Legendary former Southampton boss Lawrie McMenemy has hailed Sir Alex Ferguson as the “greatest manager in the world”.
McMenemy is renowned for leading then-second tier Southampton to a historic FA Cup final victory against top flight opponents Manchester United in 1976, courtesy of Bobby Stokes’ late goal.
Tomorrow the two teams come together in another David versus Goliath encounter, although this time a further division separates the two sides.
The Red Devils will be looking to avoid an upset at St Mary’s as they eye a tilt at the sixth FA Cup crown of Ferguson’s tenure, one which has been peppered by a plethora of other successes.
The League Managers Association are hosting a lunch in honour of Ferguson’s achievements next week and attendee McMenemy was keen to pay homage to the United boss.
“It’s not one of the normal functions that we get these days by organisations such as the LMA, the PFA or the Football Writer’s Association where hundreds of guests pay lots of money to attend and rub shoulders with football personalities,” said McMenemy.
“This is a special occasion to recognise the management achievements of, in my opinion, the greatest manager in the world at present, Sir Alex Ferguson.
“It marks his near 25 years at Manchester United and other things such as beating the record of the late, great Sir Matt Busby and also completing 2,000 games.
“Many more things could be added to the list such as the huge number of cups and medals won in a glorious career which at present has no sign of ending as Sir Alex looks as fit as ever.
“He might not like me to say it but he’s now coming up the big 70 but he is certainly a great example of the American saying ‘today’s 70 is yesterday’s 50’.”
As well as praising Ferguson’s managerial aptitude, McMenemy highlighted his effervescent attitude as a key reason for keeping him at the top.
“One of the biggest single things I admire about him is the fact where others might go soft, sit back and enjoy the luxuries which the huge salaries can now bring,” added McMenemy.
“He still is the first one into the ground. The best time to speak to Alex is probably between 7am-8am.
“He regularly uses the gymnasium and he is always seen on the training ground.
“When it comes to other managers you could see on television last week how he put his arm around (Birmingham manager) Alex McLeish, a fellow Scot, as they walked off with his United team having been victorious.
“And I am fairly certain he would be one of the first to ring and congratulate McLeish as he got his team to Wembley in the League Cup.”