New Camp for Political Prisoners Discovered in North Korea
November 22, 2016 by Jannelle P in Asia
The Human Rights in North Korea Committee reports the discovery of a new kwan-li-so, the name North Korea uses for political labor camps from which there is no escape. The official name of the camp is unknown, so the researchers call it Ch’oma-Bong, after the name of a nearby village. Though the camp was initially built over a decade ago and has recently been expanded, it is still one of the smaller camps. As far as North Korean camps go, it appears to be fairly well maintained. There is no way to determine the prisoner population, but the recent construction of over 54 new housing units suggests significant growth. Detainees, and possibly civilians, work mainly in agriculture and mining around the camp. It’s likely that prisoners are required to do the majority of the dangerous work in the mines.
Ch’oma-Bong is located only 45 miles northeast of the capital Pyongyang. A portion of the camp’s security fence is shared with infamous Camp 14. Two high security compounds have been built, which suggests that “high value” prisoners are being kept there. There are no roads leading up to the security guard posts, which indicate that they patrol largely by foot. The camp is connected to a railway station located just over a mile away.
North Korea has led the World Watch List for 14 consecutive years now. According to 2016 WWL information,
Kim Jong-un has continued to consolidate his power, and no changes or improvements have been seen over the past year. Ideology again trumped everything as could be seen in the celebration of the ruling Korean Workers Party’s 70th anniversary in October 2015. North Korea remains an opaque state and it is difficult to make sense of most of the news pouring out of the country. This is even truer when it comes to topics like human rights or the situation of the Christian minority. Christianity is not only seen as “opium for the people,” as is normal for all communist states, it is also seen as deeply Western and despicable. Christians try to hide their faith as far as possible to avoid arrest and being sent to labor camps with horrific conditions. Thus, one’s Christian faith usually remains a well-protected secret, and most parents refrain from introducing their children to the Christian faith in order to make sure that nothing slips their tongue when they are asked.”
Though the Committee did not specify that Christians are among those in the detainment camp, manybrothers and sisters in Christ in North Korea are imprisoned in kwan-li-so facilities like this one. Please pray for the people held here. God knows those who are His children.
Our Heavenly Father, who upholds the cause of the oppressed and sets the prisoners free, we pray for our fellow Christians in North Korea, imprisoned for their faith in Christ. Sustain them, Lord. Be their strength and joy in this earthly suffering. Encourage them with Your Word and Presence when their faith wanes, when loneliness sets in and when intense suffering is inflicted on them. Give them opportunity to share their faith boldly but wisely with other prisoners. May Christ be evident in their lives, not only to the prisoners, but also to the guards, and may You use their stalwart faith to draw many to Yourself. Turn their eyes from this earthly suffering to the glory set before them. In the name of Jesus, who has set us free from bondage to life, that we might be called His brothers. Amen.
Why North Korea sanctions are unlikely to produce desirable results
For multiple reasons, there is little reason to be hopeful of positive results
August 16th, 2016
As of late, the issue of sanctions has been at the front and center of all discussions regarding North Korea. Because of well-founded disappointment in the ‘soft-line’ approach – centered around negotiations and mutual concessions – an unavoidable result has emerged for many: that sanctions are now “the only game in town”.
Despite this recent shift in opinion, I cannot be enthusiastic about the tightening sanctions on North Korea, which are firstly difficult to implement and, secondly, unlikely to produce desirable results – even if properly implemented
This position – which I recently articulated in an interview with RFA in Washington – has consequently invited some criticism, notably from Joshua Stanton, an experienced and observant North Korea watcher who has very different views from mine on this issue.
This lengthy piece is, therefore, in a sense an indirect response to Joshua Stanton’s criticism – “indirect” because, instead of arguing point by point, I will reiterate my arguments about the inefficiency of sanctions in a more systematic manner.
Chinese boat sailing along Yalu River, adjacent to DPRK | Picture: NK News
HURDLES TO IMPLEMENTATION
To start with, North Korea sanctions don’t work. To put it in a more cautious way, so far they have failed to produce any noticeable impact on the state of the DPRK economy or the lifestyle of common North Koreans or members of the elite.
The international sanctions regime was first introduced by the UN Security Council in 2006, at the time when the North Korean economy began its slow recovery from the 15 years of crisis experienced after the collapse of the communist bloc. Yet despite ever-tightening sanctions, the ten years that since passed have been a time of steady economic growth and significant improvement in the living standards for a majority of the North Korean population.
The ten years that since passed have been a time of steady economic growth and significant improvement in the living standards for a majority of the North Korean population.
The inefficiency of those sanctions has been once again demonstrated by the results of Resolution 2270, which was adopted by the UN Security Council in early March 2016. This resolution envisioned sanctions of hitherto unprecedented severity, including, for example, a complete or partial ban on mineral exports from North Korea. However, after nearly half a year of the sanctions being implemented, it is still “business as usual” in North Korea. Such vital economic indicators as grain market prices and market exchange rates for foreign currencies have remained virtually unchanged, while most of the construction projects (including resource-wasteful hallmark projects in Pyongyang) are still continuing apace.
There are many reasons why initial UN sanctions and those outlined by Resolution 2270 have been so inefficient, but the major role is played by the uneasy and controversial attitude of China.
When from time-to-time the Chinese government expresses its support for some sanctions or criticizes North Korean policies on nuclear and missile issues, there are outbursts of joy in Washington and other Western capitals where people start saying that “finally the Chinese are in the same boat with us”. But such optimism has so far always been proven to be misplaced, for the Chinese are not in the same boat with the United States and they are unlikely to share this proverbial boat ride in the foreseeable future.
There is little doubt that China is seriously annoyed by North Korea’s nuclear brinksmanship and its nuclear and missile program as an indirect but significant security threat. However, on the list of the problems the Chinese government has to deal with, this particular danger is not very high. For China, any possible change in status quo on the Korean peninsula constitutes a potential challenge, and this is well understood in Beijing.
From decades of painful experiences, the Chinese have learned that the North Korean government is remarkably indifferent to minor pressures, so Pyongyang reacts to outside demands only when it faces a mortal threat. China, having a near complete monopoly on North Korean foreign trade, is in a position to create a crisis of such magnitude that it would indeed put in danger the survival of the DPRK economy and – perhaps – even reverse its policy on the nuclear issue. Indeed, if China stops all trade and dramatically reduces the number of North Koreans residing and doing business in China, this would wipe out the North Korean economy in a year or two.
China does not need regime collapse, revolution, and anarchy in a nuclear country located on its borders
However, such a crisis is likely to produce results which will not serve China’s long-term strategic interests. It is possible that the North Korean government would yield and indeed surrender its nuclear program, but it is even more likely that it will remain stubborn to the bitter end, leaving the crisis to trigger a revolution. However, this is clearly not what China wants. China does not need regime collapse, revolution, and anarchy in a nuclear country located on its borders. And, of course, it is not very enthusiastic about the emergence of a unified Korea, which is likely to be democratic, nationalistic, and friendly to the United States, Beijing’s major strategic adversary.
Thus, one should not be surprised that the Chinese are using their trade, economic exchanges and aid to North Korea in a very measured manner. They sometimes decrease the amount of economic exchange and giveaways, but it is usually done for symbolic purposes to indicate Chinese dissatisfaction with particular North Korean actions.
And it seems that this is exactly what we see now again: after a few months of a tough approach, China appears to be getting softer on Pyongyang. While this turn is currently being brought about by the general deterioration in Beijing-Washington relations and emergence of the THAAD deployment issue, it is nevertheles something that was going to happen anyway.
Targeting only elites in North Korea is difficult | Picture: E. Lafforgue
ELITE ONLY SANCTIONS?
Proponents of sanctions are likely to reject what has been said above, claiming that the major goal is not to damage the North Korean economy nor to make the life of common North Koreans more difficult. Instead, they will claim, it is rather to create uncomfortable conditions for the North Korean elite so they will start considering a change of their policies in order to have their life comforts returned to them. To simplify things a bit, it is assumed – or hoped – that if top decision makers are deprived of their Hennessey cognac, overseas travel and Mercedes Benz luxury cars for a sufficiently long period of time, they will start considering the denuclearization of their country.
Such logic would possibly work in most authoritarian states, where the ruling elite does not face an existential threat. Therefore in an average dictatorship, elite dissatisfaction might lead to a palace coup or revolution. But such political changes are unlikely to produce a wholesale replacement of the entire ruling elite, for while former colonels might become generals after revolutions, the overall elite change little. Just look at the Soviet Union: as of early 2016, only four of all leaders of post-Soviet States are neither former Soviet-era officials nor officials’ children.
This is not the case in North Korea, however, since the existence of a rich, free and highly seductive South Korea means that any serious internal disturbance there will likely result in regime collapse, soon followed by absorption of the North by its rich twin state.
In other words, unlike a majority of dictators’ henchmen in other countries, North Korean elite members understand that in case of even a successful coup, the winners will face too high a risk of rapidly losing everything as a result of instability, a popular uprising and potential unification (a cross of East German and Romanian scenarios).
They need stability, and, if worst comes to worst, they also need nuclear weapons to safeguard themselves against foreign powers
Taking this into consideration, these people are significantly less likely to start conspiracies – even if they are indeed deprived of their usual nightly glass of Hennessey cognac. They need stability, and, if worst comes to worst, they also need nuclear weapons to safeguard themselves against foreign powers being involved with their domestic crisis, Libya style. Thus in order to ensure stability, and stay alive, they can survive without a daily glass Hennessy cognac.
A poster promoting a ‘strong and prosperous’ economy | Picture: E. Lafforgue
TARGETING THE ECONOMY?
So let’s talk about a more realistic and tested model of sanctions – those which target the economy at large and whose (usually unstated) aim is to decrease the living standards of the general populace in order to create some discontent, hence putting the government under political pressure.
Such sanctions have been tried many times, from Serbia to South Africa. In most cases, they were not remarkably efficient, but there have been cases when sanctions seemingly made a great contribution towards desirable change. However, there is a tendency which is often overlooked; that sanctions have worked much better in countries which were democracies or semi-democracies, or where the common people had at least some opportunity to express their discontent with the government’s policy.
Indeed, such sanctions usually work in an indirect way, by making the lives of the common people more difficult, in some cases being without daily bread, in others, without the opportunity to buy a car every few years. All the pressure is built with the hope that discontent can crystalize into all kinds of opposition movements. And, if they are given the luxury of relatively free elections, citiznes become more likely to vote for opposition candidates, as was the case in Serbia and South Africa, for example.
However, this model is not applicable to North Korea.
North Koreans have no way to influence their government’s decisions or even register their dissatisfaction with government policy. They vote in elections with claimed 100% approval rate, and most of them cannot even think about any kind of open civil disobedience.
We have seen how it worked back in the late 1990s when the country faced a grave shortage of food and basic necessities. At least half a million people starved to death during the so-called ‘Arduous March’ of 1996-1999, but their deaths had little, if any, impact on government policy. Indeed, Kim Jong Il and his advisors did not abandon their goals of developing nuclear weapons and missile-based delivery systems, nor did they introduce reforms which, if applied correctly and timely, could have saved most –if not all – the lives lost during the famine.
At least half a million people starved to death during the so called ‘Arduous March’ of 1996-1999, but their deaths had little, if any, impact on the government policy
Of course, North Korean society has changed much since then, so widespread starvation might indeed lead to a revolution, for nowadays citizens are significantly less docile and much better informed about the possible alternatives. However, this is a risky bet, especially if we take into account that an economic crisis will kill many people before it can lead to a revolution.
This is the reason why economic sanctions so far have remained unsuccessful and the North Korean economy continues to perform at a modest, but acceptable level.
This is not to say that harsh economic sanctions do not make sense at all, for such measures might make sense if your goal is denuclearization at any cost. However, if your goal is to improve lives of common North Koreans, this is clearly not the way to go. Fortunately, due to the position of China and other reasons described above, sanctions are not going to drive the North Korean economy to the brink.
Capitol in DC | Picture: Flickr Creative Commons
SOME SAD CONCLUSIONS
It is clear now the dominant mood in Washington and other world capitals is in favor of sanctions, so a sanctions-centered policy is likely to continue for a long time, perhaps many years to come. No amount of debate is likely to change this fact – especially since such a policy sells well with voters, creating a false and misleading impression that a principled and morally correct stance has been taken, and “something is being done” about North Korea and its nuclear threat.
Furthermore – as the experience of Cuba sanctions has demonstrated – even a long-term absence of political effect resulting from the sanctions regime is not going to discourage proponents, who will probably keep saying that “results are just beyond the corner”. In the case of Cuba, such figures were making claims like this for more than six decades, or a period of two generations.
Therefore, we have to accept that we are going to live in a sanctions-dominated world, and find ways to encourage desirable changes within it, even when the environment is harsh and unproductive. But sanctions are not conducive for policies which could probably be significantly more successful, such as cultural and personal exchanges which familiarize North Koreans with the outside world and help them realize that they live in a remarkably inefficient and backward society.
While programs targeting refugees might still be compatible with sanctions, working with the still loyal subjects of the Kim family might be a lot more difficult. Unfortunately, academic and personal exchanges are usually frowned upon by hard-liners who tend to believe that such programs ‘reward’ the North Korean dictatorial regime by inviting their students – who will be scions of the elite – to study in Western schools or encourage other exchanges between North Korea and the outside world. This ability to nearly freeze exchanges and thus reduce the information in-flow to North Korea is a major negative side-effect produced by the excessive adherence to the sanctions regime.
However, as I have said, sanctions are likely to remain part of the American and, broader speaking, Western policy for the foreseeable future. So we have to live within this, unfortunately.
Main picture: NK News
August 16th, 2016
Are you special, basic or complex? Behind North Korea’s caste system
‘Songbun’ separates citizens according to ancestral and social standings – or whether they’ve had their photograph taken with the great leader. NK News wonders how will it coexist with Kim Jong-un’s proposed reforms
North Korean Army soldiers and civilians on the stands of the Kim Il Sung Stadium, a photograph by Ilya Pitalev which won at the Sony World Photography Awards in 2013. Photograph: Ilya Pitalev/Sony
Fyodor Tertitskiy for NK News, part of the North Korea network
Wednesday 4 March 2015 05.00 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 4 March 2015 12.13 GMT
It might not be obvious from the outside, but experts agree that North Korea is undergoing significant upheaval. Kim Jong-un’s regime is said to be serious about reforms, with the so-called “30th May measures” promising to increase personal income and allow greater social mobility.
But this has left many wondering how North Korea’s strict songbun system of social classification will coexist with such unprecedented reforms.
Songbun was most important element in the social structure of Kim Il-sung’s North Korea. Sung, who established the Democratic People’s Republic in 1948, initiated the system of social classification in the late 1950s, dividing the population into groups according to the actions and status of their paternal ancestors during the Japanese colonial period and the Korean War.
Songbun determines, among other things, whether North Koreans are allowed to live in the capital or in special cities, the workplace they’re allocated, and what kind of education they can receive.
While there has been some research into songbun, much of it is either outdated or incomplete. Researchers aren’t allowed to access official North Korean documents of this kind, which are always classified, but fortunately I have a friend who served in the North Korean police and is very familiar with the songbun documents, who was able to explain it in more detail.
Brahmins and untouchables, North Korean style
According to this system of social classification North Korean society is divided to five groups, from the best to the worst: special, nucleus, basic, complex and hostile. Earlier research has usually only mentioned three strata, because the existence of the special class was largely unknown, and the complex classification was only introduced in the 2000s.
Nucleus, also known as core, is the standard. Special is very rare and acts as a bonus in status. In contrast, basic (also known as wavering) can lead to slight discrimination, while people deemed complex and especially hostile face substantial prejudice.
‘Awarded with an audience’ is a title given to North Koreans who have talked to the leader for 20 minutes or more
A possible exception from this system would be blood relatives of the Kim family, who are seemingly excluded from all official documentation, although this remains to be verified.
Songbun is calculated from two factors. The first measures the social position and actions of one’s paternal ancestors during the Japanese colonial period and the Korean War. Did they fight with Kim Il-sung and later remain close to the Great Leader? Congratulations, your ancestry songbun is as good as it can be. Or, did they work as a clerk in the colonial administration, or worse, were they part of a faction in the independence movement that later proved hostile to Kim? Well then, your ancestry songbun is very bad and you’re unlikely to advance to any meaningful position in society.
The second – social songbun – measures the place occupied by a person in North Korean society; a worker, farmer, military man, teacher or policeman. There is, however, one variation of social songbun which overrides all others – party member – and another, the strange sounding “awarded with an audience”.
Portraits of North Korea’s national founder Kim Il-sung (left) and late leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, North Korea. Photograph: AP
The latter is a title given to North Koreans who have talked to the leader for 20 minutes or more, or who have had their picture taken with him. That’s why commemoration photos printed in the official newspaper of the ruling Worker’s Party, Rodong Sinmun, often include thousands of people – the songbun of all of them has just increased.
Songbun influences many aspects of life in North Korea. If your songbun isn’t good enough, you cannot live in Pyongyang. Or, you cannot enter a good university, no matter how smart you are. You cannot be employed as a teacher or a policemen with bad or even average songbun. And if you want to join the ranks of the secret police (as many North Koreans do) not only you, but all you relatives up to the sixth generation must have a good songbun, or you do not qualify.
Can you alter your songbun? When it comes to ancestry , the answer is almost always no. Records are kept in four locations: at the local administration office, ordinary police, secret police and at specific organisations, like the Worker’s Party, Women’s Union, or labour union.
The situation during the Kim Il-sung era was much the same: a person of bad ancestry could not get a good job, so his or her songbun remained bad too. However, many things have changed since Kim Il-sung died in 1994, and the role of this system of classification is one of them. Now, a person who has worked for three years gets a new social designation decided upon by the decision of the local party committee. And these days even people of questionable ancestry can join the party. Some North Korean officials have also started to simply ignore songbun, reasoning that punishing someone for the sins of their ancestors is unfair and unjust.
The role of songbun is gradually reducing, as the country embraces new ways and new economic models. If Kim Jong-un really wants to proceed with promised reforms, one of the necessary steps would be to abolish songbun, at least in practice.
A version of this article first appeared on NK News
Introducing the retirement home for old age pussycats
Elderly cats can spend the last years of their nine lives in comfort at special accommodation dedicated to looking after senior felines.
By Becky Barnes
Last updated: 04 March 2015, 16:19 GMT
Elderly cats whose owners pass away or can no longer look after them can live out the rest of their years in comfort at a retirement home dedicated to felines.
There are 76 ‘Old Age Pussycats’ aged 10 to 20 living at the Lincolnshire Trust for Cats retirement home, which has been adapted especially for moggies.
Pet owners must pay a one-off fee of £850 for their cat to be taken in at the home, which is south-facing – giving animals plenty of sunshine to relax in – and furnished for their comfort.
Jain Hills, who set up the retirement home in 2001, wanted to do something for older cats when she saw they were being rejected by rehoming charities.
“I don’t think anywhere else does it because people come all the way from London with the cats to come here,” the 65-year-old said.
The oldest cat at the home is Henry, 20, whose owner died. He has a favourite armchair, which the other cats know not to sit in.
The home is also open to cats whose owners leave the country. One of the whiskered residents gets parcels sent to her from overseas, which she is apparently happy to share with her furry friends.
The seven-acre retirement facility offers individual rooms for new arrivals while they get settled and has three sitting rooms for the cats to lounge in, linked by enclosed outdoor areas.
The house is kept warm with central heating, is decorated in cat memorabilia and has leather sofas and Indian rugs for the cats to nap on.
There are also more than 400 stray cats taken in by the charity now living on the grounds.
If you know this man please help if you don’t blog,tweet, Facebook this Thank You
Our Letter of Confession
“A witness saw a young woman who folded her hands in a praying fashion when the SSD [State Security Department] interrogated her. The SSD suspected therefore that she was a Christian. They took her to another room and beat her until she confessed.”
Now is the time to make our confession to Kim Jong Un. We declare that we will remain loyal to the one true God and continue to stand with our persecuted family members in North Korea.
We know what is happening in North Korea. We commit to telling the world about the crimes of its leader and to do everything in our power to assist our persecuted family there.
We invite you to add your voice in support of North Korean Christians by digitally signing the Letter of Confession. We will deliver these letters to North Korea’s representatives to the United Nations.
Deadly attacks, particularly on Christian communities, are now the weekly norm. According to a local human rights NGO, at least 1,296 people died between 1 April and 5 June.
We’ve put together downloadable resources to help you, your church and small group to rise up in prayer for this troubled nation. There’s a poster, a prayer sheet, and Twitter header and Facebook cover images so you can show your support. Just click here to download your free resources, and use them all through the week of 15-22 June, or whenever convenient for you.
The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.
We’ve seen God move in incredible ways when we’ve joined together to pray for Nigeria before. We’ve seen expected attacks headed off, violence brought to a halt, perpetrators arrested, and peace-building initiatives flourish. Please join us for the Nigeria Week of Prayer, and let God arise.
Wimbledon – Murray tames Djokovic to end 77 years of British hurt
Andy Murray ended Britain’s 77-year wait for a men’s Wimbledon champion with a 6-4 7-5 6-4 win over world number one Novak Djokovic.
Eurosport – 37 minutes ago
Scotland’s world number two unsettled Serbia’s 2011 champion Djokovic from an epic opening game, coming back from breaks down in the second and third sets, before fending off a brave fightback while serving for the match as he claimed his finest career victory.
Murray won last year’s US Open to end what was then a 76-year wait for a British male Grand Slam champion; he is now the first Briton of either gender to win Wimbledon since Virginia Wade in 1977, and the first male since Fred Perry in 1936.
"It feels slightly different to last year," Murray said in reference to his tearful defeat in the 2012 final. "I don’t know how I managed to get through that last game – losing three match points was unbelievable. It was hard to watch but imagine playing it!
"Novak has come back so many times from similar positions and he almost did it again."
The beaten world number one was typically sportsmanlike at the trophy presentation.
"Congratulations to Andy, who absolutely deserved this win – you played incredible tennis," Djokovic said. "I know how much it means to all of you guys, the whole country, well done.
"I’m aware of the pressure he gets, although I cannot imagine the extent not being in his shoes.
"It was an absolute pleasure and an honour to be part of this final."
Murray was exceptional at times but, by contrast, Djokovic had one of his worst games on Centre Court.
On the hottest day of the year in Britain, with the mercury soaring toward 30 degrees Celsius, the world’s two best players produced some scorching sinew-stretching action from the start and the first three games alone lasted 20 minutes.
The opening salvo of the Centre Court clash lasted 20 strokes as Murray went up 0-40 on the Serb’s serve but Djokovic produced staunch defence to stave off his opponent’s attack.
The duo did trade breaks in the third and fourth games, with each Murray winner being greeted by a chorus of 15,000 roars.
Second seed Murray got another chance to break to love in the seventh game and this time he pounced as the 2011 champion surrendered his serve by slapping a backhand into the net.
A set that initially looked like lasting forever ended exactly on the hour mark as Djokovic whipped a service return wide to give Murray, runner-up to Roger Federer last year, the one-set cushion.
The battle between the two players who were born seven days apart in 1987 intensified in the second set as they went toe-to-toe from the baseline with 25-shot rallies being par for the course.
Djokovic, who survived a four hour 43 minute semi-final epic against Juan Martin Del Potro two days ago, showed his super-human ability to recover quickly as he ran down everything Murray could throw at him.
The Serb rattled Murray by going for the lines and broke for a 3-1 lead when Olympic champion Murray flicked a forehand into the net.
Even when Djokovic slipped and skidded flat on to his stomach while trying to chase down a Murray winner, the six-times Grand Slam champion appeared unfazed as he quickly got back on to his feet to extend his lead to 4-1.
But Murray, who trains in the intense Miami heat, showed off his iron-man conditioning as he stormed back to level at 4-4, a Djokovic double fault on break point down handing him the break back in the seventh game.
While the cheering crowd, which included British Prime Minister David Cameron, got behind a pumped up Murray, Djokovic simply exploded in anger in the 11th game.
Convinced that Murray had gone long mid-rally at 15-15, he screamed at umpire Mohamed Lahyani "Why? What’s going on?" as he gesticulated wildly to show what he thought the linesman had failed to see.
Murray ignored the uproar to break the fuming Serb and soon had the fans roaring when he wrapped up the 69-minute second set with a 125mph thunderbolt ace.
The third set initially seemed a formality for Murray, who broke Djokovic early and almost sealed a double-break.
But two sloppy drop shots allowed the Serb to break back, with a rejuvenated Djokovic holding before winning the subsequent Murray service game as the Briton seemed to lose momentum.
Murray, however, has incredible mental and physical reserves and cancelled out that break with some intense hustling at the net, bringing it back with serve, which he held with a wonderful diving forehand off the baseline.
That was followed by a magnificent break for Murray, which boasted two astounding last-gasp winners, leaving him serving for the title.
Initially Djokovic saved three championship points as a nervy Murray’s serve deserted him, and the Serb even had three break-back points thanks to an unforced error to net from the Briton, a wonderful drop-shot off the net-cord and then a beautiful diving winner across the net.
But Murray saved them all, bringing up his fourth match point with some incredible fight at the baseline, his forehand pass forcing Djokovic to net a volley.
And, after his next serve was returned just inside the baseline, Murray was a spectator as Djokovic netted the follow up, sending Centre Court and an entire nation into raptures.
Nice work Pippa, but you forgot to mention Wimbledon’s big four
It is a brave pundit who attempts to follow the doyenne. In her guide to Wimbledon, published in Vanity Fair magazine, Pippa Middleton barely hits a bum note.
What observation, what perspicacity, what insight the future Queen’s sister offers up in her insider’s guide to what to look out for at the All England Club.
Take a raincoat, she suggests. Don’t plan dinner afterwards because matches sometimes go on late into the evening and there is apparently nothing worse in the human condition than missing Rafa Nadal in action because you’ve booked for a routine pizza with friends.
Do join in the Mexican wave (it’s such fun). And for goodness sake don’t wear stilettos: the walk from the tube is almost twenty minutes. Remember that, lads.
Thanks Pippa. Not a lot left for anyone else to consider after that. Though, to be fair – perhaps out of deference to friends and family – she leaves it to others to point out that the Centre Court crowd invariably features the year’s biggest gathering of those who have enjoyed the services of a cosmetic surgeon.
The ladies who lunch there (or if they follow Pippa’s advice take a cream tea with strawberries – seriously strawberries at Wimbledon, who’d have thought it until Pippa suggested the idea?) appear to do so only after an appointment in a nearby wind tunnel.
Also missing from her list is any observation about the centre court “oof”, the collective groan of disapproval when a player misses a winnable shot. This is the most dispiriting sound in world sport, a grumbly ticking off that makes the New Den greeting the arrival of West Ham sound positively encouraging.
But then Pippa isn’t one for miserablism. She loves her Wimbledon. She has been going since she was a tomboy, her appearance there an annual event long before the paparazzi picked her out in the stands quite coincidentally wearing a see-through dress.
And when Pippa takes her place in the royal box this year (no queuing up for tickets for People’s Sunday liked she used to now she has contacts) she could well be in for a treat.
This has the potential of being the best Wimbledon in a generation, certainly the best she will have seen in her twenty-odd years of unbroken attendance.
Never before – in the men’s game at least – has there been such an array of talent on show. Never before has it been so difficult to predict a winner.
When Rafa Nadal – fresh from quite astonishing triumph in the French Open – is seeded number five there is a clue to the excellence that will be on display.
Actually the very fact Nadal is going to be at Wimbledon fit and firing is cause for celebration. Last year, as he was knocked out by Lukas Rosol, the Czech world number 100, he was clearly struggling with the accumulated wear and tear of playing the power game.
But, as he proved in Paris, the muscular Spaniard is now back on form, fishing his knickers out of his crack with something approaching his old aplomb.
Novak Djokovic, the number one seed, too is as imperious as ever, an indefatigable combination of skill and refusal to yield. And it would be a foolish punter who writes off Roger Federer, a man who takes enormous enjoyment from circumventing the debilitations of time.
Sure, at 31, the clock is ticking on the elegant champion’s continuing mastery of centre court. Sure at times this season he has looked forlorn in defeat. But he loves Wimbledon almost as much as Pippa does. And the evidence of his first tournament win of the season last week is that his grass game is showing little sign yet of giving way to chronology.
Then there is Andy Murray. In truth, while his supporters have long talked about the big four of the men’s game, Murray has only recently joined the quartet.
Until last year, it was really only a big three and a half, Murray’s achievements to that point meant he belonged in the elite solely in the mind of British tennis writers and his mum.
Last year, however, changed all that. The Wimbledon final, Olympic gold and a win at the US Open signalled his accession to the very top of the game.
After missing the French Open with injury, he was simply brilliant at Queen’s, combining solid ground strokes with a flourish of eye-catching winners that were at times breath-taking.
He looked fitter than ever, strong, resourceful and canny. As John McEnroe suggested, he looked ready to fulfil his destiny. There can be no doubting he is now the real thing.
What this represents is Wimbledon’s perfect storm of talent, the four of them arriving together, ready to provide the finest competitive hoedown in the competition’s history.
And, given the fleeting nature of sporting prowess, this first gathering of the quartet coinciding in absolutely top form, might be the last. Hang on to your flats, Pippa: this could be the year Wimbledon blows your socks off.
Sir Alex Ferguson retires: Manchester United manager to step down at end of season after 27 years in charge | Mail Online
‘It has been an honour and a privilege’: Sir Alex Ferguson steps down after 27 years in charge of Manchester United as he pays tribute to his wife (and club’s share price falls by 4.5%)
- The 71-year-old will retire at the end of the season, club announces
- Sir Alex has won 13 Premier League titles during his United reign
- He will become a director and ambassador of the club after May 18
- United’s game with West Brom – his 1,500th in charge – will be his last
- Sir Alex said it was important to leave club in ‘strongest possible shape’
- Also won five FA Cup and four League Cups for the Old Trafford club
- His side won the European Champions League in 1999 and 2008
- Everton boss David Moyes, a fellow Scot, is set to replace Ferguson
- Bookmakers take a ‘bet every second’ on Ferguson’s successor today
By Steve Nolan
Sir Alex Ferguson announced today that he is to retire as Manchester United manager at the end of the season, describing his 27 years in charge of the club as having been an ‘honour and a privilege.’
The 71-year-old, who clinched his 13th Premier League title with the club last month paid tribute to his wife and colleagues for their support during his long tenure at Old Trafford.
But the announcement appeared to damage the club’s value on the stock market with shares falling by 4.5 per cent in the hours that followed before rallying to -1.28 per cent.
Sir Alex said in a statement that it was important to him to leave the club in the ‘strongest possible shape.’
Scroll down for video
Retiring: Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has announced that he will step down after 27 years in charge of the club and 13 Premier League title wins
Cheerful: Ferguson in the Ibrox directors’ box at the Rangers v Man United legends match this week
Success: Sir Alex pops a cork after winning the Premier League title last month, left, and is seen decked out in United colours after he was unveiled as their new manager in 1986
CLUB’S SHARE PRICES TUMBLE
Shares in Manchester United today fell in New York amid fears over the impact that Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure will have on the club.
The opening bell on Wall Street saw shares down by 3 per cent, driven lower by worries over whether the club can appoint the right replacement for the most successful manager in English football history.
His successor will be the key figure at a business laden with almost £370 million of debt and tightly controlled by its US majority owners, the Glazer family.
The club, which trades under the MANU ticker on Wall Street, announced his departure while US markets were closed, but shares slipped on opening as investors digested the impact of the 71-year-old’s departure on one of sport’s most successful franchises.
In the prospectus to its 2012 stock market flotation, Manchester United warned: ‘We are highly dependent on members of our management, coaching staff and our players.
‘Any successor to our current manager may not be as successful as our current manager.’
Shares in the club have surged 34 per cent since floating in August at 14 US dollars (£9) per share, closing on Tuesday evening at 18.77 US dollars (£12.11).
The flotation allowed the Glazer family to sell 16.7m shares – equal to a 10 per cent stake.
The Glazers bought the Premier League football club for £790 million in 2005 in a controversial deal that enraged fans because they put in just £300 million of their own money and loaded the club with debt.
The club’s most recent annual results showed total revenues of £320.3 million for the year to the end of June 2012, down 3.3 per cent on a year earlier.
Hargreaves Lansdown head of equities Richard Hunter said: ‘The Manchester United merchandising machine will not grind to a halt overnight.
‘The company is thinly traded and researched on Wall Street, but of the handful of analysts which cover the stock, the consensus of the shares as a buy is likely to remain intact, despite the inevitably difficult transition phase to a new chapter in the club’s history.’
He said: ‘The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time.
‘It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so.
‘The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one.’
Sir Alex will remain part of the set up at Old Trafford despite stepping back from on the field matters.
He will take up a role as director and ambassador for the club when he retires after Manchester United’s game with West Brom on May 18 – his 1,500th game in charge.
He said: ‘Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both Director and Ambassador for the club. With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future.’
He paid tribute to the support of his friends, colleagues and family throughout his career, in particular his wife Cathy.
He said: ‘I must pay tribute to my family, their love and support has been essential.
‘My wife Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career, providing a bedrock of both stability and encouragement. Words are not enough to express what this has meant to me.
‘As for my players and staff, past and present, I would like to thank them all for a staggering level of professional conduct and dedication that has helped to deliver so many memorable triumphs.’
Ferguson has had a career the like of which will never be seen again.
He won his 49th trophy by winning United’s 20th league championship and seemed set to extend his career into next season, confirming as much in his programme notes ahead of Sunday’s encounter with Chelsea.
Instead, with a hip operation booked in for August, this weekend’s Old Trafford encounter with Swansea, followed by a trophy presentation, will be his last home game in charge.
Manchester united Chief Executive David Gill described his time working with the manager as the ‘greatest experience’ of his working life.
He said that the club have been planning for Sir Alex’s retirement on and off the pitch.
He said: ‘I’ve had the tremendous pleasure of working very closely with Alex for 16 unforgettable years – through the treble, the double, countless trophy wins and numerous signings.
‘We knew that his retirement would come one day and we both have been planning for it by ensuring the quality of the squad and club structures are in first-class condition.
‘Alex’s vision, energy and ability have built teams – both on and off the pitch – that his successor can count on as among the best and most loyal in world sport.’
Where it all began: Sir Alex is unveiled as Manchester United manager by former Chairman Martin Edwards back in 1986
Early days: Manchester United’s new manager Alex Ferguson watches from the dug out as his side play Oxford United, in his first game in charge of the club. United lost 2-0
First European trophy: Sir Alex holding the European Cup Winners Cup and former manager Sir Matt Busby holding the European Cup at Old Trafford, after United won the trophy in 1991
First trophy: Sir Alex is seen clutching the FA Cup after his side beat Crystal Palace in the final in 1990
Joel Glazer, joint chairman of the Manchester United board with brother Avie, pinpointed the 2008 Champions League final penalty shootout success over Chelsea as a highlight among the many memories.
He said: ‘Alex has proven time and time again what a fantastic manager he is but he’s also a wonderful person.
Tribute: Sir Alex thanked his wife Cathy for her support in a statement announcing his retirement this morning
‘His determination to succeed and dedication to the club have been truly remarkable. I will always cherish the wonderful memories he has given us, like that magical night in Moscow.’
Politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband paid tribute to Sir Alex’s achievements today.
Mr Cameron said on Twitter: ‘Sir Alex Ferguson’s achievement at #MUFC has been exceptional. Hopefully his retirement will make life a little easier for my team #AVFC.’
This afternoon he joked that Sir Alex will have to provide a consultancy service to Aston Villa, the side Cameron supports, as the midlands club have battled relegation this season.
In a speech opening debate in the Commons following the Queen’s address today, Mr Cameron joked that even Conservative MPs would be recognising the achievements of Sir Alex – a staunch Labour supporter.
He said: ‘It is the day to perhaps sing the praises of Sir Alex Ferguson, a remarkable man in British football who has had an extraordinary, successful career.
‘I am sure that all members, even on the blue team, will want to pay tribute to this member of the red team. Perhaps he could now provide some consultancy services for Aston Villa.’
Prior to Mr Cameron’s speech, Labour leader Ed Miliband told MPs that Sir Alex was ‘phenomenally talented at his job’.
He said: ‘I won’t let this day pass without paying tribute to the most successful football manager this world has ever seen – a great supporter of the reds, you might call him.
‘Sir Alex Ferguson, phenomenally talented at his job, winner of 13 championships – (he) can teach us all about hard work and dedication.’
Sir Alex had vowed to carry on ‘indefinitely’ in programme notes written before Sunday’s defeat against Chelsea.
Devoted: Sir Alex and Cathy pictured with new born son Mark, left, and in the kitchen of their Glasgow home when he played for Rangers in 1968. Sir Alex thanked her for her support throughout his career
He arrived at the club’s Carrington training ground to take training as normal this morning.
But already speculation is mounting as to who could replace the most successful manager in British football history.
Talks are underway to find a replacement and Everton manager David Moyes is among the frontrunners.
It had been rumoured that Moyes would initially join the club as understudy to Ferguson for a season before taking over the reigns full time.
Moyes remains the favourite to take over with bookmakers offering odds of 4/6 this morning.
Other big names thought to be in the running include Real Madrid manager and former Chelsea favourite Jose Mourinho, who is tipped at 6/5 by bookmakers to get the job.
The self-proclaimed ‘special one’ has been widely tipped to join Chelsea, but could be set to rethink those plans.
At the races: Manchester United players Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Michael Carrick and Nemanja Vidic arrive at Chester racecourse today, shortly after boss Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement
Strikers Wayne Rooney and Danny Wellbeck pictured suited and booted at Chester races today – manager Sir Alex Ferguson was nowhere to be seen
He is likely to be available at the end of the season.
Long-serving Manchester United star Ryan Giggs has also been linked with the role as well as Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp.
United’s hand may have been forced in terms of making an announcement by strict New york Stock Exchange rules.
With the club floated on the market, any information which significantly affects the running of the club must be announced.
The news hit Manchester United’s stateside share prices, with their value down more than 3.5 per cent this afternoon.
Vow: Sir Alex had said that he wanted to carry on as manager in his programme notes ahead of Sunday’s home defeat to Chelsea
Vintage: Sir Alex and Manchester United star Ryan Giggs celebrate winning the Premier League back in 2003
Hairdryer treatment: David Beckham felt the wrath of Sir Alex back in February 2003 when he was hit on the head by a stray boot kicked by the fiery Scotsman
Old boys: Sir Alex Ferguson, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes of Manchester United recreate the famous Class of ’92 photo from 1992 ahead of Gary Neville’s testimonial match in 2011
FERGIE’S FABULOUS 49
Sir Alex Ferguson has won 49 trophies in the most successful managerial career Britain has ever known.
Scottish First Division (1): 1976-77.
Scottish Premier Division (3): 1979-80, 1983-84, 1984-85.
Scottish Cup (4): 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84, 1985-86.
Scottish League Cup (1): 1985-86.
European Cup Winners’ Cup (1): 1982-83.
European Super Cup (1): 1983.
Premier League (13): 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2010-11, 2012-13.
FA Cup (5): 1989-90, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1998-99, 2003-04.
League Cup (4): 1991-92, 2005-06, 2008-09, 2009-10.
Charity/Community Shield (10): 1990 (shared), 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011.
Champions League (2): 1998-99, 2007-08.
European Cup Winners’ Cup (1): 1990-91.
European Super Cup (1): 1991.
Intercontinental Cup (1): 1999.
FIFA Club World Cup (1): 2008.
Officials at Old Trafford had put up a wall of silence before this morning’s announcement, despite heavy speculation.
The club were not even taking calls from journalists last night amid a frenzy of speculation over their manager’s future.
Similarly the club will have to announce Sir Alex’s successor to the market as soon as he is appointed.
Sources say that there is expected to be ‘an announcement within days.’
Ferguson was expected at Chester Races today for a planned day out with some of United’s players.
But while some of the side’s stars, including Wayne Rooney and Danny Wellbeck were spotted, their manager was nowhere to be seen.
Rumours began to circulate on Tuesday among United’s players and coaching staff, who were involved in a golf match at Dunham Forest in Cheshire.
The Scotsman became famed throughout his career for his infamous ‘hairdryer treatment’ dished out to players and his fiery temperament.
One of the most infamous examples of star players feeling Ferguson’s wrath came in February 2003 when the manager kick a boot in the changing room which hit David Beckham on the forehead.
Beckham wore the wounds from the incident in a very public fallout and left the club months later.
Things could have turned out very differently for Ferguson and Manchester United had the club not won the FA Cup in 1990.
Ferguson’s side were struggling in the league and had a tough third round tie against Nottingham Forest.
If the tabloids were to be believed then Ferguson would have been sacked if the team finished trophyless.
But a goal by youth team product Mark Robins gave United a win and the rest is history.
Moyes was at Goodison Park on Tuesday night to watch Everton defeat Newcastle in the Under 21s Premier League.
The 50-year-old Scot is out of contract this summer but has refused to discuss his future publicly, insisting only that he would weigh up his options at the end of the season.
United’s final match of the season, at West Bromwich Albion on May 19, will be the 1,500th of Ferguson’s tenure as manager.
‘FOOTBALL…BLOODY HELL!’ MEMORABLE SIR ALEX FERGUSON QUOTES
Sir Alex Ferguson has been involved in some of the most exciting moments in British football history and has provided the media with some of the most memorable quotes. Here are a selection of the very best.
‘I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. Football. Bloody hell.’
After winning the Champions League final against Bayern Munich on May 26, 1999.
‘It’s getting tickly now – squeaky-bum time, I call it.’
During the 2002/03 end-of-season title race between Arsenal and United.
Sealed with a kiss: Sir Alex Ferguson toasts Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League success
‘They say he’s an intelligent man, right? Speaks five languages. I’ve got a 15-year-old boy from the Ivory Coast who speaks five languages!’ – On Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, 1996.
‘He could start a row in an empty house.’ – On Dennis Wise.
Outspoken: Sir Alex has offered the press a number of memorable quotes over the years
‘He was certainly full of it, calling me "Boss" and "Big Man" when we had our post-match drink after the first leg. But it would help if his greetings were accompanied by a decent glass of wine. What he gave me was paint-stripper.’ – On Jose Mourinho.
‘It was a freakish incident. If I tried it 100 or a million times it couldn’t happen again. If I could I would have carried on playing!’
Explaining how he kicked a boot in the United dressing room that hit David Beckham in the face.
‘When an Italian tells me it’s pasta on the plate, I check under the sauce to make sure. They are the inventors of the smokescreen.’
Before playing Inter Milan in the Champions League quarter-final, 1999.
‘My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their ******* perch. And you can print that.’
On Alan Hansen questioning his future in 2002.
‘Hand-picked’: Everton manager David Moyes leaving his club’s training ground today
That’s handy: Everton boss Moyes is leading the betting to replace Ferguson at Old Trafford
‘THANKS BOSS’: DAVID BECKHAM’S MESSAGE TO HIS BEST MANAGER
‘I’ve just seen the news on Sir Alex. As I have said many times before the boss wasn’t just the greatest and best manager I ever played under he was also a father figure to me from the moment I arrived at the club at the age of 11 until the day I left.
‘Without him I would never have achieved what I have done in my career. He understood how important it was to play for your country and he knew how much it meant to me.
‘After ’98 without the manager I would have found it virtually impossible to cope with the attention I was getting on and off the field and for this I will always be grateful to him for his support and protection.
‘I am truly honoured to have been guided by the greatest manager in football and to have had the career that I had under him.
Thank you boss and enjoy the rest!’
On Twitter, Rio Ferdinand echoed his former teammate’s sentiment, saying: ‘The bosses work ethic, his desire to win + to make us better players were unrivalled. Thanks boss.’
Many people inside football — including two Premier League managers — have suggested privately this season that Ferguson would have stepped aside had United not lost last season’s Premier League title race to Manchester City on the last kick of the campaign.
That has never been confirmed by United but it is thought Ferguson broke the news to his wife, Cath, that he had to shelve plans to retire within hours of City snatching the title.
There were also suggestions that Ferguson’s brother Martin may be standing aside from his scouting duties.
Of similar significance was the decision by David Gill — Ferguson’s closest ally — to step down as chief executive at the end of this season. But it had emerged United were preparing to make a more seismic announcement.
At the weekend, Ferguson suggested in his programme notes he would be around at Old Trafford next season.
Having always cited his health as the primary factor in any decision to retire, the club’s confirmation last Friday evening that Ferguson, who had a heart pacemaker fitted in 2004, would undergo hip surgery in August raised fresh doubt over his determination to continue in the post.
The developments came on the back of fevered and persistent betting this week that British football’s most successful manager may be ready to step aside.
Conquering Europe: Fergie lifts the Champions League trophy in Moscow in 2008
Double top: Fergie, holding a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award, with David Beckham at SPOTY in 2001
Unlucky for some: Ferguson has got his hands on a the Premier League trophy a remarkable 13 times in all
‘I don’t have any plans at the moment to walk away from what I believe will be something special and worth being around to see,’ he said.
‘It’s always difficult in football to be absolutely sure of the future because the game has a habit of tripping you up, but I don’t live in a fantasy world and believe we have every reason to feel confident about the future of Manchester United.
‘My view stems not from the euphoria of winning back the title we lost last season, but on the way we did it and the make-up of our playing personnel.’
Glory days: Sir Alex pictured with the Champions League and Premier League trophies
Finest hour: Manchester United secured a treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup in 1999
Already bookmakers seem to be predicting a slight decline in the fortunes of the club on the pitch after Sir Alex retires.
Bookmakers have already lengthened odds of the club retaining its Premier League crown next season, with Manchester City now installed as firm favourites.
William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly said: ‘Sir Alex has been the bane of bookmakers for 27 years but his leagcy is such that whether Mourinho or Moyes, or anyone else for that matter, takes the job, they
will still be considered very realistic Premier League challengers.
‘Having said that, no one knows how to build a title winning side like Sir Alex and for that reason we have had no option but to ease the price of the Reds winning the League next season.’
The odds on Sir Alex claiming the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in December have been dramatically slashed following this morning’s news.
He was considered an outsider at 33/1 yesterday, but is now second favourite behind fellow Scot Andy Murray at 6/1.
Betting punters have clearly been swept up in the speculation as to who should take over at Old Trafford with £50,000 staked at Ladbrokes this morning alone.
One gambler laid out £1,000 that Mourinho will succeed Sir Alex as manager.
A spokesman for Ladbrokes said today: We’ve had a bet every second and there’s no sign of it slowing down any time soon.’
WHO WILL REPLACE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL MANAGER IN BRITISH HISTORY?
DAVID MOYES (ODDS: 1/8): A persistent contender, who shares Ferguson’s Scottish working-class roots.
Moyes has plenty of admirers at Old Trafford due to the work he has done at Everton and his preference for the passing style United favour.
Speculation has been intense of late that he is in his last season at Goodison Park, but has no real experience at the very highest level.
Successor? Everton’s manager David Moyes and Manchester United’s assistant manager Mike Phelan
JOSE MOURINHO (ODDS: 4/1): Many had believed it was all but a done deal that the Real Madrid boss would return to Chelsea at the end of the season.
But the Portuguese, while clearly hinting he is keen to manage in England once again, has never explicitly mentioned his old club.
Despite a lukewarm endorsement from United legend Sir Bobby Charlton, Mourinho is the one man guaranteed not to be overwhelmed by taking on the challenge of following Ferguson.
OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER (ODDS: 25/1): A host of former United players have been linked with the job in the past yet all have fallen by the wayside.
Legend: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrating scoring the winning goal for Manchester United during the European Champions League Final against Bayern Munich in 1999 could replace Sir Alex
The latest is Solskjaer, who has made a successful start to his managerial career at Molde. He lacks experience, though, and will benefit from Ferguson remaining at the club as a director.
JURGEN KLOPP (ODDS: 20/1): The Borussia Dortmund boss has made a big impression during his club’s impressive run to the Champions League final.
With a style of football that seems tailor-made for the English football and an at-times eccentric manner in his post-match interviews, he would be an intriguing addition to the Premier League.
LAURENT BLANC (ODDS: 50/1): Blanc had a brief stint with the Red Devils at the end of his career, so knows the club well.
Caught the eye as manager of Bordeaux, where he won the French league title, then stabilised a France team that collapsed into chaos at the last World Cup before stepping down following their quarter-final loss to Spain at Euro 2012.
FERGIE’S FIVE FINEST SIGNINGS WHO TOOK UNITED TO THE TOP OF EUROPE
Top of the stoppers: Peter Schmeichel
Peter Schmeichel (signed from Brondby, 1991)
Widely regarded as the greatest goalkeeper in Premier League history, the Dane’s heroic efforts provided clean sheets aplenty and the security at the back which was so key to United’s success throughout the 1990s. Schmeichel, recruited for around £500,000, knew how to intimidate opposition strikers by making optimum use of his frame and at times appeared just as fearful for his defenders, who would frequently receive a rollicking from him. Capped eight glorious years with the club by skippering United – in the absence of the suspended Roy Keane – in the 1999 Champions League final as Ferguson’s men secured the treble.
Eric Cantona (signed from Leeds, 1992)
Cantona’s five-year spell at United will never be forgotten. The Frenchman, who cost Ferguson just over £1million, gave the club’s fans many a moment to savour on the pitch with his dazzling skills, which helped the Red Devils to a haul of four Premier League titles and two FA Cups. But what perhaps cemented his iconic status was the way he played the part of the tortured genius. The most infamous instance of his short temper was the kung-fu kick he aimed at a Crystal Palace supporter and he made philosophical comments afterwards about seagulls following a trawler. It was somewhat appropriate that he exited early leaving the crowd wanting more, retiring aged 30 in 1997.
Driving force: Roy Keane
Roy Keane (signed from Nottingham Forest, 1993)
The£3.75million Ferguson paid Forest for Keane was a British transfer record at the time, but there is little question that he got value for money. In 12 years of service, the Irish midfielder was United’s engine room and driving force as they dominated English football through the 1990s and into the next decade. He also led them to the 1999 Champions League final, only to miss the game through suspension. Keane succeeded Cantona as captain and was just as combustible a character, if not more so. But it was that edge on the field that so endeared him to United fans and made him the player everyone else wanted in their team.
Cristiano Ronaldo (signed from Sporting Lisbon, 2003)
Megastar: Cristiano Ronaldo
Ferguson signed a teenage Ronaldo for £12.24million and it looked as if he may have paid over the odds for little more than a showboater in the early days of the Portuguese forward’s United career. He soon showed his game was not just about stepovers, though, developing into one of the world’s most potent players. Ronaldo scored an incredible total of 42 goals for the club in the 2007-08 season as the Red Devils won the Champions League. Although his exit to Real Madrid a year later was a blow, the world record £80million fee he commanded softened it considerably.
Edwin van der Sar (signed from Fulham, 2005)
Van der Sar was 34 when he arrived at Old Trafford for an undisclosed fee, but the Dutch goalkeeper was in no way a fading force. It soon became apparent that Ferguson had finally found the solution in a position which had been a problem for United since Schmeichel’s departure, as Van der Sar’s reliable hands helped the team achieve a new period of success. He broke a multitude of records with his clean sheets in the 2008-09 season and finally retired from football in 2011, having won four Premier League titles and the Champions League with the Red Devils.
From the Mail Online