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The Steve Carell of Football Walks

Tickers in this article: MANU

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Much to my surprise, my brother in California has become a rabid Manchester United fan.

He and his friends pile into Killarney's, a pub by the Huntington Beach pier, whenever the team plays on TV -- even if it's the early game, which starts there at 4 a.m. They huddle around coffee, eggs and TVs until 6 a.m., when a bell rings telling them the bar is open. When the team wins, everyone gets a "victory shot," which frankly tastes nasty.

Then they stagger into the California sunshine at 7 a.m. to start their day, usually secure in the knowledge that "SAF" has done it again.

SAF is Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of the team since 1986, who announced his retirement last week. The closest thing I can come up with in this country is the late Paul "Bear" Bryant of Alabama, only on a global scale. Or, perhaps, the Boston Celtics' Red Auerbach, only with more titles.

Ferguson doesn't just coach the team. He picks the players, recruits them, signs them to contracts and decides when to let them go. He dominates the city, dominates the country and dominates "football" across Europe. That's why he was knighted, back in 1999, for services to football.


His designated successor, David Moyes, is the best available choice. He's a Scot, like Ferguson, the manager of Everton, about 30 miles away by car, in Liverpool. Moyes is known for getting the most out of a thin budget, often signing ManU retreads like defender Phil Neville and American goalie Tim Howard. He's also the man who sold Manchester United star Wayne Rooney to SAF a decade ago, Fergie's favorite player, a scorer who does the hard work, or "graft," all across the field or "pitch."

The controlling shareholder is Malcolm Glazer, an American who also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL. When Glazer bought the team, in 2005, for 800 million pounds, he took out the cash and loaded it with debt, essentially buying it with its own money. Then he brought it to the New York Stock Exchange, where it's worth nearly $3 billion, by far the richest club in world sport.