Those Pesky Immigrants

Give me your tired....

The Pot Has Melted?

I appears so.  No one wants immigrants.  Even those for immigration reform do not want any more.  Perhaps we  should change the Statue of Liberty sign from:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

To one that says:

“No vacancy”

Like they do in motels.  Lets face it folks, we don’t want immigrants.  In fact, we don’t know what to do with the ones we have.  And that’s what I want to write about.

We’re building a wall.  Yes, the people of America, land of immigrants, and land of Ronald “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this Wall” Reagan are building a wall (fence we call it, but come on) to keep immigrants out.  Now whether you agree or disagree with this, you must sit back and think for a second of the ramifications of this.  Wow.  We do not wish to be a nation of immigrants any longer.  Its that simple.

So yes, America wants to seal itself.  Ok.  I doubt we can, the best thing that is happening to the anti-immigrant people is the ever plunging dollar and our unemployment rate.  For most Europeans it does not pay to come to America any more.  That only leaves our Latin neighbours, but they too will stop coming in such numbers if our economy does not improve.

But what do we do with the over 10 million illegals here?  We don’t want to give them legal status, we don’t want them to work, we don’t want to give them healthcare, we don’t want their kids to go to our schools.  “Get them out” they scream.  Great.  How?  Truth is we can’t and we wont.  America has enough troubles running after real criminals, it may be too busy to go after working families.  Because that’s what most immigrants are.  Hard working people.  Technically yes they are committing a crime by staying here.  But honestly now, its like jaywalking in NYC, no one really cares.  They are not taking away our precious resources.  They are in fact helping America.  But that’s not the point.  I do not wish to discuss how and if illegal immigrant are contributing to our society.

I want to talk about the fact that they are here.  And we’re not doing anything about it.  The very conservative George W. Bush tried.  Sadly he failed.  I say sadly because it was the most sensible plan anyone has come up with in a number of years.  Now he may not have been the author of it, but it became “his” bill.  It was going to pave a way for the over 10 million people to legalize their status.  It wanted to do so sensibly IMO, and without too much hardship on anyone.  Yet America screamed a resounding NO!  Why?  It made sense.  We have, again, 10 million people living here illegally.   No matter how we try we wont wish them away.  Its impossible, and would be cruel, to get rid of them.  Remember, some have been here 10 or 20 years.  Some are quite assimilated.  Yet we refuse them.

Is it because so many are the wrong shade?  It wasn’t the lack of jobs what made us scream no.  Times where pretty good then.  It was not crime.  Crime level are quite low, and immigrants are not disproportionate there I believe.  And its not as if president Bush’s plan called for citizenship certificates for criminals.  We deport them as is our policy.  So why?  Why do we not want these people here?  The old excuse is “rewarding an illegal activity.”  Would we be?  Technically yes.  But they would be paying fees and fines.  And then best of all, they would be paying taxes because they would be working legally.  We could have had a provision in the bill that would disqualify them from welfare and similar govt aid programs.  Each perspective applicant would have to provide proof of work.  They would have to be self-sufficient.  Yet we screamed no.

To me it makes no sense.  We choose to have them live among us, but do not accept them.  They are our neighbours.  Yet we don’t want them here at all.  They are not the worst neighbours.  But we run the risk of making them into such.  Europe has problems with its illegals, and legals for that matter.  Its is because their immigrants are not fully accepted into their societies, and therefore they do not assimilate as much as American immigrants did.  But now we are running the same risk.  American immigrants assimilated quickly and almost seamlessly.  But they wont if we do not accept them  This can provide for future social upheaval.  This also can become a security risk.  The more disaffected immigrants we have, the higher the risk of them turning against America.

Trouble is after the proposed bill failed, immigration reform has become taboo.  No one touched it in the last presidential election.  And no one will touch it now.  Yes, the great and all powerful man of hope and change will not change anything when it comes to immigration reform.  That’s right.  The man who fights for the common people wont do a damned thing.  Either because he can’t or simply because he wont, Obama wont touch that one with a ten foot pole.  The Democratic run Legislature wont do anything either.  Mostly because they are cowards.  Its a volatile issue, so they wont touch it.  They rather concentrate on reducing our emissions by 1% by 2137.  They are scared, elections are only a year away, and its only 3 years till the next presidential election.  So they wont even try.  Meanwhile 10 million people live among us, unsure of their future in America.

I know these people.  I live in New York City.  I am an immigrant myself (legal before anyone asks :D).  I live among them.  They are mostly good people.  They work, want to raise their kids, they dream of owning a house, they dream of making a better life for themselves and their kids.  To be sure, some are assholes.  Yes, they are just like any people in America.  Whether your ancestors came on the Mayflower or whether your mom and dad came from Kathmandu, they are like all of us.  Many even want to serve our country, and defend it from foes.  And not because they want their “Green Card,” but because they are flag waving patriots.  Yes like you and me.

But again, I will hear, we shall not reward crime.  Fine.  Provide me with an alternative.  But please, have one that makes sense, not some idealistic crap where by the end of the weekend Federal Agents will rid us of those pesky free loaders who should not be here in the first place.  Well sorry, they ARE here, and they are not leaving.  What are we to do about them?

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The Good Old Days- How It really Was

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Paradise Lost

Throughout history idiots and people with selective amnesia constantly moaned about how much better life was in the good old days when… blah, blah, blah.  Its its similar sentiment to that of “well in my day kids were so much better.”  Right…  It appears that from the beginning of time (millions of years, or around 6000, any which way, its a lot 😉 ), children have progressively gotten worse with each generation.  Socrates was doing it in ancient Greece.  A generation spans 20 to 30 years.  So every 20-30 year cycle the little bastard we raise have turned out worse apparently.  Now multiply that by 1000s of generations and we should have about 6 billion plus Hitlers and Stalins running around.  But we don’t.  We’re not Hitlers, neither will be our kids, or their kids.  Yet each ageing generation will moan about “young people these days.”  Part of this phenomenon is perspective.  Kids of 30 years ago grew up to be uptight middle aged gits with memory loss.  They conveniently forget how they were when they were kids.  The other part is the selective amnesia.

Its gotten so bad that people from the former Soviet Bloc who used to curse communism on a daily basis now long for the good days when jobs were plentiful, life was simple, there was no crime, everything was great.  So they lie to themselves.  If everything was so peachy then why did millions of people fight to over throw the Communists?  What is it that makes us so forgiving when it comes to the past?  Is it just the troubles of today that make us think that life was not so bad then?  Is it the need for validation of our youth?  And this is not exclusive to oppressed peoples.

Conservatives today long for a simpler, better time.  It was that long ago when the conservative god Reagan led this country.  Times were great, life was good, as opposed to now when a “socialist” is that the helm.  The economy is shit, our deficit is crippling and unemployment unacceptable.  That’s great except for a few details.  Life was not all that great.  The economy was shit then too.  Our deficit was going up as well.  And our unemployment was over 10% for almost a whole year between 1982-83.  Yet, while Obama inherited the worst economy since the 1930’s its apparently his fault even though he’s been in office less than a year.  Selective amnesia.  Now of course the Left conveniently forgets that it was Bush the younger who inherited a bad economic time with the dot com boom finally crashing.  Its like that everywhere, and everyone is culpable.

The recipe is a bit of nostalgia, selective amnesia, throw in an unfavourable look at the present, a dash of “everything is better on the other side of the wall,” add a pinch of blindness to what is happening around you, plus the need to constantly moan about one’s life and the need for validation of the past and voilà.  Life is shit, it was so much better in the good old days.

Well, let me tell you something.  There were no good old days.  There were only the old days.  Some were good, some really bad.  Its the same thing when kids keep wishing they were grown up, they could drive cars, make money, make their own decisions, get laid, a lot, drink, smoke, do whatever they please.  Then 30 or 40 years later those same impatient little bastards all wish they could go back in time so this time around they would not screw up their lives so much.  This time they wouldn’t buy that car they couldn’t afford, would choose to do something they actually liked for a living, not make so many stupid decisions, get laid (that is the one constant, at least in men 😉 ), not drink so much, never start smoking, and NOT do whatever they pleased cause that was really stupid.  Yep, never happy.  And that’s where I think this “good old days” mentality comes from.

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Line in front of a Communist Era Home Goods store

Many people in Eastern Europe long for the great days when they were happy.  They had jobs, crime was low, life was simple.  Well their jobs paid nothing, and they couldn’t buy anything even if they had money.  Crime was under-reported, and its not as if there was anything to steal.  Life was not simple.  Shopping was an event, long lines to buy rationed, substandard, overpriced products.  Listening to the wrong radio station could get one in trouble, speaking one’s mind, did, and quite often.  Was is really so simple and good?  Then why the hell did all those millions of people dance with joy 20 years ago?  Because the good old days sucked.  Its simple really.

People long for the good old days longing for the good parts.  Well that’s nice, but its rather utopian and stupid, and impossible.  What about the bad, ugly parts that made us change the good old days?  If everything was so great then we wouldn’t change?  But everything wasn’t so great.  That’s why the good old days are no more.  Nostalgia is historical revisionism.  If I told everyone that life was so great under Hitler because there were jobs in Germany, everyone was proud of their country, people respected authority, roads were great, etc, etc.  I would be at best laughed at.  At worst, I would get a very deserved slap.  Life under Adolf sucked, and we all know why.  So why do we do this every generation, in every country, with everything.  How was life so much better in the good old days?

In America its mainly a conservative trait.  Not all conservatives mind you, but enough.  Some long for the idealized society that never was.  Life was never like “Leave it to Beaver.”  No matter how much we want it to think it was.  There was poverty, crime, and injustice.  Just because no one openly talked about the social ills it did not means they were not there.  Kids still got pregnant, they did drugs, people had abortions, there was infidelity, divorce, there were gays, there was crime.  And worst of all, there were bitter old fools who sat around and talked how life was great in their good old days.

What brought this little rant on?  A few recent discussions, but mostly reflections of the past, and some of the idiotic comments I have heard and read over the years.  And yesterday’s anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall brought some of those comments back.

My little advice is, get over it.  Your good old world did not exist.  Life was not better, nor worse really, just different.  In a different age.  And they wont come back.  Live what you are living now.  The present is not all that bad.  The world is changing, accept it, adapt to it.  Because the world you long for has never existed outside of your selective mind.

And The Wall Came Tumbling Down

wall

20 Years Ago

It was a great time.  I remember being glued to my TV watching, as German met a German.  And it did turn out that they were Ein Volk. It was amazing.  Unbelievable really, I watched with my eyes wide, mouth opened, almost in shock at what was unfolding.  A great time.  It was the culmination of almost the whole year of  amazing events that changed the world.  The fall of the Berlin Wall was the most visible symbol of the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.  Its that one event we can all point to.

Just a few years earlier it was unimaginable to think that such an event could take place.  In December of 1981 I remember waking up to no cartoons, instead, a dour looking uniformed man in glasses was on our television reading a statement that said that Poland was under Martial Law and any and all reforms that the Solidarity managed to gain were all gone.

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General Jaruzelski, under orders from his masters in Moscow, implemented Martial Law.  Solidarity was outlawed, massive arrests were made, tanks and armoured personnel carriers were on the streets.  There was an official curfew.  There were deaths of some who protested.  And here we were, less than 8 years later, Poland already after the Round Table.  Then Solidarity wins the June elections, and Jaruzelski names the first non-communist Prime Minister.  Hungary follows, opens its border with Austria and then East Germany.  And all hell breaks lose.  One by one, Communist Regimes fall.  All sybolized by the fall of The Wall.

I remember a young West German climbing on top of the Wall and offering a very confused East German border guard a drink and a hug.  The gathered crowd roared and applauded.  Such a spontaneous act, such a wonderful symbol.  Soon the Wall itself was full of people, drinking, hugging, dancing with joy, for they knew, a new day had dawned.  One where totalitarian regimes would fall, and a people would be united.  There were more great, and tragic events that would follow.  Czechoslovakia would free itself, and then divide.  Romania would take revenge on its dictator.  Yugoslavia would disintegrate into a civil war.  The Soviet Union itself would fall, it would shake the yoke of communism and let its subject choose for the first time.  It too would fall apart into many different states, some were allowed to leave, some would have to fight.  Communism in Europe would fall into the ash heap of history.

And good riddance I say.

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I have a piece of it.  A small fragment of a symbol of oppression and division.  The Wall stood for everything that was evil in Europe.  It may have divided one city, but it was a symbol of a divided continent.  And now its n0 more, only small sections are left as a monument of the past that was.  Technically the fall of communism in Europe did not begin, nor end, with the fall of the Berlin Wall.  There was the main architect of the fall of communism, Gorbachev, it was he who let it all happen.  There was Solidarity, the Round Table, the first free elections behind the Iron Curtain. There was Hungary.  Later there was the Velvet revolution, death of Caucescu, fall of the USSR.  But its the Wall we all remember.  That symbol of division, of oppression, of longing for freedom.  It was not just a symbol though.

It really did isolate a city and divide its people.  People died trying to get to the other side.  It served a purpose.  Whatever illusions the more naive had about communism were shattered by the Wall.  Its gone now.  20 years, and I look back happy remembering that day, that year really.  And the time that followed.  A Germany united, Europe free.  Soviet Union is no more.  Now life is not perfect.  Old problems were replaced by new ones.  But we all can look back and think that it DID turn out for the better.  And I would not change that day for anything.

An Auschwitz Volunteer

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Cavalry Captain Witold Pilecki

Yes, I am not joking, there was such a man.  A man who voluntarily went to Auschwitz.  His name was Witold Pilecki, a Polish Second Lieutenant (later promoted to Cavalry Captain) volunteered to be arrested and to go to Auschwitz to gain intelligence for the Polish underground and organize a resistance movement.  Now most will see this as a suicidal mission (and it might have been), but its important to see this in context of the time.  In 1940, the time of his arrest (under an assumed name), KL Auschwitz was not yet a death camp, its was a German Concentration Camp set up to hold Polish intelligentsia, clergy, political leaders, and anyone else whom the Germans did not like.  He spent almost 3 years at Auschwitz before escaping.  He later fought in the Warsaw Uprising, became a POW after its fall, and after liberation joined the Polish Second Corps in Italy under the command of General Anders.  He was then sent to Poland to gather intelligence, where he was arrested and executed by the Polish Communist Government.  He was rehabilitated in 1990.

Witold Pilecki was one of many of Poland’s tragic heroes of the past 200+ years.  Poland by virtue of its history was forced to produce men of great courage and conviction.  And Captain Pilecki certainly fit that model.  He was born in Karelia, Russia, in 1901.  His grandfather took part in the 1863 January Uprising and was exiled there by the Russians in the repressions after the uprising.  In 1910 the family moved to Wilno, where young Witold finished his schooling and joined the forbidden secret Polish Scouts.  By the age of 17 he was already fighting the Bolsheviks, first as part of a partisan unit, he later joined the regular Polish Army and fought in cavalry units.  He was awarded the Krzyz Walecznych (Cross of Valour) twice for gallantry in battle.  He took part in some of the biggest battles of the Polish-Bolshevik War of, including the Battle of Warsaw (Miracle on the Vistula).  In between the wars he finished his studies, both military and private.  He finished his high school education and later studied at the Stefan Batory University in Wilno.  He moved back to his family estate while remaining a reserve Second Lieutenant.  In between the wars he was an active social activist, he even gained government recognition for his work in the community.

As a reserve officer he was mobilized upon the outbreak of the Second World War.  He fought gallantly in the September Campaign, but with no Allied help coming, and the Soviet invasion on the 17th of September Poland was doomed.  Pilecki’s last unit was disbanded on 22 September and he returned to Warsaw along with his commander.  There he was one of the co-founders of Tajna Armia Polska (TAP, Polish Secret Army), an organization that was later incorporated into the Armia Krajowa (AK, Home Army), the biggest underground resistance organization of WWII.

In 1940 Witold Pilecki came up with a plan, and he somehow convinced his superiors to go along with it.  It was a plan to get inside the Auschwitz Concentration Camp to gather intelligence and organize a resistance movement.  At the time the AK knew very little about Auschwitz.  Pilecki’s plan was to let himself be captured in one of the round ups the Germans were conducting in Warsaw.  A round up was just what it meant.  Germans would seal off several blocks of flats and arrest anyone they could get their hands on.  Some were aimed at certain areas or people, some were just random.  On September 19th Witold Pilecki managed to get himself arrested by the Germans.  After spending a couple of days in a German prison he was sent to KL Auschwitz, prisoner number 4859.

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Pilecki's Arrest Photos

While at Auschwitz he promptly set about organizing the Związek Organizacji Wojskowej (ZOW, Union of Military Organizations).  It eventually incorporated all other resistance groups in the Camp.  Its tasks were to help with morale, gather and send intelligence, and prepare for a take over of the camp in the event of an attack from outside by Polish or other Allied forces.  From October 1940 on ZOW began to sent reports on the conditions and situation at Auschwitz to the Armia Krajowa.  These were then sent to London and distributed to other Allied intelligence agencies and governments.  The long standing Allied excuse of “we knew nothing” is just a poor excuse and nothing more.  Everyone knew.  AK told them.  Pilecki’s biggest hope was for the Allies to bomb the railways leading to Auschwitz, along with an airborne attack combined with a ground assault by the Armia Krajowa on the camp itself to liberate its inmates, while the inmates themselves would revolt from the inside.  Even after it became apparent that the Allies would do nothing he still tried to get the AK units operating in the area to attack the by themselves.  Unfortunately this plan was seen as impractical.

In late April of 1943, after surviving a bout of pneumonia, he and a couple of fellow prisoners made their escape.  After several days he returned to Warsaw and joined the AK intelligence service.  He sent several reports to the West about the conditions in the Camp along with his plan of assault.  Again the Allies refused to help.  His, and others’ reports on the Camps and the Holocaust were thought to be exaggerations in the West.  In any case, help was refused.  As was the help of the Soviet Army which was near Auschwitz by 1944, the plan by the AK and ZOW was not accepted and no liberation came until 27th of January of 1945.

In February of 1944 Witold Pilecki was promoted to the rank of Rotmistrz (Rittmeister in German meaning cavalry captain).  Again he fought.  This time during the Warsaw Uprising.  At first he volunteered as a regular soldier to a front line unit.  He revealed his rank only after the unit took several officer casualties and he accepted command.  He and his unit fought gallantly throughout the uprising.  After its fall he hid their weapons and surrendered.  Captain Pilecki spent the remainder of the war in a POW camp (the Germans made a concession to treat all fighters as regular POW during the surrender negotiations).  After he was liberated by the Western Allies he joined the Polish Second Corps (of Monte Cassino fame) in Italy.

There he was sent on yet another mission.  By October of 1945 he was back in Poland under an assumed name to gather intelligence for the Polish Government in Exile.  He promptly begun to organize an intelligence network to report on Soviet and Polish Communist activities.  By 1946, the Polish GiE decided that the situation in Poland would not change and released its soldiers from their oath and told them to go back to their daily lives or to escape to the West.  Pilecki continued his work, this time reporting on Soviet and Polish Communist atrocities in persecuting Poles who mostly were members of the Armia Krajowa in WWII.  He continued even after he was told his cover was blown.  He was arrested in May of 1947.

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After his arrest

For a wonder, this time some of the charges the Communists were accusing him of were true.  He was in fact gathering intelligence for the Polish GiE.  But as was the Communist tradition they added false charges as well.  He along with his “co-conspirators” was repeatedly and brutally tortured prior to his trial.  During one of the rare visits of his wife before he was executed, he reportedly told her that Auschwitz compared to his torture by fellow Poles was child’s play.  In March of 1948 a show trial took place.  It was evident that he and the other defendants were going to be found guilty.  The Communists were sticklers for legality, no matter how absurd it was.  Guilty they were found. 4 of the defendants, Captain Pilecki among them, received the death penalty, the others lengthy prison sentences.  The charges ranged from spying for foreign governments to plotting to assassinate officials of the security ministry (Polish version of NKVD/KGB).  Captain Pilecki only admitted to sending information to the Polish Second Corps.  The others’ sentences were changed to life in prison, only Pilecki was executed.

To make matters worse the trial was prosecuted by a former Armia Krajowa officer.  The Lead Judge was also from the AK.  President Bierut refused to grant clemency.  As did the Polish Communist Premier, Jozef Cyrankiewicz.  Also and ex Armia Krajowa man, who too was a fellow Auschwitz inmate and who belonged to ZOW in the Camp.  It was even reported that he sent a statement that was read out in court in which he condemned Witold Pilecki.  Writing that his past positive acts can not wipe away his guilt in fighting the People’s Polish Republic.  And so, just ten days after his trial, on may 25th 1948, Captain Witold Pilecki was executed in prison.  A chaplain was present (only one recorded presence of a clergymen during an execution), he administered a blessing and Captain Pilecki was shot, to the back of the head, Soviet style.  And thus ended a life of an extraordinary man, a great Polish patriot, a great officer, and a brilliant intelligence operative.  He only has a symbolic grave as his body was never returned to the family.  It was most likely dumped and buried in a trash pit near the Powązki Cemetery.

In Poland his story was unknown.  Suppressed by the regime that killed him.  It was only after it fell that he was rehabilitated and finally honoured in a manner he deserved.  Now Poles are able to read about this remarkable man, he received posthumous medals, and there are streets and schools named after him.  Captain Pilecki is finally remembered in a Poland he fought for so long and hard, but did live to see.  May he rest in peace.

Sir Alex Ferguson- 23 Years at Manchester United

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Great Scot!! He's still at it!

Bloody hell!!!  Its been 23 years since Alex Ferguson joined Manchester United.  When I look back over all those years I don’t think I could have imagined such success and longevity from United and its manager.  These days managers hardly last 2 years, let alone 23.  Yet he survived, flourished in fact.  And he did it at a time when football in England was changing.  The great stubborn Scot changed with it.  And he carried on Matt Busby’s tradition of great attacking and successful football, while utilizing the Manchester United Youth Academy.  Yes there were the Cantonas, Schmeichels, Keanes, but United’s greatest success was the coming of Scholes, Giggs, Butt, Neville, Beckham, and now Fletcher and Evans.  And there are more great youngsters on the verge of the first team.  At the same time Fergie was not afraid to pull the money trigger and break English transfer records to bring in the likes of Ferdinand, Rooney, the above mentioned Cantona, Keane, he tried to buy Ronaldinho, Essien, Shearer, Gascoigne.  Anything to win.  That is Ferguson in a nutshell, he wants to win, and he takes pleasure out of seeing his team develop.  And after 23 years, his drive and joy have not diminished one bit.

That is what makes Fergie great.  He’s a winner.  Everyone knows about his great success at United:

11 League titles

2 Champions League titles

1 Cup Winners Cup

5 Fa Cups

3 League Cups

Amazing, and he won his first trophy in 1990, it was not until 1993 that United won their League title, after 26 years of wait.  In 17 seasons United won the English Premier League 11 times.  But people tend to overlook his success at Aberdeen, before he joined United, he broke up the Celtic/Ranger monopoly, the last manager to win in Scotland not with the Old Firm.  In 8 seasons there he won the SPL 3 times in fact, won the Scottish Cup 4 times, the League Cup once and he won in Europe too.  Little Aberdeen beat the mighty Real Madrid in the Final of the Cup Winners Cup in 1983.  He averages one major trophy per season in since he signed with Aberdeen.  That’s not counting the one off minor trophies.  And he did it on his own.  He did not inherit great teams, he built them.  It was always his way or the highway.

Manchester United was in turmoil when he came.  A big, underachieving club that has not won the League title in almost 20 years, a cup here and there was considered a success to the once proud United.  Managers came and went, United were even relegated in the 70’s for one season.  It was a team that had good players, but they could not win consistently enough.  Drinking culture at the club was rampart, fitness levels were low, and discipline was almost nonexistent.  Ferguson did not like what he saw.  Many other clubs tried to sign him.  Arsenal, Totenham, Rangers of the SPL, but he refused.  He went to United instead.  And on November 6th 1986 everything changed at old Trafford.

He set about getting discipline back to OT, he sold talented, but troubled players, and revamped the United Youth Academy.  Success was not coming though.  The team did not perform any better than it did under previous regimes.  But he stuck it out.  And there were rumours of his imminent sacking.  Fortunately those proved to be false.  Then he started winning, and never looked back.  He kept changing the team but one thing remained constant.  United won and won rather regularly.  There were many times that everyone wrote him off.  Most notably in the summer and early fall of 1995, after he sold a few of his most influential players and stuck unproven kids to replace them.  Alan Hansen’s words still make United fans laugh.  That season United won the English Premier League title, and the FA Cup.  I guess you can win things with kids.  It was not different in just 3 years later.  Arsenal, under their new manager Arsene Wenger won the League and Cup double.  United were written off once again, the time of the mighty Gunners came.  During the 1998-99 season Manchester United won the famous Treble.  The League, FA Cup and the European Champions league, followed by two more League titles in 2000 and 2001.

The 2001-02 season was said to be his last, Arsenal won the League and Fergie was going to retire.  Fortunately he changed his mind.  And he promptly won the League again in 2002-03 season.  Then came the unbeaten Gunners, and Chelsea FC with their money.  100’s of millions of pounds were spent at Stamford Bridge to help Chelsea win titles.  Which they did for two seasons straight.  During that time Manchester United only managed to win the FA Cup once in 2004.  The team was rebuilding.  In the fall of 2005 there was great turmoil.  Roy Keane, the great Manchester United captain, did a controversial interview on MUTV in which he criticized many of his teammates.  Roy was promptly sacked.  Then United followed it up with getting knocked out of the Champions League stages, finishing last in a weak group.  The sky was falling, out of Europe, United’s League form was poor, the Captain gone, calls for Ferguson to leave were coming from all over the place.  Articles were written, fans made banners and chanted for Fergie’s sacking.  He just went on.  United won the League Cup that season, and gave Chelsea a good run for the title, finishing second.

But more controversy followed.  United only signed a back up goalkeeper and a central midfielder, while selling their best scorer to Real Madrid.  At the same time there was hoopla over United’s very talented but very frustrating Cristiano Ronaldo who became enemy number one in England after the World Cup.  And Chelsea had gone from strength to strength, bringing in even more stars like Ballack and Shevchenko.  Chelsea were crowned champions even before the 2006-07 season started.  United were on the decline, and were going to finish below Spurs or even West Ham, in 5th or 6th place.  Ruud van Nistelrooij was sold after falling out with Fergie the previous spring.  United did not buy a new striker.  “Where were the goals going to come from” was a question frequently asked by football writers and fans alike.  Goals did come, and United went back to winning titles.  Ferguson’s patience with the talented, but frustrating Ronaldo paid off, in the following three seasons the young Portuguese winger/forward scored 23, 42, and 26 goals respectively.  Before that his highest tally was 12.  United won the League 3 times.  Reached two Champions League Finals, winning once in Moscow against Chelsea in 2008.  Another League Cup was added.

And Ferguson keeps going.  Now he says he’s not thinking of retiring.  He wants to go on as long as his health allows him.  He is 67, but his drive, joy for football and dedication to Manchester United has not diminished one bit in the 23 years he has been at Old Trafford.  He still does the famous “Fergie Jig” on the sidelines when United score yet another late goal.  He still has fun.  And that the most remarkable thing about him.  He has fun.  He does not shy away from controversy.  He takes on the BBC, referees, the FA, players, other managers, football writers, anyone who stands in his way.  But he still has fun.  He has made mistakes to be sure, he even admitted to some.  But it would be impossible to find a manager who did not over such a long career.  He sold/got rid of many stars for many reasons.  Discipline, Straham, Ince;  Hughes, Kanchelskis, when he thought the team needed a change.  Beckham, when he thought he was too distracted.  Staam, for writing a few things in a book.  Roy Keane for speaking out, Ruud when he fell out with him.  Yet Manchester United kept on winning, and looked stronger after each loss of a player.  The last one was Ronaldo, a player he did not want to sell.  A player he treated with kid gloves, for one reason, the boy was special.  Just like he treated the great but controversial Eric Cantona.  He too was special.  Time will tell how United will cope with the loss of the world’s current best player.  But I know one thing, I wont be betting against Ferguson and United.

I consider Sir Alex Ferguson to be the greatest football manager in the history of the game.  However I am having a hard time in deciding whom to put as United’s greatest manager.  Another Scot, Sir Matt Busby, took over United in 1945.  The team had no stadium, Old Trafford was bombed during WWII.  Before the war it was rubbish.  Even flirting with relegation to the Third Division in the 30’s.  But Matt Busby remade the team.  Along with Jimmy Murphy he changed the way football was played in England.  He too never shied away from controversy.  He relied on young talented players in and age when it was believed that players should not play for the first team till they are in their mid 20’s.  Busby’s Babes, as they were affectionately called, fielded players aged 21, 20, even 17.  Talent mattered, not age.  He defied the Football League and sought glory in Europe by joining in the European Cup competition.  He too sold/got rid of players on a whim.  It was Busby’s way or the highway.  He built a great young team, already great, but on the verge of even more brilliance.  But it was not to last.  After the tragedy at Munich, when United lost 8 of its players and two coaches in an airplane crash, Matt Busby, after fighting for his own life, rebuilt the team once again.  Just 5 years later United won the FA Cup, two seasons after that a League title followed.  In 1968 Matt Busby finally achieved his dream and won the European Cup.  It was after he left that United fell into dark times.

Those lasted until Alex Ferguson came to Old Trafford.  Both Scots came from poor backgrounds, both were good players, and later great managers.  Both believed in attacking football, and sought glory at home and abroad.  Both never shied away from controversy.  Both believed in youth and the United way.  Whom to pick.  I guess I would have to call a draw on this one.  Maybe with one or the other coming in front in “Fergie Time.”

I am a lucky Manchester United fan.  Just old enough to remember some of the dark days, but most of the time I followed United they were playing under Alex Ferguson.  The trophies came, and they came in great bunches.  It was unthinkable to imagine United even reaching Liverpool’s great domestic record of 18 League titles.  When Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford the tally was 16-7 in favour of LFC.  Liverpool managed 2 more by 1990.  United were still on 7.  Last May Manchester United celebrated their 18th League Championship.  Yes, 18!!!  Unbelievable.  And Ferguson is still at it.  Now some have written him off already, but he keeps going.  Building another team, watching while his great “Fledglings” are slowly replaced by new younger players, and the team remodels itself for a new era.  Hopefully it will be as great as the previous one.  Ferguson met each challenge head on.  Always looking forward.  The day after United won the Champions League he was already talking about the next season and the challenges it would present.  And while he does not, we should, especially today, look back in wonder at the things he’s achieved with Manchester United.  And looking back all I can say it to quote his reaction after Manchester United came back very late in the game to win the 1999 Champions League Final by scoring two goals.

“Bloody Hell!!!”