Ferguson's retirement rocks ManU shares

The manager's 26-year stint at Old Trafford transformed his team into a soccer and branding powerhouse.

By Jason Notte May 8, 2013 5:56PM
Credit: © Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images
Caption: Robin van Persie (R) of Manchester United celebrates scoring their fourth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic andManchester United at DW Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Wigan, England.Let Manchester United's (MANU) share price plummet. Even that feeble metric is little indication of how much the team's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, meant to his side and to the English Premier League.

It's tough to come up with an American comparison that comes close to matching what Ferguson -- who announced Tuesday that he'll retire at the end of this season -- has done since taking the reins at Old Trafford in 1986.

He's led Manchester United to the English Premier League title 13 times, he's picked up 5 FA Cup titles with the team along the way, he's led the squad to Europe's UEFA Champions League title twice and he's coached a who's who of famous footballers including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney.

Shares in the company, valued at $3 billion, had gained nearly 35% since its New York IPO in August 2012, easily outperforming the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX). They fell as much as 5.5% Wednesday before trimming their losses later in the session. The shares have also trounced the STOXX Europe Football index, which tracks other publicly traded soccer clubs including Italy's Juventus and Germany's Borussia Dortmund.

Ferguson intends to continue as a director with Manchester United. With two games left in the season, however, Ferguson's all-time record in the Premier League stands at 527 wins, 167 draws, and 114 losses, That ridiculous 65% winning percentage is tough to just replace, even though Ferguson's given plenty of warning that this day was coming. He first contemplated stepping down in 2001, but changed his mind. When he turned 70 in 2011, he toyed with the notion again. Still nothing. Meanwhile, a bronze statue of him was unveiled outside Old Trafford, the stadium's North Stand was named after him and the titles kept coming.

Now Manchester's American owners, the much-maligned Glazer family who've continuously frustrated the Man U faithful and have proven similarly unpopular across the pond as owners of the oft blacked-out Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A misstep by the Glazers in choosing a new coach would have serious repercussions for a club that brought in $519 million in revenue during the 2012-13 season, according to Deloitte. United was valued at $3.17 billion by Forbes last month.

The closest reasonable comparison Americans have to Ferguson is former NBA coach Phil Jackson, who won two NBA titles while playing with the New York Knicks and 11 while coaching Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers from 1989 to 2011. Considering that Jackson is still considered for head coaching vacancies with teams like the Brooklyn Nets, that should provide some sort of idea of just how large a vacuum Ferguson's retirement is leaving in Manchester.

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