dramatic night, I like to think he gave John Terry a little nudge as he was about to end our dreams. Magic happened, these moments were ultimately down to you, you gave us hope and we dared to believe. Thank you.”
Scott Jeffreys, United Kingdom
“Sir Alex, I can’t bring into words how much you’ve touched my heart. My grandad, Noel Powell, was a United fan all his life. On his 70th birthday, you personally wrote to him. We all took pictures of him holding the letter which he framed. It meant everything to him, that little piece of paper. That letter meant everything to him, and it means everything to me. When my son, Isaac Noel Powell, turns 18 (he is 3 now), he will receive that framed letter. I’m raising him to be a United fan just like my grandad did me. He has autism and it can be a struggle but the one thing we do bond over is United and singing the chants together. It brings so much happiness into his eyes. They light up, just like my grandad's did when you gave him that letter. Taking five minutes out of your day brought my grandad and me so much happiness and will bring my son so much happiness too. This is why we love you. This is why we are United. I just want to take the time to thank you for what you did many years ago, as it’s still living on to this day. Happy birthday, legend.”
Aisling Powell, United Kingdom
“When I was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease at the age of 9, you kindly wrote a letter to me and encouraged me to have listen to all of the advice from the doctors whilst saying everyone at the club wished me the best. 23 years on I never lost faith and this year I was accepted into medical school with a same day call-back at the ripe age of 31 years old. You helped me gain the courage and resilience to never give in. Thank you.”
Kieran Chumun, United Kingdom
“Happy birthday, Sir Alex. You and the team helped me have the strength to cope with injuries I got from a road traffic accident in 1994 (I was in hospital at NDDH Barnstaple, North Devon). I will never forget my feeling when I received the letters from you and all the players in 1994. You are a great man. Happiest of birthdays to you.”
Pete Tucker, United Kingdom
“Happy birthday, Sir Alex, and thank you so much for providing unbelievable success that I never thought I would experience. A personal memory I have is when I sustained life changing injuries in a road accident. Once I was out of danger but having lost a leg, I received a phone call in hospital from (ex-Spurs captain) Gary Mabbutt. He told me he had phoned you to talk about me & my situation! What?! I couldn't stop smiling at something so ridiculous. Afterwards I wondered if it had been a morphine-induced dream but a short time later, I received some United goodies with a covering letter signed by you so I knew it had really happened. Many happy returns to the greatest manager there has ever been!”
Lesley Ragg, United Kingdom
“Happy birthday Sir Alex! A fine age for a fine man. Everyone knows about your unparalleled success and but maybe not everyone knows how much time you have made for other people. My stepdad was dying of cancer when his friends wrote to you asking if you’d mind sending him a letter to cheer him up. You did exactly that and it meant the world to him, he couldn’t believe it. The club also sent a shirt with his name and the famous number seven on it. Thank you so much for all the success you have brought to this amazing club and for taking the time to bring a smile to my stepdad, Steve. Many happy returns and good health to you!”
John Shields, United Kingdom
“Happy birthday to our indefatigable great manager! My memories with Sir Alex Ferguson came to me as a surprise. Having not met personally, coming from Ghana, I had correspondence with him through the mail and he responded by sending 1999 and 2000 brochures of the entire squad and staff to us supporters of the great team here in Ghana. It was a great memorable event for us and our growing support for the team has never looked back. United till death do us apart. Stay blessed, Sir Alex.”
John Obeng, Ghana
Hundreds of people also recounted their own stories of meeting Sir Alex and his warmth when they did so. Here are just two examples that were posted via our online form:
“A very happy 80th, Sir Alex, Thank you for all the fantastic memories and the time you took to speak to my mother and pose for photos several years ago at the Manchester United Disabled Association. It meant so much to her and all the family and the photo still takes pride of place in the home, although sadly mum is no longer with us.”
Les Edwards, United Kingdom
“My cousin Christine Edwards used to sit near you and I went to a game with her and you always said hello to Chris and shook her hand every game and kindly spoke to me too. Sadly, she died last year. We always said she was married to United - she never married anyone else! Chris went to United home and away and all over Europe from the 1950s. Very happy birthday.”
Clare Callery, United Kingdom
You can send your birthday messages, memories and anecdotes to Sir Alex here.