March 7, 2009
The godfather of all Premier League bosses is well into his 68th year with the fierce determination which has helped shape his legend refusing to wilter and disappear.
This season's Quintuple charge is a case in point. All those titles and gongs from the past are in the bag but still he wants more. And more. And more.
The current crop of Red Devils stars is arguably his greatest ever. A side dripping with world-class performers who would walk into any team in the world. A squad to die for.
Fergie is loving every minute but the Scottish managerial master is a realist, too. He knows time is not on his side, that he can't stay in charge at Old Trafford for ever. There are not too many seasons left in the tank.
His departure from football will leave a seismic hole in the fabric of the beautiful game which will be felt the world over.
And in one of his most forthright and emotional interviews, the United boss said: "When I reached 60, I asked myself the question. I almost left.
"But I quickly realised, with my family, that it was a mistake. Today, I fear the idea of retiring.
"I have been on the train for so long that when I get off I fear my system will collapse.
"I have decided not to ask myself the question any more.
"Three things can make me stop. 1. My health. 2. If I don't take pleasure any more. 3. If I don't have the strength for new challenges any more.
"Each summer, I have a look at those three things. I go to my doctor first. I had a pacemaker set up four or five years ago.
"Today, I am playing the penalty shoot-out of my managerial career. I know that. The rest is decided between me and me.
"I see my doctor every summer. He says 'boss, you are 67. You will have more and more back pains. Getting up in the morning sometimes won't be easy.'
"This is the penalty shootout."
Over the years, Ferguson has proved he is master of all managerial trades. Mind games, motivation, tactical masterclasses. You name it, he's nailed it.
But it is his ability to man-manage a team of stars and make them play and sweat blood for the badge which sets him apart.
He digs deep into the psyche of players. Fergie explained: "I like to remind them of their roots, so they remember where their parents and grandparents come from.
"I want them to think of the history of their family. To carry the values of their class. Being from the working class today is facing a world full of technology and comfort that you can't afford.
"The players can afford everything but I make sure they keep an ethos. And that starts by working hard.
"I try to touch the players in their heart. I tell them that nobody will knock on their door to offer them a trophy.
"That only work and solidarity will reward them. Of course you need technique, work and team spirit but you also need the sense of sacrifice. Bryan Robson was a complete and perfect example. To win, you need eight players in the rhythm and the good spirit. Then, they can carry the other three. Less than eight, it's tough.
"I like to see a part of my personality in the players. Every manager is like that. It's reassuring.
"At Aberdeen the players looked so much like me. Here, it's in Bryan Robson that I found me the most. He was a manager playing football. What intelligence.
"It's rare that players respect my tactical wishes throughout the heat of the game.
"It's why I have always taken young players and never neglected the local players. So they can understand the United challenge.
"I prefer a player who can have a bad day but works like a madman more than a naturally-gifted player. I will give more time to the first one to improve because I know he will try and try. Roy Keane was like that. He maybe didn't have the potential but he became an absolute Manchester United player.
"He strangled the life out of his opponents. He raised his game. Cristiano Ronaldo is another example. He had talents but above that I believed in his mental strength.
"In three or four years, he has become the best player in the world. Their success is the success of a club that has given them the right values."
Fergie, speaking to L'Equipe sports magazine, has always loved a battle but his one with Real Madrid last summer over their pursuit of Ronaldo will go down as one of his finest. He said: "First, you have to listen to the will of the player.
"If two clubs came to offer £100million for Cristiano and Cristiano wants to go to Madrid, do you think I could make him sign for the other club? You think I could go against his wishes? All I can do is advise him. But all this makes sense only if we are ready to sell Cristiano for Â£100m.
"We have already sold players to Madrid: Heinze, Beckham, Van Nistelrooy. We sold them those players because we wanted to. We didn't sell Cristiano because we didn't want to. It's just a business question, not an ethical question.
"I won't let my personal feelings influence my decision making."
That decision making included signing keeper Edwin van der Sar from Fulham four years ago. Fergie added: "At the end of January, something interesting happened with Van der Sar. When he beat the unbeaten record for a goalkeeper, he absolutely wanted to get the match ball.
"And he was so excited that in the dressing room he went and kissed each of his team-mates.
"At 38, achieving that still meant a lot to him. This made me proud. It means that maybe I have brought something to my players.
"I am like the keeper of the temple. For 23 years, it has been my motto to never let the perfectionism go."
It's a motto he is taking into his very own penalty shootout.