London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola both took time out from landmark moments in their own football careers to support Alex Ferguson as the legendary manager remained in intensive care after emergency surgery for a brain haemorrhage.
Considered the most successful manager in the history of British football, Ferguson won 38 major trophies in just over 26 years in charge of Manchester United, including 13 Premier League titles and the UEFA Champions League twice before retiring in 2013.
Wenger and Scottish manager Ferguson battled for supremacy in the Premier League during the Frenchman’s first decade of a 22-year stay at Arsenal, which will come to a close at the end of the season.
However, they later became friends and Ferguson, 76, presented Wenger with a momento on his final visit to United’s Old Trafford ground as Arsenal manager just last weekend.
“I was with him on the pitch last week. I went to see him in the box after the game and he looked in a perfect shape,” said Wenger, who also started his farewell speech in his final home game as Arsenal boss at the Emirates on Sunday with well wishes for Ferguson.
“He told me he is doing a lot of exercise, and he looked very happy but that kind of accident can happen. We wish him all well and to recover very quickly. He is a strong man and an optimistic man.”
Sunday saw runaway winners Manchester City, United’s local rivals, receive the Premier League trophy as Guardiola added an English title to the Spanish and German ones he won in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively.
“All the Manchester City fans in the stadium, you cannot find one person who does not wish the best for an amazing person,” said Guardiola after City lifted the trophy following a goalless draw at home to Huddersfield.
Guardiola then invited a former assistant of Ferguson’s, Brian Kidd, who is now a member of City’s coaching staff, to pay tribute to Ferguson.
“He’s such an iconic person as everybody knows,” said Kidd. There was a really sombre mood yesterday evening and this morning.
“You think Sir Alex is really indestructible.”
– ‘Not a normal person’ –
Following Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Liverpool on Sunday, managers Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte also sent their best wishes.
“When I heard the news yesterday I really couldn’t believe this could happen. He is absolutely the boss,” said Klopp. “I wish him the best.”
Italian manager Conte added: “I have had the chance to know him and his wife. I understand that this is a special person. Not a normal person.”
An ambulance was called to Ferguson’s home in Cheadle, near Manchester, at 9:00 am (0800 GMT) Saturday
Concerns for Ferguson’s health then started to mount when it was announced his son, Darren, the manager of English third-tier club Doncaster, would miss his side’s match against Wigan because of “family reasons”.
News of Ferguson’s operation was made public by a United statement issued Saturday.
“Sir Alex Ferguson has undergone emergency surgery today for a brain haemorrhage,” it said. “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.”
A brain haemorrhage is bleeding in or around the brain following the rupture of a blood vessel, which can be caused by elevated blood pressure, aneurysms or physical trauma.
Operations to relieve the pressure of excess blood in the brain, as has been the case with Ferguson, are crucial if sufferers are to avoid brain damage or even death.
– ‘Hairdryer’ –
By 2000 GMT Sunday, no new update on Ferguson’s condition had been issued by either United or hospital staff, although the club thanked the “wider football world” for their support via a fresh post on their Twitter account.
Meanwhile Bryan Robson, a former United and England captain who played under Ferguson at Old Trafford, said: “Hopefully they’ve found the bleed in the brain early enough and it doesn’t affect the boss in any way.
“Everybody respects him highly for what he did in the game. Everyone thinks it was all this ‘hairdryer’ but the boss enjoys a good time, really enjoys his racing and is good company when you’re around him.”
News of Ferguson’s condition also had an impact beyond the world of football.
Top American baseball side the Chicago White Sox posted a heartfelt message on their Twitter page weeks after one of their players, Danny Farquhar, recently suffered a brain haemorrhage while sitting in the team dugout.
“Having been recently impacted by a brain hemorrhage in our own family, we know the dramatic impact it causes, and the strength that can be drawn from those who care.”