Ferguson cannot go on forever and the fact that his birthday coincided with the end of another year somehow increases its significance.
Christmas can often be a cruel time for managers and the January transfer window has merely exacerbated the fact.
On a murky November afternoon in 1953 Ferenc Puskas, who died in Budapest last Friday aged 79, helped to rouse English football from a complacency born of insularity and blinkered thinking. The awakening was rude and embarrassing. In winning 6-3, Puskas's Hungarians not only became the first foreign team to beat England at Wembley; they changed English football thinking forever.
One of Europe's leading referees, the Swede Anders Frisk, has been forced into early retirement in the aftermath of what Jose Mourinho said after Chelsea lost 2-1 to Barcelona at Camp Nou, when he claimed Frisk spoke to the opposition coach, Frank Rijkaard, at half-time.
In football, messiahs should never reach middle age. Far better that they suffer martyrdom young or fall under a bus before their 40s. Otherwise they become mere mortals. This is what has happened to Kevin Keegan, whose final exit from the game at 54, which his departure from Manchester City surely is, has been his least dramatic.
Dying from a brain tumour is a rotten way for anyone to go. For a professional sports person, it is a particularly unkind exit. For Emlyn Hughes, it was the lousiest trick of fate. Hughes was a self-made footballer with ambition. To limited ability he added an unlimited zest.
No sooner had Arsenal first equalled and then broken Nottingham Forest's 26-year-old record of going 42 league matches without defeat, than doubts were being expressed about the likelihood of such an achievement ever being repeated. The longer the present run lasts the stronger this feeling will become.
The career of Diego Maradona will always be remembered for its extremes. He was blessed or he was cursed; there were no in-betweens. For the world at large he was the genius who dribbled and swerved his way through the England defence to score the second, one of the greatest individual goals in the history of the game.
An old Bill Tidy cartoon still raises a smile. The Oxfam truck has arrived in a scorched African desert carrying a load of red-and-white scarves. “I see Arsenal lost again,” sniffs a local. The humour might be lost on the premiership, where Arsenal do not lose that often, and indeed have yet to be beaten this season.