Sir Alex Ferguson was convinced to prolong his spell in charge of Manchester United by his late wife Cathy, who died at the age of 84 on Thursday. The legendary Red Devils boss is mourning the death of his partner following a 57-year marriage, during which she helped him to build an empire at Old Trafford during an era of dominance that will never be repeated.
Ferguson won 13 league titles with United but things could have ended very differently if Cathy had not stepped in to save the day 22 years ago. He revealed in his autobiography, which was released in 2013, that he was considering retirement at the time but was eventually persuaded to prolong his career by his wife and three sons.
He wrote: “On the sofa that night of Christmas Day 2001, I nodded off while watching television. In the kitchen a mutiny was brewing. The traditional assembly room of our family home was the scene for a discussion that would change each of our lives.
“The chief rebel came in and kicked my foot to wake me. In the frame of the door I could pick out three figures, all my sons, lined up for maximum solidarity. Cathy said: ‘We’ve just had a meeting. We’ve decided. You’re not retiring.’
“As I weighed this announcement I felt no urge to resist. She added: ‘One, your health is good. Two, I’m not having you in the house. And three, you’re too young anyway.'”
The decision to stay in management was a brilliant one for Ferguson, who went on to win another six Premier League titles with United after Cathy’s crucial intervention. He also managed to lift the Champions League trophy with the Red Devils in 2008 before eventually leaving the club at the end of the 2012/13 season.
Ferguson explained after his retirement that he wanted to be there for Cathy following the death of her sister, Bridget, who he described as her ‘best friend’. He said in 2015: “I saw she [Cathy] was watching television one night, and she looked up at the ceiling. I knew she was isolated. Her and Bridget were twins, you know?
“But when I told her this time I was going to retire she had no objection whatsoever. I knew she wanted me to do it. Things changed when Cathy’s sister died, she’s isolated a lot now and I think a lot of the time, for 47 years, she’s been the leader of the family, looked after our three sons and sacrificed herself for me.
“Now she has the grandchildren and they all dote on her but now she has lost her best friend, her sister Bridget, so that was important.”
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