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Ruby Walsh: Fergie is the greatest ever and Cantona his best signing

by Aidan Elder | May 9, 2013

Ruby Walsh

Ruby Walsh has been supporting them for as long as he can remember and through their shared interest in the turf, he’s got to know Sir Alex Ferguson. He pays tribute to the retiring Manchester United legend

I’m biased because I was sitting in the stand at the end where all the goals went in, but winning the Champions League to clinch the treble in 1999 was undoubtedly the greatest achievement of Alex Ferguson’s time at Manchester United. To build such an incredible team, winning a league, FA Cup and then have them come back in the manner they did to complete the treble, there’s nothing like it.

I wish I could say all the United fans still believed right until the end, but as the clock ticked to 9o minutes, our end of the stadium was a very quiet place. The Nou Camp felt like it was split right at the half-way line and all you could hear was the Germans singing in the distance. Where I was felt like a morgue, but that all changed quite rapidly. When Teddy Sheringham got the equaliser, there was just an immense feeling of relief that we were going to extra time, but not sooner had we sat down than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got the winner and it was all over. It was a brilliant night and one of the sporting highlights of my life.

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What Sir Alex has done at United is incredible … he’s the best I’ve seen in my lifetime

The question about him being the greatest manager in British football history – that isn’t even a question for me. It’s beyond doubt. It’s maybe not fair because I wasn’t around to see Matt Busby or Bill Shankly, but what Sir Alex has done at United is incredible and he’s easily the best I’ve seen in my lifetime.

Some managers focus on motivating players, for others it’s the tactics and then you get the wheeler-dealers who can build a decent team from the transfer market. Fergie had it all and you don’t get to where he was without having it all. He built teams, he was constantly able to motivate players and he mostly got his team playing in the right way to ensure they won. He didn’t buy too many duds – there were a couple, but every manager will have those – he nurtured young talent, but no-one was bigger than the club and or bigger than him and he’d send them backing if the situation required it. The players always knew they had to respect him and the club.

Getting Eric Cantona when he did was his best bit of business. He got him for a song and he was the missing cog in the machine that brought it all together. Even though he was only at United for five years, it laid the foundations for all the success that followed. If you think about how much it would cost to buy a player like Cantona now, £1.2 million was an absolute giveaway.

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Cantona was Fergie’s best signing … £1.2 million was an absolute giveaway

I’ve met Fergie plenty of times and although there’s probably lots of ABUs who like to think he’s some sort of monster, it couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s an absolute gentleman and very good company. He’s tough, but he’s fair, he’s a good guy to ride for. He knows his racing inside out and he might talk about how to deal with pressure situations and that sort of thing but he’d never talk tactics with me.

Some United fans seem a bit divided on David Moyes getting the job, but I’m very much pro-Moyes. He’s done a great job at Everton, clearly has a good knowledge of football and if he could do half as good a job as Sir Alex, he’ll be a great appointment for the club.

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