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Ferguson will be missed by all

Sir Alex Ferguson addresses the crowd after his final match at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson addresses the crowd after his final match at Old Trafford.
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Warren Barton

Warren Barton draws on 16 years of professional soccer experience as a studio analyst for FOX Soccer. With more than 350 Barclays Premier League appearances, Barton starred for Wimbledon before rising to prominence with Newcastle United and the England national team. Follow him on Twitter.

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FOND FAREWELL

See the best images from Sir Alex Ferguson's final match at Old Trafford.

This week begins and ends where it should: at Old Trafford with the greatest manager ever in our sport. I was proud to be part of our FOX Soccer telecast bringing you the title celebrations for Manchester United on Sunday, and even prouder to be able to look back on man who has defined the British game for many, many years.

I played against Sir Alex’s teams many, many times in my career, and it was always a battle. I remember vividly my first season at Newcastle when it looked like we would win the league, only to lose at home to his side in March. They never looked back, and we were forced to settle for second. We all felt awful that day, but so many of us have finished second to Sir Alex’s teams that I cannot say we were hard done by. The fact is, he was and is one of the best men in our game, and while you never want to lose, there’s no shame in losing to a champion like that.

There was a time I could have played for Sir Alex as well – he had made inquiries about having me join United, but I chose to stay at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan. I felt that loyalty and responsibility because Newcastle had paid a lot of money for me to join from Wimbledon, and as you all know, I love the club and the fans dearly. But it was extremely flattering to have that sort of interest from Sir Alex, because he was such a giant in the game. When a man like that even talks about you in the papers, much less talks of signing you, it’s like winning a trophy. Your confidence just shoots sky-high, and I know I felt I’d grown a foot taller!

There’s also the story making the rounds that there was a chance Sir Alex could have coached me at Newcastle that same year. Newcastle knew Kevin was going to be departing and it was well-known that Sir Alex was unhappy with the contract negotiations dragging on at Old Trafford. We on the team didn’t know this, but the board apparently reached out to see if a deal could be done. We all know it didn’t happen, but I wonder what might have been if Sir Alex had come up north. I think our history – and United’s – would be very different.

So, thanks to Sir Alex. He has been one of the towering figures in our game and a great ambassador for British football. He will be missed by all of us in the game.

I want to congratulate Wigan for a fabulous FA Cup win on Saturday. It was their first, and I just felt immense joy for Dave Whelan after all he and that club have been through. It was a committed, intense performance and proof of the magic that FA Cup has. I think we saw a few stars emerge there – Callum McManaman was deservedly the man of the match – and that win may help them to stay up.

But I think we may have seen the last of Roberto Mancini. The owners there seem to have decided to make a change and after watching City, it’s hard to disagree. That was a confused and disjointed performance that showed me there are a lot of problems there. Certainly, for the money the players there are on, City’s fans have a right to demand a bit more passion and commitment than they showed.

And finally, I want to congratulate my old team on ensuring their top-flight survival. Alan Pardew and the lads got it done today at QPR, and hats off to them and the fans who traveled to London to spur them on. We need to address some big holes in the off-season, and I know the manager and the staff will do so, but for right now, it’s job done.

TROPHIES GALORE

Sir Alex Ferguson has had a long and successful career with Manchester United. See his top moments.

We’ve got some very important games coming up on FOX Soccer that you cannot miss. Tuesday’s Arsenal-Wigan game (2:30 ET) has massive implications for both teams. And then Wednesday, we’re really please to present Benfica v Chelsea in the Europa League final (2 PM ET). I am eager to see if Rafa Benitez can prove his doubters wrong and collect the second European title in a row for his side.

Then we have Survival Sunday, and a great, great weekend as we say goodbye for now to the Premier League on FOX. Nine of the ten games are on and we have a bumper edition of Goals On Sunday. It’s with a heavy heart that we are saying goodbye, but I’m so proud of what we all have done, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of bringing it to you.

As always, please follow me on Twitter @warrenbarton2 and send me a question any time @FOXSoccer using the hash tag #heywarren. I love the banter with you guys! And join me here next weekend as I wrap up the Premier League for the final time this season. Thanks as always for reading and watching us on FOX Soccer!

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