Emotional Eamonn Holmes asks the nation to pray for his pal Sir Alex Ferguson

MAN United legend Sir Alex Ferguson is fighting for his life in intensive care following emergency surgery for a brain haemorrhage.

As the football world rallied to support the Scot, 76, close pal Eamonn Holmes said: “If anyone can beat this, Fergie can. My prayers are with him.”

Eamonn writes in Monday’s Daily Mirror:

Sir Alex Ferguson is the most ordinary extraordinary person that I’ve ever known. If you’re friendly with him, you’ll get a Christmas card. Not only will it have been written by him but, chances are, he will have memorised your address as he has mine.

Even I struggle with my own postcode. He has a mind like no one else I’ve come across. His powers of recall beggar belief.

He can not only reel off football results over the years, he can give the goal scorers, the location, what the weather was like – in the Premier League, the Champions League, the Scottish League, internationals and even from school.

If these seem like small things, then it goes to show why the small things are important to Fergie. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, funerals, the names of children, partners, when he last saw you all contribute to the impressiveness and humanness of the man.

When I heard the news on Saturday night my blood ran cold. For someone you know to be struck down with illness is horrendous, but for a man with such a mind to suffer a brain haemorrhage somehow seems even crueller.


But if anyone can beat this, my friend Fergie can. All my hopes and prayers are with him and his family. And if you know Alex Ferguson, you’ll know that family is first. I watched him a few weeks ago sit with one of his grandsons, paying more attention to him than what was happening on the pitch.

To be in the company of him and Lady Cathy gives me hope for Ruth and I. It’s a relationship with similar dynamics, respect, love, huge comedy and one boss – which is not him. At Home With The Fergusons would be a TV sensation.

Every time I meet him he asks after my kids and wife. I think he has particularly soft spot for my wife, to the extent he will tell me he’ll often catch her on Loose Women.

“What are you doing watching that?” I’ll say to him. “I catch it around lunchtime if I’m not working,” he’ll reply.

Some of you will find both answers surprising. Not only that he watches Loose Women but that he’s working. I’d say he never stops working because he never stops accumulating knowledge, he never stops spreading the Red Gospel of Man United.

He has also been a genuinely chilled, happy man since his retirement. Partly because it has been so enjoyably busy.


One thing he has been busy doing is finding out, accidentally, how much he is loved, revered and respected by the public at large. How amazing must that be for a man who was the perfect pantomime villain for any football fan who wasn’t a supporter of Man United?

Fergie and I arrived in Manchester at the same time, October 1986. He came from Aberdeen to take over at United, I came from Belfast to work for the BBC.

One of my duties was as a sports reporter for BBC North West. Early on in that role Fergie called me aside at the then United training ground The Cliff.

He said I was the only part of the BBC football reporting network who wasn’t a paid-up member of Liverpool supporters club. He began to list them, on screen and off. He had done his homework.

His whole sense of being a wind-up merchant appealed to me. Glasgow folk and those from Belfast can be so alike.

He knew I got his banter, and he reminded me of my late dad with the terminology he used, like “penalty kick” instead of penalty, “the pictures” instead of films.

He’d always do a good turn if he could, to the extent he once carried my bags with hilarious consequences.

We got off the plane in Belfast. The Boss offered me a lift home. Northern Ireland United supporters club had laid on a Mercedes saloon to ferry him about. This was nearly 20 years ago.

Ruth was busy preparing lunch so, as we drew up, I sprinted out of the car and rang the bell to give her the heads-up that The Boss was with me.


Ruth wouldn’t expect such a dignitary unannounced, never mind walking up behind me carrying my bags. She opened the door, as usual didn’t listen to what I was trying to tell her, looked straight over my shoulder and, thinking this was a taxi driver, asked, “How much does he owe you?”

“It’s The Boss, darling.” The imm­­ortal reply to which was: “What boss?”

The answer to that is a Boss like no other. A man who enjoys the company and counsel of some of the best in the world.

Yet, be invited to certain celebrations and the guest list will be former primary school classmates and neighbours intermingled with the small smattering of profile people he trusts.

Maybe my most surreal Fergie moment was standing on a chair holding his hand in a chain around the table of 10 singing, “That’s Amore”.

Gosh, does Sir Alex like to sing. He likes a quiz as well. I asked him to come on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? with me. He said he’d love to, to such a degree we did it twice together.

He took it so seriously he went into training. He told me he ran quizzes on the team bus. To this day he fumes about the question we went out to: In the sitcom The Good Life, what was the name of Tom and Barbara’s pet cockerel? We hadn’t used a lifeline up until then and blew them all on that.

He contests it like a bad refereeing decision. He used to say, “I’ve asked 10 people and nobody knows the answer”. That’s grown to, “I’ve asked 4,750 people…” Incidentally, the correct answer was Lenin.

Using his mind is what Fergie is all about. He’s a keen scholar of the American Civil War, films, so much.

I don’t think I have a hobby outside Man United, especially the United Alex Ferguson created. It’s hard for a lot of us supporters to think of a time without him. To think of that is to think of being without so many things that accompanied the past nearly 30 years – partners, children, growing up.

He dictated whether we were happy or sad. And now we are sad for him. Get well soon, Boss, and take all the Fergie Time you need to do it.

Rivals’ support as his fight goes on

SIR Alex Ferguson remained in intensive care yesterday as the footballing world united in wishing him a speedy recovery.

The former Manchester United manager, 76, had emergency surgery on Saturday night after suffering a brain haemorrhage.

And fans of bitter local rivals Manchester City honoured him while celebrating their Premier League title by revealing a banner that read: “Football aside, get well Fergie.”

Red Devils legend David Beckham posted a snap of himself with Fergie as a youth player, writing: “Keep fighting boss.” And Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo posted a shot of himself with Sir Alex during his time at United, adding: “Be strong, Boss!”

An ambulance was called to Fergie’s Cheshire home where he lives with wife of 52 years Lady Cathy at around 9am on Saturday.

Man United said the surgery on Saturday night “had gone very well” but there was no update on Fergie’s condition in Salford Royal Hospital.

The club added: “He needs a period of intensive care.”

It is common for brain surgery patients to be put into comas and kept at cold temperatures, as it lets the brain rest. “It’s like cooling the engine down and allowing the healing process to slowly occur,” said US doctor David Wright.

Rustan Salman, Consultant Neurologist, writes:

Brain haemorrhage can be devast­ating. Bleeding can occur outside the brain, in the lining, or in the brain itself. Surgery is performed to try to relieve pressure on the brain, to take the blood out and improve recovery.

For 10 people like Sir Alex four may die within a month, four are disabled but two regain independent function within a year.

The two major risk factors for brain haemorrhage are older age and high blood pressure. Sir Alex Ferguson, 76, is at the average age at which brain haemorrhage strikes.

He will be very carefully monitored and supported for his recovery from brain surgery, to minimise his risk of complications.

The focus will be on when he starts to regain consciousness; his neurologic state will be repeatedly assessed and he will remain under constant care until he starts to show signs of recovery.

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