Sir Alex’s Ferguson’s wife Lady Cathy Ferguson has died aged 84 – as Manchester United hailed her as his ‘tower of strength’.
The Glaswegian mother of three and grandmother to 12 was described by her husband as his ‘bedrock’, who had helped nurse him back to health after his stroke following his retirement after 26 years at the club in 2013. They were married for almost 60 years.
The Ferguson family confirmed the news in a statement this afternoon, which read: ‘We are deeply saddened to confirm the passing yesterday of Lady Cathy Ferguson, survived by her husband, three sons, two sisters, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.’
When he announced his retirement as United manager in 2013 after an unprecedented period of success for the Red Devils, Sir Alex said: ‘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.’
He has also described her as the only person in the world he does not answer back to – quite something for a man renowned for issuing terrifying ‘hairdryer treatments’ to footballers not pulling their weight.
United said today: ‘Everyone at Manchester United sends our heartfelt condolences to Sir Alex Ferguson and his family on the passing of Lady Cathy. Lady Cathy was a beloved wife, mother, sister, grandmother and great-grandmother, and a tower of strength for Sir Alex throughout his career.’
Flags have been lowered to half mast at Old Trafford. United will wear black armbands for their game against Brentford tomorrow, with the women’s team expected to have them on tonight when they play Arsenal.
Lady Cathy had been married to Sir Alex since 1966, with the couple having met while they were both working at a typewriter factory in Glasgow.
In 2021 documentary Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In – directed by their son Jason – Cathy revealed she had originally thought Sir Alex looked like a ‘thug’ before she softened on him and they went on a cinema date.
She said: ‘I just saw him walking through and I thought he was a thug. Then I found out he was a footballer and that didn’t make him any different to me.
‘He bought me a box of Liquorice Allsorts at the movies, of which he ate all of them, and a local paper when we came out. That was my romantic day.
‘We got married in Glasgow registry office in 1966 and that was the start. I went to my work and he went to his football.’
At the time the city was divided by sectarianism – Lady Cathy was a Catholic while Sir Alex was Protestant – but the footballer was following the example of his father, who himself had ‘broken a taboo’ by marrying a Catholic woman.
In a 2021 documentary about his life, Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In, the football legend recalled being quizzed about his wife’s religion when he was signing for Rangers in 1967.
He said he didn’t say anything at the time because he was desperate to play for the club he had supported while growing up in Govan, Glasgow, but regretted not telling the club to ‘f*** off’.
He said: ‘Glasgow is a city where there is a divide. It’s Protestant and Catholic, Rangers and Celtic.
‘I heard Rangers wanted to sign me and of course having supported Rangers as a boy and having lived 200 yards from the ground I was pretty excited about it.
‘He says, ”I have to ask you a question about your wife. I believe she is Catholic, were you married in a chapel?”. I said, ”No we got married in the registry office,” and he says, ”Oh, that’s OK”. I should have told him to f*** off.
‘I really should have but having supported Rangers as a boy and having the opportunity to go out and play for Rangers, you are prepared to take nonsense. I let myself down there and I let my wife down – that was the most important thing – because she was a devout Catholic.’
Ferguson said his memories of Rangers ‘weren’t very happy’ and he never played for the club again after being made a ‘scapegoat’ for the 1969 4-0 Scottish Cup final defeat by Celtic.
He went on to become the most successful manager in England football history, racking up 49 trophies. At Manchester United alone he won 13 Premier League championships, five FA Cups and two Champions League titles.
In 2002, Lady Cathy had been instrumental in convincing Ferguson to reverse his decision to retire at that point, going on to manage the club for a further 11 years before eventually calling time after the death of Cathy’s sister.
Recalling the conversation they had when he first tried to retire, Sir Alex said: ‘One, your health is good. Two, I’m not having you in the house. And three, you’re too young anyway.’
But in 2011 the United legend finally decided it was time to leave Old Trafford.
‘I won’t be managing here any more than three years at the very, very most. Without question. I can assure you of that,’ he said at the time.
‘You have to think about time for yourself. I think my wife deserves a bit of my time, too. The older you get, the more you feel guilty about it.
‘My wife, Cathy, was the one who talked me out of retiring last time but she wouldn’t do that now.’
The Fergusons had three sons together – Mark, born in 1968, and twin boys Darren and Jason, born in 1972 – and 12 grandchildren. Darren is a football manager like his father.
Referring to their home life, Alex once said: ‘Cathy is fantastic with the kids. It’s a military operation with her. If any of them misbehave, they’re in the doghouse.’
Within the 2021 documentary about Sir Alex, Ferguson dedicated his career to Cathy.
Jason Ferguson said in the film that his mother had been his father’s ‘rock’, adding: ‘She has allowed him to indulge in his obsession.
‘She more or less brought me and my brothers up on her own and made sacrifices to allow him to do what he did.’
Today, Manchester City issued a reply to United’s post on X concerning Cathy’s death which read: ‘Everyone at Manchester City sends their condolences to Sir Alex Ferguson and his family at this very difficult time.’
St Mirren, whom Ferguson managed from 1974 to 1978, said: ‘Everyone at St Mirren Football Club sends its deepest condolences to Sir Alex Ferguson and family following the sad news of the passing of Lady Cathy Ferguson.’
Cathy and Sir Alex’s son Darren Ferguson is the manager of League One Peterborough and the club said they would support him ‘during this incredibly sad time’.
A statement on X added: ‘Everyone at Peterborough United Football Club offers our sincere condolences to Darren Ferguson and his family on the passing of his beloved mother, Lady Cathy.’
Editor’s Note: This article was first published by Mail Online
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