London, United Kingdom, May 6 – Manchester United’s most decorated player Ryan Giggs led another day of well wishes from the world of football for his legendary former manager Alex Ferguson following the Scot’s emergency surgery on a brain haemorrhage.
Considered the most successful manager in the history of British football, Ferguson, 76, won 38 trophies in just over 26 years in charge of United, including 13 Premier League titles and the Champions League twice before retiring in 2013.
United have offered no update on Ferguson’s condition since saying a procedure on the haemorrhage on Saturday had gone “very well”, but that a period of intensive care is needed to optimise his recovery.
Wales manager Giggs was part of all 13 of Ferguson’s title-winning sides in a 24-year playing career at Old Trafford.
“Now is the time to pray and hope he can make a full recovery,” Giggs told BBC Wales.
“He has been the biggest influence in my career, both on and off the pitch.
“I know the operation has been a success – but he is a fighter and that is what makes me think that he will be able to make a recovery.”
United defender Phil Jones is also positive on Ferguson’s chances of making a full recovery, despite admitting to being “devastated” by the news of his ill health.
“(I am) just devastated, absolutely devastated,” said Jones, who was signed for United by Ferguson in 2011.
“He is such a legend in my eyes. He is the one who brought me to the club and gave me that opportunity to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world. He’s taken me under his wing like a father and it was shocking.
“It’s sad, but I know his character. I know he has that fight in him. Hopefully he’ll recover well.”
United midfielder Juan Mata admitted news of Ferguson’s condition had a “huge impact” on the current squad.
“This circumstance has had a huge impact on Manchester United, as you can imagine,” Mata wrote in his blog.
“All of us are united right now, wishing Sir Alex a speedy recovery. He has been a unique and fundamental figure in the football world over the last few decades.”
United thanked the many well-wishers, including the likes of rival managers Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, who spoke of their admiration for Ferguson.
– ‘Strong man’ –
Wenger enjoyed a long, and at times fractious rivalry with Ferguson as they battled for Premier League supremacy in the first decade of the Frenchman’s 22-year reign in charge of Arsenal.
However, they later became friends and with Wenger leaving Arsenal at the end of the season, Ferguson presented his old adversary with a memento on his final visit to United’s Old Trafford ground just last weekend.
“I was with him on the pitch last week. I went to see him in the box after the game and he looked in perfect shape,” said Wenger, after his final home game as Arsenal boss.
“He told me he is doing a lot of exercise, and he looked very happy but that kind of accident can happen. We wish him all well and to recover very quickly. He is a strong man and an optimistic man.”
Sunday saw runaway winners Manchester City receive the Premier League trophy. But local rivalries were forgotten as a banner was held aloft by City fans reading: “Football aside get well Fergie” as supporters spilled onto the pitch at full-time of a scoreless draw with Huddersfield.
“All the Manchester City fans in the stadium, you cannot find one person who does not wish the best for an amazing person,” said City boss Guardiola.
On the streets of Manchester on Monday there was huge respect from both sets of fanbases for Ferugson’s achievements.
“He will always be the greatest manager in Premier League history – and I’m saying that as a City fan,” Dan Holland told AFP. “I’ve got mad respect for him.”
Giggs was just one of many youngsters that Ferguson nurtured from the United academy to stardom on the international stage.
“He’s taken English football to the pinnacle of world football. The amount of trophies he won not just nationally, but internationally, all the European Cups he’s won as well,” said United fan Ben Montgomery.
“Also the fact he’s brought talents to England and shown that you can actually use homegrown talent right through to the first team – look at David Beckham for example.”
Ferguson famously described his mission upon joining United from Aberdeen in 1986 as knocking Liverpool “off their perch”.
He duly did so as United overtook Liverpool as the most successful side in English domestic football.
“When I heard the news yesterday I really couldn’t believe this could happen. He is absolutely the boss,” said Liverpool manager Klopp after his side’s 1-0 defeat at Chelsea on Sunday. “I wish him the best.”