Five highs & five lows from Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man Utd reign

The Sport Review picks five of Sir Alex Ferguson's best and worst moments during his reign at Old Trafford

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
sir alex ferguson
Ferguson celebrates 25 years in charge of United on Sunday Photo: The Sport Review

sir alex ferguson

When Sir Alex Ferguson first arrived at Manchester United in 1986, the club had not won a league title in 26 years and their only European Cup success had come back in 1967.

Nineteen major trophies later, Ferguson is regarded as the greatest British manager of all time.

As he celebrates his 25th year in charge of United, The Sport Review takes a look at five highs and five lows from his time at Old Trafford.

The highs:

1) Mark Robins’ goal against Nottingham Forest (January 1990)

Sir Alex Ferguson’s job at Old Trafford was reportedly on the line before an FA Cup third-round clash against Nottingham Forest. Mark Robins scored the winner and what was one of the most important goals in United’s history at the City Ground, handing Ferguson a lifeline. United went on to win the competition, with Ferguson claiming the first of his many trophies at Old Trafford.

2) First Premier League title in 1993 (May 1993)

In the Premier League’s inaugural season, United ended their 26-year wait for a top flight title, claiming top-spot ahead of Aston Villa and Norwich City by a margin of 10 points.

3) The Treble (May 1999)

It is the crowning moment of Ferguson 25-year reign at Old Trafford. The Scot guided United to a fifth league title, finishing one point ahead of second-placed Arsenal. He led them to victory in the FA Cup final at Wembley against Newcastle United and secured that dramatic 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final – the first time Ferguson had won European football’s top prize.

4) Second Champions League title (May 2008)

A penalty shoot-out slip by John Terry and a save by Edwin van der Sar from Nicolas Anelka was enough to secure Ferguson’s second European Cup after a nine-year wait. The victory ensured United became Britain’s second most successful team in the competition behind Liverpool.

5) Knocking Liverpool off their perch (May 2011)

Ferguson’s ambition to knock Liverpool “off their perch” upon his on arrival in Manchester in 1986 has been well documented. At the time, United had seven league titles to their name in contrast to Liverpool’s 18. However, 25 years later, United have surpassed the Anfield outfit. Their 19th title was sealed with a 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers in May 2011.

The lows:

1) Bayer Leverkusen 1 Manchester United 1 (May 2002)

United’s powers were dwindling in the Premier League, with Arsenal offering resistance to their domestic dominance. But there was still hope in Europe. After drawing 2-2 with Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, Roy Keane’s early goal at the BayArena offered hope of another final. However, the opener was cruelly cancelled out by Oliver Neuville in the second half to eliminate Ferguson’s side. Keane said afterards: “We blew it. This club deserves to win European Cup finals and we blew it. It’s as simple as that. We had a great opportunity and these sort of chances don’t come along very often.”

2) Arsenal win the Premier League title at Old Trafford (May 2002)

Arsène Wenger’s side walked into enemy territory at Old Trafford and stamped their authority the Premier League with a 1-0 victory thanks to Sylvain Wiltord’s goal. It was a sour end to United’s season as their bitter rivals claimed their title from them at the Theatre of Dreams.

3) Manchester United 3 (4) Bayern Munich 2 (4) (April 2010)

With most of Europe’s biggest teams out, United were one of the favourites to win the Champions League title in 2010. And when they raced to a 4-2 aggregate lead at home against Bayern Munich, United’s passage to a semi-final clash with either Ligue 1’s Bourdeaux or Lyon looked certain. However, anxiety crept in and the Germans scored twice in the second half to inflict an aggregate defeat on Ferguson’s side. Bayern went on to lose a dull final against Internazionale.

4) Barcelona 3 Manchester United 1 (May 2011)

United’s comprehensive defeat by Barcelona in May led Ferguson to admit the La Liga side were the greatest team he had faced during his long career. The manner of the loss was disheartening but Ferguson’s last challenge in a distinguished career will be conquering Pep Guardiola’s side. “It’s not easy when you’ve been well beaten like that to think another way,” said Ferguson after the final. “No one has given us a hiding like that. It’s a great moment for them. They deserve it because they play the right way and enjoy their football.”

5) Manchester United 1 Manchester City 6 (October 2011)

United’s drubbing at home to Manchester City was the worst result of Ferguson’s career. The home side were stunned by City’s lethal counter-attacks and after completing a long-term ambition of knocking Liverpool off their perch, Ferguson now faces a stiff test keeping United on theirs with City on the prowl.

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