Sir Alex Chapman Ferguson
Born: 31st December 1941
Birthplace: Govan, Glasgow
Previous Clubs: Aberdeen, St Mirren, East Stirling
Honours: Premiership: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1996, 1994, 1993
FA Cup: 2004, 1999, 1996, 1994, 1990
League Cup: 2009, 2006, 1992
FA Charity Shield: 2008, 1997, 1996, 1994, 1993, 1990, 2003
Scottish Premier League: 1985, 1984, 1980
Scottish First Division: 1977
Scottish FA Cup: 1986, 1984, 1983, 1982
Scottish League Cup: 1986
UEFA Cup: 2008, 1999
UEFA Cup Winners Cup: 1991, 1983
European Super Cup: 1983, 1991
Inter-Continental Club Cup: 1999
FIFA World Club Cup: 2009
Like so many of football’s top managers, Alexander Chapman Ferguson emerged from humble beginnings.
Famed for being the most successive manager in Premier League history, Fergie is viewed as the best boss in the country after an incredible two decades in charge of Manchester United and has won the respect of everyone in the game.
The feisty Scot took the plunge into management with East Stirling in July 1974 and quickly made a name for himself in Stirlingshire, securing a move to First Division side St Mirren in October of the same year. He promptly guided the Paisley club to the championship in 1976/77 and despite doing so on limited resources, Ferguson was sacked three years into his tenure after a disagreement with the club’s chairman.
St Mirren’s loss turned into Aberdeen’s gain and after rejecting interest from a number of Scotland’s larger clubs Fergie eventually signed for the Dons in August 1978.
He transformed an average side into the form team of the 1980s, breaking The Old Firm (Rangers and Celtic) stranglehold on Scottish football, and led the Granite City club to three league titles, four Scottish Cups and a League Cup in eight seasons.
But despite the domestic haul of silverware, Ferguson’s greatest achievement with the Pittodrie club came in 1983 when he led Aberdeen to a 2-1 victory over the mighty Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners’ Cup – to date the last time a Scottish team has lifted a European trophy.
He rejected lucrative offers from Barcelona, Arsenal, Rangers and Tottenham to take control of Manchester United on November 7, 1986 and initially appeared to have left his success in Scotland.
Despite the derisive chants Ferguson was rebuilding the club in minute detail. He had revamped the youth system, a move that would pay huge dividends a few years down the line, and he had stamped out the drinking culture at Old Trafford by shipping out many of the crowd’s favourites.
The loss of these boozy players initially had a detrimental effect on the pitch and in January 1990, with United languishing at the wrong end of the table after losing 5-1 to arch-rivals Manchester City, Fergie’s job was on the line as United went into a Third Round FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest.
If United lost it would mean the end for Ferguson, although chairman Martin Edwards has always denied it, but with things looking bleak for the Scot and time ticking away Mark Robins came off the substitute’s bench to give United a narrow 1-0 win and save Fergie’s skiThat victory marked a turning point in fortunes for Ferguson and the Red Devils went on a winning streak that saw them lift the FA Cup with a 1-0 replay victory over Crystal Palace.
The following season United satisfied their taste for triumph by winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup with a 2-1 victory over Barcelona. But the League Championship, which United had last won in 1967, remained elusive.
The following year saw the Premier League break away from the century old Football League to form the Premiership and the launch of the new look league coincided with an era of Manchester United dominance under the stewardship of Ferguson.
After an average start to the 1992/93 campaign, November saw the unexpected arrival of Eric Cantona at Old Trafford from Leeds and the Frenchman’s enigmatic play proved to be the final piece of the Ferguson jigsaw.
United finally won the Championship, ahead of nearest rivals Aston Villa and ended a 26-year drought.
The 1993/94 season saw the £3.5million arrival of Roy Keane at Old Trafford and also saw United stamp their authority on English football as Ferguson claimed his first Double – beating Blackburn Rovers to the League Championship and crushing Chelsea 4-0 in the FA Cup final.
The following term saw Blackburn Rovers bounce back to narrowly beat the Red Devils to the Championship, leaving Ferguson and Co trophyless.
With United seemingly smarting from defeat they charged through the 1995/96 season to grab another Double and narrowly miss out on an unprecedented treble with defeat in the League Cup final.
The manager had introduced ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ – David Beckham, the Neville Brothers, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs – to replace experienced players such as Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Andrei Kanchelskis at the start of the campaign to much raising of eyebrows.
Defeat on the opening day of the season prompted TV pundit Alan Hansen’s to say: ‘you’ll win nothing with kids’, but those words came back to haunt him as ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ helped United overhaul Newcastle United’s 14 point lead at the top of the table.
A fourth League Championship in five season’s followed during the 1996/97 season and with Champions League football becoming a consistent feature, Ferguson’s infamous hunger had set it’s sights on the lifting the ‘Holy Grail’ – the European Cup.
Coming second to Arsenal domestically the following year prompted Ferguson to part with £23million for defender Jaap Stam and Aston Villa striker Dwight Yorke to strengthen his squad for the 1998/99 season.
The latter combined with strike partner Andy Cole to produce what was dubbed ‘calypso football’ and helped fire United to another League Championship, a 2-1 FA Cup final victory over Newcastle and a European Cup final.
In the final, Bayern Munich took a 1-0 lead inside Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium but as the match entered injury time supersubs Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored a goal apiece in injury time to make Fergie’s side Champions of Europe with a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory.
Fergie added the League and FA Cup for an unequalled treble and was subsequently knighted – becoming Sir Alex Ferguson in the Queen’s birthday honours list as a reward for his services to British football.
The following year Ferguson announced he would retire at the end of the 2001/02 season – just as the FA Cup holders controversially withdrew from the competition to take part in FIFA’s World Club Championship in Brazil.
United didn’t do very well in the Brazilian sunshine but the break proved to be just the tonic for Sir Alex’s side, who romped to another Premiership title – beating rivals Arsenal by 18 clear points.
The 2000/01 season saw United cruise to another title, this time wrapping it up in mid-April, as Ferguson became the first manager to win three English League titles in a row to become the most successful manager in the history of English football.
To prepare for his final season at Old Trafford Ferguson splashed out nearly £50million on striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron but the big money signings couldn’t prevent Arsenal from stealing the domestic silverware of the Premiership title and FA Cup and the Red Devils ended the season trophyless.
The setback stung Ferguson into postponing his retirement, he signed a new three-year deal, and the Scot appointed former Portugal and South Africa coach Carlos Queiroz as his new assistant at Old Trafford. He also smashed the British transfer record to land defender Rio Ferdinand from Leeds for the 2002/03 season.
Domestically the Red Devils were dumped out of the FA Cup in the Fifth Round by rivals Arsenal but with only weeks of the season left United had the last laugh after destroying the Gunners’ nine point lead at the top of the league to lift their eighth title in 11 years.
In the summer of 2003 the much mooted clear-out occurred: David Beckham joined Real Madrid for £25million; Sebastian Veron went to Chelsea for £15million and in April Fabian Barthez moved to Marseille on a free transfer. In came goalkeeper Tim Howard, Sporting Lisbon starlet Cristiano Ronaldo and the hideously misjudged purchases of David Bellion, Eric Djemba-Djemba and World Cup winner Kleberson.
Arch-rivals Arsenal went through the entire 2003/04 campaign unbeaten to regain the Premiership title and upset Fergie and his squad in an incident dubbed ‘pizza-gate’. When a fracas continued down the tunnel, Fergie was apparently splattered with pizza, although the culprit has never been found.
Manchester United’s only success of the season proved to be the regulation 3-0 FA Cup final win over First Division side Millwall. Although Ferguson had managed to land a trophy it was the wrong one. The title was with Arsenal and Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto had ousted United from the Champions League.
Ferguson had to prove he could still cut it in season 2004/05 and the canny Scot announce it would be a campaign of transition as he began construction of yet another team.
The arrival of £29million teen sensation Wayne Rooney from Everton was a good start, but losing to Chelsea on the opening day of the season was not. Already three points behind the eventual Premiership champions, United never managed to claw it back and ended the campaign 18 points behind the Blues in third place.
2005/06 wouldn’t hold much more for United as they were knocked out of the Champions League by Benfica, by Liverpool in the FA Cup and finished eight points behind Chelsea in the Premiership.
They would pick up some silverware however, defeating Wigan 4-0 in the Carling Cup Final. Still, the Scot answered his critics by winning his ninth Premeirship title in 2006/07 with a team still in transition, beating Chelsea by six points and scooping the FA Premier League Manager of the Year award along the way.
In the summer Ferguson added more youth players to his developing team in Carlos Tevez, Anderson, Nani and Owen Hargreaves as the United manager built his third new team at Old Trafford.
And it worked. Coming from behind to win the Premier League in the latter half of the season, Fergie also picked up his second Champions League trophy after defeating Chelsea on penalties in Moscow.
The championship trophy was retained in 2008/2009 to complete his second hat trick of Premiership titles which was another first in English football history.
Ferguson also led Manchester United to winning the FIFA World Club Cup and the Carling Cup before reaching a second successive European Champions League Final in which they failed to retain the trophy going down to Barcelona 0-2 in Rome.
With much talk over his impending retirement, United will ultimately look to replace the irreplaceable. Although it will be an unenviable task for whoever steps into Fergie’s shoes.