There is a very good lunchtime program on the Irish music station Spin FM every weekday, a magazine show presented by the very professional Jonathon McCrea and the very lovely Clare McKenna.
Clare is an old friend from the days when she worked with Mick McCarthy’s backroom team in Ireland, long before she found fame on the wireless so to speak.
Jonathon I know only through work, his and mine. He’s a very mild mannered presenter who uses subtlety to get his point across and charm to get the story from those he interviews.
He’s also a bit of football fan as I know well from various appearances on the show going back to the days when it was presented by a young man called Vinny O’Dowd, who is now seeking his fortune in London with Sky News, an organization that knows talent when it sees it.
Last week, less than 24 hours after this column went to bed for another seven days, I got chatting to Jonathon live on air again as the news broke that Alex Ferguson had quit as manager of Manchester United football club.
As the world of soccer got used to the idea that the hardest man in the game had just announced his departure from the hardest job in football, we chatted on air about the implications and otherwise of the breaking news.
In the course of chat I discovered two things about Jonathon. One, he’s a Liverpool fan when I, for some reason or other, had always assumed him to be a Chelsea supporter.
Secondly -- and more importantly given the subject matter -- I found out last Wednesday that Jonathon cannot remember anyone other than Alex Ferguson managing Manchester United FC.
That’s an incredible stat and one that Jonathon shares with so many others. Fergie was appointed to the job when Jonathon was still a baby. He’s the only United boss he can remember.
Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, who’s also retiring after the final game in the Premier League this Sunday, can go one better than that. They’ve never played for any other manager in their professional careers.
That tells you something about the longevity of Alex Ferguson, a man who won 38 trophies with the Red Devils including two European Cups.
He lasted 26 years at the club and bows out gracefully at the age of 71. He became the most successful manager the British game has ever seen.
He molded more than one team of title winners. He got the best out of Roy Keane and Eric Cantona and so many other Manchester United greats.
More than anything, though, he got the best out of Manchester United. He dragged the club from the shadows of the Busby Babes and created his own legacy at Old Trafford.
He made the hard decisions when he had to. He was ruthless when he needed to be, no more so than on the day he told Keane he was no longer wanted by the club.
He made a few mistakes, like announcing at the start of the century that he was ready to quit before he realized that was the furthest thing from his agenda.
But he did it all – as the song says – his way, even down to announcing his retirement at a time when everyone else thought he would gear up for one last Champions League run and win next season.
He leaves United on Sunday as he has managed the club – on his terms and his alone.
That trait, more than any other, will never be seen again in the English game, a game now hell bent on a rapid turnover of managers once success goes off the radar. And he knows it.
Life will carry on next season without Fergie. Everton’s David Moyes has already been appointed as his successor on a six-year contract worth over $50 million, and other clubs in England will have new bosses in the dug-out as well.
On Monday night, just as the papers were going to press, United’s noisy neighbors announced that Roberto Mancini had been sacked as Manchester City boss, with the Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini his likely successor.
So here’s one more amazing stat before we part company for another week. Three managers won domestic trophies in England in 2012 – Mancini with City in the Premier League, Kenny Dalglish with Liverpool in the League Cup and Roberto Di Matteo with Chelsea in the FA Cup. All three have since been sacked.