One of the most successful managers in footballing history yesterday added yet another “trophy” to his collection – in the form of an honorary degree from a Northern Irish university.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the long-serving, tough-talking manager who guided Manchester United to a host of league and cup victories, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Ulster.
The Scot was at the university’s Jordanstown campus, and – despite his vast array of international sporting achievements – declared himself “humbled” by the accolade.
He received his award at a ceremony with around 500 students, staff and graduates.
Sir Alex said it was an “honour” to receive the award, adding: “The core principles that I applied throughout my career, those of hard work, determination and strong character, are a cornerstone of the university.
“I am humbled that my experiences and accomplishments are viewed by the university as an inspiration to its students and graduates.”
He delivered a talk about his life and accomplishments – all without notes.
Sir Alex is described by Manchester United as being the “most successful manager in British footballing history”, having been at the helm of no fewer than 13 Premier League championship-winning squads; plus a string of FA Cups, European titles, and more.
And the vice-chancellor, Professor Richard Barnett, told the audience that there were Ulster links too – Sir Alex’s father had played for Glentoran while working in Harland and Wolff, while his maternal grandmother was from Newry.
He also noted that Sir Alex is renowned for his “outstanding time management” and his outside interests – which apparently include reading political and historic works, with JFK being a “personal hero”.
Sir Alex was not the only celebrity taking to the stage yesterday, either.
James Nesbitt, chancellor of the university, also spoke at the ceremony.
The Ulster actor said: “Sir Alex’s success is the result of ambition, integrity and, above all, a passion for football and his players which can be emulated in sport and further afield.
“It is a great privilege for us to host him here at the university today.”
In the past, other luminaries to have received honorary degrees have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African Christian leader who played a key part in that nation’s truth and reconciliation process.
He received an honorary Doctorate of Laws in 2007.