Sir Alex Ferguson was in a serious condition in hospital on Saturday night after suffering a brain haemorrhage. The former Manchester United manager underwent emergency surgery on Saturday for a bleed on the brain. This was said to have been successful and his family were at his bedside as he began his recovery.
United, the club he managed for almost 27 years until retiring in 2013, issued a statement that read: “Sir Alex Ferguson has undergone emergency surgery today for a brain haemorrhage. The procedure has gone very well but he needs a period of intensive care to optimise his recovery. His family request privacy in this matter.”
The 76-year-old was first taken by ambulance from his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, to Macclesfield district hospital at 9am. He was subsequently transferred, with a police escort, to Salford Royal hospital, where he was being treated last night in the Hope building.
Speculation grew that Ferguson was unwell when his son Darren, the Doncaster Rovers manager, missed his side’s final game of the League One season against Wigan. A club statement read: “Rovers manager Darren Ferguson will not be at Saturday’s game due to family reasons.” The assistant manager, Gavin Strachan, took charge of the game and Doncaster were beaten 1-0 as Wigan were confirmed League One champions. Afterwards the club said: “Darren asks for privacy and will provide an update through the club during the week.”
Ferguson is famously private and has been married to Cathy since 1966. Together they have three sons: Mark, Darren and Jason, who runs an events management company and used to be a football agent.
Ferguson led a ceremony celebrating the opening of the £200m Hope building where he was being treated on Saturday night in 2010. He placed a tile on the facade of the structure to mark the event. At the time he said: “The new hospital development will no doubt enhance the great work that the team at Salford Royal already deliver to patients in Greater Manchester.”
In 2011 he attended an event at Salford Royal where his friend the artist Harold Riley unveiled his latest exhibition. Portraits, including one of the former Manchester United manager, were displayed inside a wing of the Hope hospital.
It is not the first time Ferguson has been treated in hospital for a serious health condition. In 2003 he underwent cardioversion electric shock treatment for a heart irregularity.
United players past and present took to social media to express their shock about Saturday’s news and offer their best wishes. Michael Carrick, the captain, tweeted: “Absolutely devastated to hear about Sir Alex being unwell in hospital. All my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. Be strong Boss.”
David Beckham, who came through at United under Ferguson, wrote on Instagram: “Keep fighting Boss. Sending prayers and love to Cathy and the whole family.”
Edwin van der Sar played under Ferguson for six years and was granted leave by the manager in 2009 when his wife suffered a brain haemorrhage. The former Netherlands goalkeeper tweeted his support. “Devastated about the news about Sir Alex and knowing all too well about the situation ourselves,” he wrote. “Stay strong and hope together with everyone that you recover. Edwin and Annemarie.”
In a statement the League Managers Association chairman, Howard Wilkinson, said: “I was extremely sorry to hear the news about Sir Alex this evening. I, together with the whole fraternity of football managers in the LMA, wish him well and hope for a speedy recovery from his surgery. All our thoughts are with Lady Cathy and the rest of Sir Alex’s family at this difficult time.”
The Premier League tweeted: “The thoughts of everyone at the Premier League are with Sir Alex Ferguson and his family.”
Ferguson’s reach across sport is so great that even America’s NBA offered their sympathy and support.
He is the most successful manager in British football history, winning 38 titles, including 13 Premier League trophies, at United. The Scot joined the club in 1986 after a 12-year spell managing clubs in his home country, most notably Aberdeen, from whom he moved to United. While at Pittodrie he won the Scottish title three times, the Scottish Cup four times and in 1983 the European Cup Winner’s Cup, beating Real Madrid in the final. Before that he had a successful playing career, notably for Dunfermline and Rangers.
As United’s longest serving manager he won two European Cups – famously against Bayern Munich as part of the treble in 1999, then against Chelsea in 2008 – and five FA Cups in addition to the Premier League title victories.
He was at Old Trafford last Sunday to present Arsène Wenger with a commemorative trophy after the announcement that the Frenchman was leaving Arsenal after 22 years. The two had a bitter rivalry when both were managing at the top level but any ill feeling between the pair now appears to have dissipated as demonstrated by their warm embrace on the pitch.