Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement came as a source of sadness for all Manchester United fans, and the Old Trafford club will have to come to terms with a new manager in the dugout for next term, in David Moyes.
Despite all of Fergie’s achievements over this momentous career at United, his disagreement with the club’s former owner over a race horse in the early-to-mid 2000’s will go down as one of his darker moments. The Scottish coach’s passion for horse racing is well known, however a disagreement over the Rock of Gibraltar racehorse changed what some people really think of Fergie.
At the time, Ferguson part-owned the prize stallion with United owner John Magnier’s wife, Sue. However when the horse retired things got ugly.
Ferguson sued Magnier in 2003, as he claimed that the Irish executive owed him tens of millions of dollars in stud rights. When Magnier counter-sued Ferguson, an awkward stand-off between two stubborn men followed.
Fergie claimed that only a fraction of the stud rights he was entitled to had been supplied, and as such Magnier offered Ferguson four stud nominations a year for the rest of the horse’s life. Despite the lucrative nature of this deal, the legendary coach opted for a one-off £2.5 million payoff to end the ordeal.
It was later suggested that Ferguson’s decision was an oversight, and that the four stud nominations per year would have made the football manager much more than the figure he settled for out of court.
Later in Ferguson’s career, former Manchester United player Roy Keane used the example of Rock of Gibraltar as an example of the Scot’s selfishness.
Looking back over his career, Ferguson will not recall his dispute with Magnier with any fondness, and may regret the extent to which the feud escalated.
That said, despite the controversy, the scandal did not take away from Ferguson’s achievements in football, and he still will go down as one of the best in United and the English game’s history.