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.
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.
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.
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.
A penalty shoot-out slip by John Terry and a save by Edwin van der Sar from Nicolas Anelka was enough to secure Fergusonâ€™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.
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.
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.”
ArsÃ¨ne 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.
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.
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.”
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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