After more than 25 years as manager of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson has called time on his illustrious period at the helm of the Red Devils.
He is the most decorated football manager of all time, with a huge haul of 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and 2 Champions Leagues. His ability to build great sides, and then without fear de-construct them, and create a whole new team will be part of his legacy. The list of great players that he has produced are seemingly endless, names that come to mind include Cantona, Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, Ronaldo, Rooney and the late Robin Van Persie. This is just a handful of the stars that have graced the stage at the Theatre of Dreams, under a manager who had a relentless energy when it came to continued success.
Ferguson was renowned for making controversial and memorable decisions during his tenure. He had a philosophy that ‘no player is bigger than the club’ and created a family atmosphere amongst everyone associated with Manchester United.
The breakthrough moment in Ferguson’s career was the first Premier League triumph in 1993, which Manchester United finally brought back to Old Trafford after 25 years without the title. Despite the fact Hughes, Ince and Kanchelskis were controversially sold in the summer of 1994, and replaced with the class of Manchester United’s 1992 youth team, more glittered success followed.
“You can’t win anything with kids” Alan Hansen
The likes of Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, Butt and the Neville brothers inspired a 1996 league and cup double, then another title in 1997. This team included the great Eric Cantona who was key to the early success that Ferguson enjoyed. The controversial French forward retired after 97’, but United continued to evolve due to Ferguson’s ability to re-build teams. The likes of Keane, Giggs, Scholes and Beckham continued to be the bedrock of United into the 2000’s.
In 1999, Ferguson reached a personal landmark. Inspired by the striking quartet of Solksjaer, Sheringham, Cole and Yorke, Manchester United ‘reached the promised land’ and won an incredible treble. It was achieved in dramatic fashion, with two goals from Sheringham and Solksjaer scored in the final two minutes of stoppage time in the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich. It was an unforgettable moment in the history of football, and a comeback which personified the ‘never say die attitude’ of Ferguson’s Manchester United teams.
Time and time again, United have become from behind to win matches, and consistently won games very late on. Sir Alex Ferguson’s stopwatch also played a big part in this, the press dubbing his ability to add extraordinary time to the end of matches as ‘Fergie Time’.
In recent years Ferguson has made crucial signings at the right times which has arguably tipped the outcome of title races in Manchester United’s favour. Van Nistelrooy’s goals were crucial in 2003, the loss of Beckham was replaced with a player that reached a level that many would never of expected in Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese international went on to score 42 goals in 2008, United securing a Premier League and Champions League double that year.
However, Ferguson didn’t just produce terrific forwards, in the four or five teams he constructed, class was in every position. Notably two great keepers in Schmeichel and Van Der Sar, defenders like Stam, Vidic, Ferdinand, Neville and Irwin. Also, great midfielders like Scholes, Keane, Robson and Giggs have been outstanding servants. The signing of Van Persie was the icing on Ferguson’s cake, the Dutchman helping to drive United to a historic 20th league title.