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Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson
Personal information
Full name Alexander Chapman Ferguson
Date of birth 31 December 1941 (1941-12-31) (age 68)
Place of birth Glasgow, Scotland
Playing position Striker
Club information
Current club Manchester United (manager)
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1957–1960 Queen's Park 31 (15)
1960–1964 St. Johnstone 37 (19)
1964–1967 Dunfermline Athletic 89 (66)
1967–1969 Rangers 41 (25)
1969–1973 Falkirk 95 (36)
1973–1974 Ayr United 24 (9)
Total 317 (170)
Teams managed
1974 East Stirlingshire
1974–1978 St. Mirren
1978–1986 Aberdeen
1985–1986 Scotland
1986– Manchester United
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Sir Alexander Chapman "Alex" Ferguson, Kt, CBE, popularly known as Sir Alex or Fergie (born 31 December 1941 in Govan, Glasgow) is a Scottish football manager and former player, currently managing Manchester United, where he has been in charge since 1986.

Ferguson previously managed East Stirlingshire and St. Mirren, before a highly successful period as manager of Aberdeen. Briefly manager of the Scotland national team – in a temporary capacity owing to the death of Jock Stein – he was appointed manager of Manchester United in November 1986.

With 23 years as manager of Manchester United, he is the second-longest serving manager in their history after Sir Matt Busby, while his tenure is the longest of all the current League managers. During this time, Ferguson has won many awards and holds many records including winning Manager of the Year most times in British football history. In 2008, he became the third British manager to win the European Cup on more than one occasion.

He was an inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame for his services to the English game, was knighted in 1999 by Queen Elizabeth II and currently holds the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen for his services to the city, having managed the city's football club to a host of major trophies in the early to mid 1980s.

Contents

Early life

Ferguson at Old Trafford

Born to Alexander Beaton Ferguson, a plater's helper in the shipbuilding industry, and his wife, the former Elizabeth Hardie,[1] Alex Ferguson was born at his grandmother's home on Shieldhall Road, Govan, on 31 December 1941, but grew up in a tenement at 667 Govan Road (which has since been demolished) where he lived with his parents as well as his younger brother Martin.

He attended Broomloan Road Primary School and later Govan High School, and supported Rangers.[citation needed]

Playing career

Ferguson's playing career began as an amateur with Queen's Park, where he made his debut as a striker aged 16. He described his first match as a "nightmare"[2] but scored Queen's Park's goal in a 2–1 defeat against Stranraer. As Queen's Park were an amateur team he also worked in the Clyde shipyards as an apprentice tool-worker, where he became an active trade union shop steward. Perhaps his most notable game for Queen's Park was the 7–1 defeat away to Queen of the South on Boxing Day 1959 when ex-England international Ivor Broadis scored four of the Queen of the South goals. Ferguson was the solitary Queen's Park goalscorer.[3]

Despite scoring 20 goals in his 31 games for Queen's Park, he could not command a regular place in the side and moved to St. Johnstone in 1960. Although he continued to score regularly at St. Johnstone, he was still unable to command a regular place and regularly requested transfers. Ferguson was out of favour at the club and he even considered emigrating to Canada,[4] however St. Johnstone's failure to sign a forward led the manager to select Ferguson for a match against Rangers, in which he scored a hat trick in a surprise victory. Dunfermline signed him the following summer (1964), and Ferguson became a full-time professional footballer.

The following season (1964–65), Dunfermline were strong challengers for the Scottish League and reached the Scottish Cup Final, but Ferguson was dropped for the final after a poor performance in a league game against St. Johnstone. Dunfermline lost the final 3–2 to Celtic, then failed to win the League by one point. The 1965–66 season saw Ferguson notch up 45 goals in 51 games for Dunfermline. Along with Joe McBride of Celtic, he was the top goalscorer in the Scottish League with 31 goals.[5]

He then joined Rangers for £65,000, then a record fee for a transfer between two Scottish clubs. He was blamed for a goal that they conceded in the 1969 Scottish Cup Final,[6] in a match in which he was designated to mark Celtic captain, Billy McNeill, and was subsequently forced to play for the club's junior side instead of for the first team.[7] According to his brother, Ferguson was so upset by the experience that he threw his losers' medal away.[8] There have been claims that he suffered discrimination at Rangers after his marriage to his wife Cathie, who was a Catholic[9] but Ferguson himself makes it clear in his autobiography[10] that Rangers knew of his wife's religion when he joined the club and that he left the club very reluctantly, due to the fall-out from his alleged cup final mistake.

The following October, Nottingham Forest wanted to sign Ferguson,[11] but his wife was not keen on moving to England at that time so he went to Falkirk instead. He was promoted to player-coach there, but when John Prentice became manager he removed Ferguson's coaching responsibilities. Ferguson responded by requesting a transfer and moved to Ayr United, where he finished his playing career in 1974.

Early managerial career

East Stirlingshire

In June 1974, Ferguson was appointed manager of East Stirlingshire, at the comparatively young age of 32. It was a part-time job that paid £40 per week, and the club did not have a single goalkeeper at the time.[12] He immediately gained a reputation as a disciplinarian, with club forward Bobby McCulley later saying he had "never been afraid of anyone before but Ferguson was a frightening bastard from the start."[13] His players admired his tactical decisions, however, and the club's results improved considerably.

The following October, Ferguson was invited to manage St. Mirren. While they were below East Stirlingshire in the league, they were a bigger club and although Ferguson felt a degree of loyalty towards East Stirlingshire, he decided to join St. Mirren after taking advice from Jock Stein.[14]

St. Mirren

Ferguson was manager of St. Mirren from 1974 until 1978, producing a remarkable transformation of a team in the lower half of the old Second Division watched by crowds of just over 1,000, to First Division champions in 1977, discovering talent like Billy Stark, Tony Fitzpatrick, Lex Richardson, Frank McGarvey, Bobby Reid and Peter Weir while playing superb attacking football.[15] The average age of the league winning team was 19 and the captain, Fitzpatrick, was 20.[16]

St. Mirren have been the only club ever to sack Ferguson. He claimed wrongful dismissal against the club at an industrial tribunal but lost and was given no leave to appeal. According to a Billy Adams Sunday Herald article on 30 May 1999, the official version is that Ferguson was sacked for various breaches of contract including unauthorised payments to players.[15] He was counter-accused of intimidating behaviour towards his office secretary because he wanted players to get some expenses tax free. He didn't speak to her for six weeks, confiscated her keys and communicated only through a 17-year-old assistant. The tribunal concluded that Ferguson was "particularly petty" and "immature" .[17] It was claimed during the tribunal by St. Mirren chairman, Willie Todd, that Ferguson had "no managerial ability".

On 31 May 2008, The Guardian published an interview with Todd (by now aged 87), who had sacked Ferguson all those years earlier. He explained that the fundamental reason for the dismissal was a breach of contract relating to Ferguson having agreed to join Aberdeen. Ferguson told journalist Jim Rodger of the Daily Mirror that he had asked at least one member of the squad to go to Aberdeen with him. He also told the St. Mirren staff he was leaving. Todd expressed regret over what happened but blamed Aberdeen for not approaching his club to discuss compensation.[18]

Managing Aberdeen

Early disappointment

Ferguson joined Aberdeen as manager in June 1978, replacing Billy McNeill who had only lasted a season before he was offered the chance to manage Celtic. Although Aberdeen were one of Scotland's major clubs, they had not won the league since 1955. The team had been playing well, however, and had not lost a league match since the previous December, having finished second in the league the previous season.[19] Ferguson had now been a manager for four years, but was still not much older than some of the players and had trouble winning the respect of some of the older ones such as Joe Harper.[20] The season did not go especially well, with Aberdeen reaching the semi-final of the Scottish F.A. Cup and the final of the league cup, but losing both matches and finishing fourth in the league.

In December 1979, they lost the league cup final again, this time to Dundee United after a replay. Ferguson took the blame for the defeat, saying he should have made changes to the team for the replay.[21]

Silverware at last

Aberdeen had started the season poorly but their form improved dramatically in the new year and they won the Scottish league that season with a 5–0 win on the final day. It was the first time in fifteen years that the league had not been won by either Rangers or Celtic. Ferguson now felt that he had the respect of his players, later saying "That was the achievement which united us. I finally had the players believing in me".[22]

He was still a strict disciplinarian, though, and his players nicknamed him Furious Fergie. He fined one of his players, John Hewitt, for overtaking him on a public road,[23] and kicked a tea urn at the players at half time after a poor first half.[24] He was dissatisfied with the atmosphere at Aberdeen matches, and deliberately created a 'siege mentality' by accusing the Scottish media of being biased towards the Glasgow clubs, in order to motivate the team.[25] The team continued their success with a Scottish Cup win in 1982. Ferguson was offered the managers' job at Wolves but turned it down as he felt that Wolves were in trouble[26] and "[his] ambitions at Aberdeen were not even half fulfilled".[27]

European success

Ferguson led Aberdeen to even greater success the following season (1982–83). They had qualified for the European Cup Winners' Cup as a result of winning the Scottish Cup the previous season, and impressively knocked out Bayern Munich, who had beaten Tottenham Hotspur 4–1 in the previous round. According to Willie Miller, this gave them the confidence to believe that they could go on to win the competition,[28] which they did, with a 2–1 victory over Real Madrid in the final on 11 May 1983. Aberdeen became only the third Scottish team to win a European trophy and Ferguson now felt that "he'd done something worthwhile with his life".[29] Aberdeen had also performed well in the league that season, and retained the Scottish Cup with a 1–0 victory over Rangers, but Ferguson was not happy with his team's play in that match and upset the players by describing them as a "disgraceful performance" in a televised interview after the match[30]—a statement that he later retracted.

After a sub-standard start to the 1983–84 season, Aberdeen's form improved and the team won the Scottish league and retained the Scottish Cup. Ferguson was awarded the OBE in the 1984 honours list,[31] and was offered the managers' jobs at Rangers, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur during the season. Aberdeen retained their league title in the 1984–85 season, but had a disappointing season in 1985–86, finishing fourth in the league, although they did win both domestic cups. Ferguson had been appointed to the club's board of directors early in 1986, but that April he told Dick Donald, their chairman, that he intended to leave that summer.

Ferguson had been part of coaching staff for the Scottish national side during qualifying for the 1986 World Cup, but manager Jock Stein had collapsed and died on 10 September 1985 - at the end of the game in which Scotland qualified from their group for a play-off against Australia. Ferguson promptly agreed to take charge of the Scottish national side against the Australians and subsequently at the World Cup. To allow him to fulfil his international duties he appointed Archie Knox as his co-manager at Aberdeen.

Around this time, Tottenham Hotspur offered Ferguson the chance to take over from Peter Shreeves as manager, but he rejected this offer and the job went to Luton Town's David Pleat instead. There was also an offer for Ferguson to replace Don Howe as Arsenal manager, but he rejected this offer as well, and fellow Scot George Graham took the post instead.[32]

That summer, there had been speculation that he would take over from Ron Atkinson at Manchester United, who had slumped to fourth in the English top flight after a 10-match winning start had made title glory seem inevitable. Although Ferguson remained at the club over the summer, he did eventually join Manchester United when Atkinson was sacked in November 1986.

Managing Manchester United

Appointment and first years

Ferguson was appointed manager at Old Trafford on 6 November 1986. He was initially worried that many of the players, such as Norman Whiteside, Paul McGrath and Bryan Robson were drinking too much and was "depressed" by their level of fitness, but he managed to increase the players' discipline and United climbed up the table to finish the season in 11th place. Their only away win in the league that season was a 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield - which was also Liverpool's only home defeat of the season, which helped end their defence of the league title. Ferguson endured a personal tragedy three weeks after his appointment, when his mother Elizabeth died of lung cancer aged 64.

Ferguson appointed Archie Knox, his assistant at Aberdeen, as his assistant at Manchester United.

In the 1987-88 season, Ferguson made several major signings, including Steve Bruce, Viv Anderson, Brian McClair and Jim Leighton. The new players made a great contribution to a United team who finished in second place, nine points behind Liverpool. United were expected to do well when Mark Hughes returned to the club two years after leaving for Barcelona, but the 1988–89 season was a disappointment for them, finishing eleventh in the league and losing 1–0 at home to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup Sixth Round. During the season, United played in friendly matches against the Bermudan national team and Somerset County Cricket Club as part of the Bermudan team's tour of England. In the match against Somerset, both Ferguson himself and his assistant, Archie Knox, took to the field, with Knox even getting on the scoresheet. The match remains Ferguson's only appearance for the Manchester United first team.

For the 1989-90 season, Ferguson further boosted his squad by paying large sums of money for midfielders Neil Webb and Paul Ince, as well as defender Gary Pallister (a national record £2.3million signing from Middlesbrough). The season began well with a 4-1 win over defending champions Arsenal on the opening day, but United's league form quickly turned sour. In September, United suffered a humiliating 5–1 away defeat against fierce rivals Manchester City. Following this and an early season run of six defeats and two draws in eight games, a banner declaring "Three years of excuses and it's still crap. Ta ra Fergie." was displayed at Old Trafford, and many journalists and supporters called for Ferguson to be sacked.[33] Ferguson later described December 1989 as "the darkest period [he had] ever suffered in the game."[34]

Following a run of seven games without a win, Manchester United were drawn away to Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup. Forest were performing well in the League that season,[35] and it was expected that United would lose the match and Ferguson would consequently be sacked, but United won the game 1–0 thanks to a Mark Robins goal and eventually reached the final. This cup win is often cited as the match that saved Ferguson's Old Trafford career.[35][36][37] United went on to win the FA Cup, beating Crystal Palace 1–0 in the final replay after a 3–3 draw in the first match, giving Ferguson his first major trophy as Manchester United manager. United's defensive frailties in the first match were unilaterally blamed on goalkeeper Jim Leighton, forcing Ferguson to drop his former Aberdeen player and bring in Les Sealey.

Cantona and first League title

Although United's league form improved greatly in 1990–91, they were still inconsistent and finished sixth. Even after the FA Cup Final victory in the previous season, some still had doubts about Ferguson's ability to succeed where all the other managers since Busby had failed — to win the league title.[37] They were runners-up in the League Cup, losing 1–0 to Sheffield Wednesday. They also reached the final of the European Cup Winners' Cup, beating that season's Spanish champions Barcelona 2–1. After the match, Ferguson vowed that United would win the league the following season.[38]

During the 1991 close season, Ferguson's assistant Archie Knox departed to Glasgow Rangers to become assistant to Walter Smith, and Ferguson promoted youth team coach Brian Kidd to the role of assistant manager in Knox's place.

The 1991–92 season did not live up to Ferguson's expectations and, in Ferguson's words, "many in the media felt that [his] mistakes had contributed to the misery".[39] United won the League Cup and Super Cup for the first time, but lost out on the league title to rivals Leeds United after leading the table for much of the season. Ferguson felt that his failure to secure the signing of Mick Harford from Luton Town had cost United the league, and that he needed "an extra dimension" to the team if they were to win the league the following season.[40]

During the 1992 close season, Ferguson went on the hunt for a new striker. He first attempted to sign Alan Shearer from Southampton, but lost out to Blackburn Rovers. In the end, he paid £1 million for 23-year-old Cambridge United striker Dion Dublin - his only major signing of the summer.

After a slow start to the 1992-93 season (they were 10th of 22 at the beginning of November) it looked as though United would miss out on the league title (now the Premier League) yet again. However, after the purchase of French striker Eric Cantona from Leeds United for £1.2 million, the future of Manchester United, and Ferguson's position as manager, began to look bright. Cantona formed a strong partnership with Mark Hughes and fired the club to the top of the table, ending United's 26-year wait for a League Championship, and also making them the first ever Premier League Champions. United had finished champions with a 10-point margin over runners-up Aston Villa, whose 1-0 defeat at Oldham on 2 May 1993 had given United the title. Alex Ferguson was voted Manager of the Year by the League Managers' Association.

Two Doubles

1993–94 brought more success. Ferguson added Nottingham Forest's 22-year-old midfielder Roy Keane to the ranks for a British record fee of £3.75million as a long term replacement for Bryan Robson, who was nearing the end of his career.

United led the 1993–94 Premier League table virtually from start to finish. Cantona was top scorer with 25 goals in all competitions despite being sent off twice in the space of five days in March 1994. United also reached the League Cup final but lost 3–1 to Aston Villa, managed by Ferguson's predecessor, Ron Atkinson. In the FA Cup final, Manchester United achieved an impressive 4–0 scoreline against Chelsea, winning Ferguson his second League and Cup Double, following his Scottish Premier Division and Scottish Cup titles with Aberdeen in 1984-85. Ferguson made only one close-season signing, paying Blackburn Rovers £1.2million for David May.

1994–95 was a harder season for Ferguson. Cantona assaulted a Crystal Palace supporter in a game at Selhurst Park, and it seemed likely he would leave English football. An eight month ban saw Cantona miss the final four months of the season. He also received a 14-day prison sentence for the offence but the sentence was quashed on appeal and replaced by a 120-hour community service order. On the brighter side, United paid a British record fee of £7million for Newcastle's prolific striker Andy Cole, with young winger Keith Gillespie heading to the north-east in exchange.

However, the championship slipped out of Manchester United's grasp as they drew 1–1 with West Ham United on the final day of the season, when a win would have given them the league. United also lost the FA Cup final in a 1–0 defeat to Everton.

Ferguson was heavily criticised in the summer of 1995 when three of United's star players were allowed to leave and replacements were not bought. First Paul Ince moved to Internazionale of Italy for £7.5 million, long serving striker Mark Hughes was suddenly sold to Chelsea in a £1.5 million deal, and Andrei Kanchelskis was sold to Everton. It was widely known that Ferguson felt that United had a number of young players who were ready to play in the first team. The youngsters, who would be known as "Fergie's Fledglings", included Gary Neville, Phil Neville, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, who would all go on to be important members of the team.

When United lost the first league match of the 1995-96 season 3–1 to Aston Villa, the media swooped upon Ferguson with undisguised glee. They wrote United off because Alex Ferguson's squad contained so many young and inexperienced players. Match of the Day pundit, Alan Hansen infamously proclaimed that "you can't win anything with kids". However, the young players performed well and United won their next five matches. Cantona's return from suspension was a boost, but they found themselves fourteen points behind Newcastle. However a series of good results in early 1996 saw the gap close, and from early March onwards United led the table. Rivals Newcastle, 12 points clear at the top of the table in January, failed to capitalise on earlier victories. Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan's famous outburst on live television ("I'd love it if we beat them! Love it!") is generally regarded as the moment that Ferguson gained the upper hand against his opponent. United's Premier League title success was confirmed on the final day of the season. They played Liverpool in that year's FA Cup final, winning 1–0 with a late goal by Cantona.

1996–97 saw Alex Ferguson guide Manchester United to their fourth Premier League title in five seasons. In late October, they suffered three league defeats in a row and conceded 13 goals in the process. They also lost their 40 year unbeaten home record in Europe to unfancied Turkish side Fenerbahçe. But they still reached the Champions League semi final, where they lost to Borussia Dortmund of Germany. At the end of the season, Cantona surprisingly retired from football.

The treble

Ferguson made two new signings to bolster United's challenge for the 1997–98 season, 31-year-old England striker Teddy Sheringham and defender Henning Berg. However the season ended trophyless as Arsenal won the Premier League under French manager Arsène Wenger, who started a long-lasting rivalry with Ferguson. The summer of 1998 saw striker Dwight Yorke, Dutch defender Jaap Stam and the Swedish winger Jesper Blomqvist join Manchester United.

In December 1998, Ferguson's assistant Brian Kidd accepted an offer to manage Blackburn Rovers and he recruited Steve McClaren from Derby County as his successor. Ironically, Kidd's side were relegated in the penultimate game on the league season when United held them to a 0-0 draw.

1998–99 saw the club winning an unprecedented treble of the Premier League title, FA Cup and Champions League. The season was characterised by highly dramatic matches. In the Champions League semi-final second leg, United conceded two early goals away to Juventus; however, inspired by Roy Keane, who would later miss the final through suspension, United came back to beat Juventus 3–2 and reach their first European Cup final since 1968. In the FA Cup semi-final, United faced close rivals Arsenal and appeared to be heading for defeat when Keane was sent off and Arsenal were awarded a last-minute penalty. Peter Schmeichel saved the penalty, and in extra time Ryan Giggs ran the length of the pitch to score perhaps the most memorable goal of his career to win the match. They then defeated Newcastle United 2–0 in the FA Cup Final at Wembley thanks to goals from Teddy Sheringham and Paul Scholes. The European triumph was the most incredible of all. With 90 minutes on the clock they were 1–0 down to Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp in Barcelona following a Mario Basler free kick, but in 3 minutes of injury time allowed by referee Pierluigi Collina, Teddy Sheringham, a substitute, equalised and extra time looked certain. But with just seconds left on the clock, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, also a late substitution, scored the winning goal and history was made.

On 12 June 1999, Alex Ferguson received a knighthood in recognition of his services to the game.[41]

Title hat-trick

Manchester United ended the 1999–2000 season as champions with just three Premier League defeats, and a cushion of 18 points. The massive gap between United and the rest of the Premier League caused some to wonder if the club's financial dominance was developing into a problem for the English game.

In April 2000, it was announced that Manchester United had agreed to sign Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy from PSV Eindhoven for a British record fee of £18million. But the move was put on hold when van Nistelrooy failed a medical, and he then returned to his homeland in a bid to regain fitness, only to suffer a serious knee injury which ruled him out for almost a year.

28-year-old French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was signed from Monaco for £7.8million—making him the most expensive goalkeeper to be signed by a British club, and United won the title again. During the 2001 close season Ruud van Nistelrooy joined, and soon after Manchester United again broke the British transfer record—this time paying Lazio £28.1million for Argentine attacking midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón, although he failed to live up to the high expectations his transfer fee suggested and he was sold to Chelsea for £15million only two years later.

Rebuilding and transition

Two games into the 2001–02 season, Dutch central defender Jaap Stam was sold to Lazio in a £16million deal. The reason for Stam's departure was believed to have been claims in his autobiography Head to Head that he had been illegally spoken to about a move to Manchester United by Alex Ferguson, before his previous club PSV Eindhoven had been informed.[citation needed] Ferguson replaced Stam with Internazionale's 36-year-old central defender Laurent Blanc.

Before the season began, Ferguson also lost his assistant Steve McClaren, who took over as manager of Middlesbrough, and gave the role to long-serving coach Jim Ryan until a more permanent successor could be found.

On 8 December 2001, Manchester United were ninth in the Premier League — 11 points behind leaders Liverpool who had a game in hand. Then came a dramatic turn around in form: between mid-December and late January, eight successive wins saw Manchester United climb to the top of the Premier League and put their title challenge back on track. Despite this, United finished third in the League as rival Arsène Wenger clinched the title for Arsenal at Old Trafford with a 1–0 win in the penultimate game of the season.

United were also unsuccessful in Europe, losing the Champions League semi-final on away goals to Bayer Leverkusen.

The 2001–02 season was to have been Ferguson's last as Manchester United manager, and the looming date of his retirement was cited as a reason for the team's loss of form. Ferguson himself admitted that the decision to pre-announce his retirement had resulted in a negative effect on the players and on his ability to impose discipline. But in February 2002 he agreed to stay in charge for at least another three years.

The close season saw Manchester United break the British transfer record yet again when they paid Leeds United £30million for 24-year-old central defender Rio Ferdinand.

That summer, Ferguson brought in Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz as his assistant.

Manchester United won their eighth Premier League title yet just over two months before the end of the season they were eight points behind leaders Arsenal. But an improvement in form for United, and a decline for Arsenal, saw the Premier League trophy gradually slip out of the Londoners' grasp and push it back in the direction of Old Trafford. Ferguson described the 2002-03 title triumph as his most satisfying ever, due to the nature of a remarkable comeback. Not for the first time, Ferguson had proven to be a master of managerial mind-games, successfully rattling the composure of Arsenal and their otherwise unflappable manager Arsène Wenger.

Ferguson guided Manchester United to their eleventh FA Cup at the end of the 2003–04 season, but it was a disappointing season which had seen them finish third in the Premier League and suffer Champions League elimination at the hands of eventual winners FC Porto. Rio Ferdinand missed the final four months of the season, as he served the beginning of an eight-month ban for missing a drugs test. New signings like Eric Djemba-Djemba and José Kléberson were disappointing, but there was at least one productive signing 18-year-old Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

At the beginning of the 2004–05 season, Wayne Rooney and Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze joined United while Cristiano Ronaldo continued where he had left off the previous season by putting in more match-winning performances. But the lack of a striker after van Nistelrooy spent most of the season injured saw the club finish third for the third time in four seasons. In the FA Cup they lost on penalties to Arsenal.

Ferguson's preparations for the season were disrupted by a high-profile dispute with major shareholder John Magnier, over the ownership of the racehorse Rock of Gibraltar. When Magnier and business partner J. P. McManus agreed to sell their shares to American business tycoon Malcolm Glazer, it cleared the way for Glazer to acquire full control of the club. This sparked violent protests from United fans, and disrupted Ferguson's plans to strengthen the team in the transfer market. In spite of this, United looked to solve their goalkeeping and midfield problems. For this, they signed the Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar from Fulham and Korean star Park Ji-Sung from PSV.

The season was one of transition. On 18 November, Roy Keane officially left the club, his contract ended by mutual consent. United failed to qualify for the knock-out phase of the UEFA Champions' League. In the January transfer window Serbian defender Nemanja Vidić and French full-back Patrice Evra were signed, and the side finished in second place in the league, behind runaway leaders Chelsea. Winning the League Cup was a consolation prize for lack of success elsewhere. Ruud van Nistelrooy's future at Old Trafford seemed to be in doubt after not starting in the Carling Cup final, and he departed at the end of the season.

Second European trophy

Ferguson with former assistant manager Carlos Queiroz

Michael Carrick was signed as a replacement for Roy Keane for £14 million, although the figure may eventually rise in the future to £18.6 million depending on appearances and results. United started the season well, and for the first time ever won their first four Premier League games. They set the early pace in the Premier League and never relinquished top spot from the tenth match of the 38–game season. The January 2006 signings had a huge impact on United's performances; Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidić came in to form a solid back line along with already existing players Rio Ferdinand and skipper Gary Neville. The signing of Michael Carrick, which was questioned and criticised by a large portion of the media, brought stability and further creativity in the United midfield, forming an effective partnership with Paul Scholes. Park Ji-Sung and Ryan Giggs both underlined their value to the first team squad by adding significant pace and incisiveness in attack with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ferguson celebrated the 20th anniversary of his appointment as manager of Manchester United on 6 November 2006. Tributes also came from Ferguson's players, both past and present,[42] as well as his old foe, Arsène Wenger,[43] his old captain, Roy Keane, and current players. The party was spoiled the following day when United endured a single-goal defeat at the hands of Southend in the fourth round of the Carling Cup. However, on 1 December it was announced that Manchester United had signed 35 year old Henrik Larsson on loan,[44] a player that Alex Ferguson had admired for many years, and attempted to capture previously. On 23 December 2006, Cristiano Ronaldo scored the club's 2000th goal under the helm of Ferguson in a match against Aston Villa.[45]

Manchester United subsequently won their ninth Premier League title but were denied a double by Chelsea's Didier Drogba scoring a late goal in the FA Cup Final at Wembley. Had United won this game, then they would have been the first English club to win the double four times. In the Champions League, the club reached the semi-finals, recording a 7–1 home win over Roma in the quarter-final second leg, but lost at the San Siro to Milan 3–0 in the second leg of the semi-final after being 3–2 up from the first leg.

For the 2007–08 season, Ferguson made notable signings to reinforce United's first team. Long-term target Owen Hargreaves joined from Bayern Munich, bringing an end to a year of negotiations. Ferguson further bolstered the midfield with the additions of young Portuguese winger Nani and Brazilian playmaker Anderson. The last summer signing was of West Ham United and Argentina striker Carlos Tévez after a complex and protracted transfer saga.

United had their worst start to a season under Ferguson, drawing their first two league games before suffering a 1–0 defeat to crosstown rivals Manchester City. However, United recovered and began a tight race with Arsenal for the title. After a good run of form, Ferguson claimed that throughout his time at Manchester United, this was the best squad he had managed to assemble thus far.[46]

On 16 February 2008, United beat Arsenal 4–0 in an FA Cup Fifth Round match at Old Trafford, but were knocked out by eventual winners Portsmouth in the Sixth Round on 8 March, losing 1–0 at home. United having had a penalty claim turned down, Ferguson alleged after the game that Keith Hackett, general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Board, was "not doing his job properly". Ferguson was subsequently charged by the FA with improper conduct, which he decided to contest. This was the second charge Ferguson faced in the season, following his complaints against the referee after United lost 1–0 at Bolton Wanderers – a charge he decided not to contest.

On 11 May 2008, Ferguson led Manchester United to a tenth Premier League title, exactly 25 years to the day after he led Aberdeen to European glory against Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners' Cup. Nearest rivals Chelsea – level on points going into the final round of matches, but with an inferior goal difference – could only draw 1–1 at home to Bolton, finishing two points adrift of the champions.

Ferguson in 2009.

On 21 May 2008, Ferguson won his second European Cup with Manchester United as they beat Chelsea 6–5 on penalties in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, following a 1–1 draw after extra time in the first ever all-English UEFA Champions League Final. A penalty miss from Cristiano Ronaldo meant that John Terry's spot-kick would have given the trophy to Chelsea if successfully converted, but Terry blew his chance of glory and in the end it was Edwin van der Sar's blocking of a Nicolas Anelka penalty which gave the trophy to Manchester United for the second time under Ferguson and for the third time overall.

After winning the 2007–08 UEFA Champions League Ferguson had stated that his intention to leave Manchester United within the next three years.[47] Manchester United Chief Executive David Gill moved quickly to calm the speculation about Alex Ferguson's pending retirement.

Although the team had a slow start to the 2008–09 season, United won the Premier League with a game to spare, making Ferguson the first manager in the history of English football to win the Premier League three times consecutively, on two separate occasions. Ferguson has now won 11 league titles at Manchester United, and the 2008–09 season title success puts them level with Liverpool as league champions on a record 18 occasions in total. They contested the 2009 Champions League final against FC Barcelona on 27 May 2009 and lost 2–0.

After the presentation ceremony, Ferguson conceded that he would stay on at United for as long as his health permitted him and that he would be glad to win it once more. This would make United's total league wins one more than rivals Liverpool, becoming the outright leader in total wins.[48]

Controversies

Ferguson has been involved in numerous controversial incidents during his United career.

Gordon Strachan

In his 1999 autobiography "My Life in Football" Ferguson stated of Strachan "I decided this man could not be trusted an inch - I would not want to expose my back to him in a hurry,".[49], Strachan reacted to the attack as being "surprised and disappointed",[49], but did not sue for libel.

David Beckham & Draw Fixing

In 2003, Ferguson was involved in a dressing room argument with United player David Beckham.[50], resulting in an injury to Beckham, alleged to have been caused by Ferguson kicking a football boot in frustration which hit the player in the face. On April 5, 2003, Ferguson claimed that The Champions League draw was fixed.[51] in favour of Spanish and Italians teams, resulting in a fine on 1 May of 10,000 Swiss francs (£4,600).

Rock of Gibraltar

In 2003, Ferguson launched legal action against the then major United shareholder John Magnier over stud rights for race horse Rock of Gibraltar[52]. Magnier counter-sued Ferguson [53] filing a "motion to comply" requiring Ferguson to substantiate his claim for half of Rock of Gibraltar's stud fees. The legal issues were further compounded by the request for "99 Questions" to be answered over Fergusons transfer dealings, including those of Jaap Stam, Juan Veron, Tim Howard, David Bellion, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kleberson.[54]. The case was eventually settled out of Court.

The BBC

Ferguson refused to give interviews to the BBC after a documentary called "Father and Son" was shown on UK television in 2004. According to an article in The Independent newspaper, the documentary had "portrayed his agent son, Jason, as somebody who exploited his father's influence and position to his own ends in the transfer market." The same newspaper article made it clear that "Ferguson Jnr" was never found guilty of any wrong-doing, and it quoted Ferguson Senior as follows: "They [the BBC] did a story about my son that was whole lot of nonsense. It all made-up stuff and 'brown paper bags' and all that kind of carry-on. It was a horrible attack on my son's honour and he should never have been accused of that."[55]. Any interviews on BBC programmes such as Match of the Day were subsequently done by his assistant (currently Mike Phelan). However, under new Premiership rules intended for the 2010-11 season, Ferguson will apparently be required to end his BBC boycott.[56]

Mind games and relationships with other Managers

Ferguson is well known for using what the press have called "mind games" with fellow Premiership Managers. This approach normally involves making a derogatory comment at a pre-match press conference about the opposition Manager or their team. This has led to several spats in the past with Managers such as Kevin Keegan, Arsène Wenger, Rafael Benitez and this season with Mark Hughes.

Referees

Ferguson has received numerous punishments for abusing and publicly criticising match officials when he has perceived them to be at fault:

20 October 2003 - Two match touchline ban and fined £10,000 after using abusive and/or insulting words towards Fourth Official Jeff Winter.[57]

14 December 2007 - Two match touchline ban and fined £5,000 after using abusive and/or insulting words towards Mark Clattenburg. [58]

18 November 2008 - Two match touchline ban and fined £10,000 after confronting Mike Dean after a game[59]

12 November 2009 - Four match touchline ban (two suspended) and fined £20,000 for comments made about the fitness of Alan Wiley.[60]

It has also been suggested that Ferguson's intimidation of referees results in Fergie Time, that is, unusually generous injury time being added in matches where Manchester United are behind. The phrase is at least as old as 2004, [61] and a statistical analysis by the The Times suggests that this comment might be valid, though the article points out other footballing criteria may explain the correlation between extra added time and United being behind.[62]

Legacy

One recurring theme of Ferguson's management of Manchester United has been his view that no player is bigger than the club. He has consistently taken a "my way or the highway" approach in his dealings with players and the pressure of this management tactic has often been the cause of many notable players' departures. Over the years players such as Gordon Strachan, Paul McGrath, Paul Ince, Jaap Stam, Dwight Yorke, David Beckham and more recently, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Gabriel Heinze have left the club after varying degrees of conflict with Ferguson. It is also suggested that one of the most inspirational players in the club's history, Roy Keane was a victim of Ferguson's wrath following damning criticism of his team mates on the club's in-house television channel, MUTV. This disciplinary line that he takes with such highly paid, high-profile players has been mentioned as a reason for the ongoing success of Manchester United.[citation needed]

Personal life

Ferguson lives in Wilmslow, Cheshire, with his wife, Cathy Ferguson (née Holding). They married in 1966 and have three sons: Mark (born 1968) and twins (born 1972) Darren, currently manager of Preston North End, and Jason, who runs an events management company.

In 1998 Ferguson was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party.[63]

Honours

Player

St. Johnstone (1960–1964)
Falkirk (1969–1973)

Managerial

Ferguson was made an Inaugural Inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 in recognition of his impact on the English game as a manager. In 2003, Ferguson became an inaugural recipient of the FA Coaching Diploma, awarded to all coaches who had at least 10 years' experience of being a manager or head coach.

He is the Vice-President of the National Football Museum, based in Preston, and a member of the Executive Committee of the League Managers Association, and the only manager to win the top league honours and the Double north and south of the England-Scotland border (winning the Premier League with Manchester United, and the Scottish Premier Division with Aberdeen).[citation needed]

St. Mirren (1974–1978)
Aberdeen (1978–1986)
Manchester United (1986–)
Individual
Orders and special awards

Statistics

As a player

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Scotland League Scottish Cup Scottish League Cup Europe Total
1957–58 Queen's Park Second Division
1958–59
1959–60
1957–60 Total 31 15
1960–61 St. Johnstone First Division
1961–62
1962–63 Second Division
1963–64 First Division
1960–64 Total 37 19
1964–65 Dunfermline Athletic First Division
1965–66
1966–67
1964–67 Total 89 66
1967–68 Rangers First Division
1968–69
1967–69 Total 41 25 6 10 4 9 6 0 57 44
1969–70 Falkirk First Division
1970–71
1971–72
1972–73
1969–73 Total 95 36
1973–74 Ayr United First Division 24 9
1973–74 Total 24 9
Total Scotland 317 170
Career Total 317 170

As a manager

As of 14 March 2010.
Team Nat From To Record
G W D L GF GA Win %
East Stirlingshire Scotland 1 June 1974 20 October 1974 &0000000000000017.00000017 &0000000000000010.00000010 &0000000000000004.0000004 &0000000000000003.0000003 &0000000000000022.00000022 &0000000000000015.00000015 &0000000000000058.82000058.82
St. Mirren Scotland 21 October 1974 31 May 1978 &0000000000000151.000000151 &0000000000000063.00000063 &0000000000000049.00000049 &0000000000000039.00000039 &0000000000000300.000000300 &0000000000000252.000000252 &0000000000000041.72000041.72
Aberdeen Scotland 1 August 1978 5 November 1986 &0000000000000455.000000455 &0000000000000269.000000269 &0000000000000106.000000106 &0000000000000080.00000080 &0000000000000914.000000914 &0000000000000374.000000374 &0000000000000059.12000059.12
Scotland Scotland 10 September 1985 13 June 1986 &0000000000000010.00000010 &0000000000000003.0000003 &0000000000000004.0000004 &0000000000000003.0000003 &0000000000000008.0000008 &0000000000000005.0000005 &0000000000000030.00000030.00
Manchester United England 6 November 1986 Present &0000000000001322.0000001,322 &0000000000000778.000000778 &0000000000000307.000000307 &0000000000000237.000000237 &0000000000002401.0000002,401 &0000000000001181.0000001,181 &0000000000000058.85000058.85
Total &0000000000001955.0000001,955 &0000000000001123.0000001,123 &0000000000000470.000000470 &0000000000000362.000000362 &0000000000003645.0000003,645 &0000000000001827.0000001,827 &0000000000000057.44000057.44

Notes

  1. ^ Nick Barratt Published: 12:01AM BST 05 May 2007 (2007-05-05). "Family detective". Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/portal/main.jhtml?xml=/portal/2007/05/05/nosplit/ftdet05.xml. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  2. ^ The Boss. p. 33. 
  3. ^ "Get all the latest Scottish football news and opinions here". Dailyrecord.co.uk. 2009-08-11. http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/football-news/2008/04/16/on-the-record-86908-20384386/. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  4. ^ "Ferguson reveals earlier Canada emigration plans". ESPN Soccernet. 2010-02-04. http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=736532&sec=england&cc=5901. Retrieved 2010-02-04. 
  5. ^ "Scotland — List of Topscorers". Rsssf.com. 2009-06-12. http://www.rsssf.com/tabless/scottops.html. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  6. ^ The Boss. p. 82. 
  7. ^ The Boss. p. 83. 
  8. ^ The Boss. p. 86. 
  9. ^ Reid, Harry (2005). The Final Whistle?. Birlinn. p. 223. ISBN 1841583626. 
  10. ^ Managing My Life. p. ?. 
  11. ^ The Boss. p. 85. 
  12. ^ The Boss. pp. 108–9. 
  13. ^ "A leader of men is what he does best". The Guardian. 23 November 2004. http://football.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/0,1563,1357257,00.html. Retrieved 9 March 2007. 
  14. ^ The Boss. p. 117. 
  15. ^ a b "Sunday Herald St. Mirren article". http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_19990530/ai_n13939368. Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
  16. ^ "FA article". http://www.thefa.com/Features/Postings/2004/05/GafferTapes_SirAlexFerguson.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
  17. ^ "Guardian bullying article". http://football.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,1684473,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-11. 
  18. ^ "31.05.1978: Alex Ferguson is fired by St Mirren". Guardian. 31 May 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2008/may/31/manchesterunited.stmirren. Retrieved 29 December 2008. 
  19. ^ The Boss. p. 159. 
  20. ^ The Boss. p. 171. 
  21. ^ The Boss. p. 174. 
  22. ^ The Boss. p. 175. 
  23. ^ The Boss. p. 179. 
  24. ^ The Boss. p. 180. 
  25. ^ The Boss. p. 191. 
  26. ^ The Boss. p. 195. 
  27. ^ The Boss. p. 196. 
  28. ^ The Boss. p. 201. 
  29. ^ The Boss. p. 203. 
  30. ^ The Boss. p. 204. 
  31. ^ "Lewis heads sporting honours". BBC News. 1999-12-12. http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sport/561724.stm. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  32. ^ "Ferguson 'almost became Arsenal boss'". BBC News. 10 June 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/m/man_utd/8092670.stm. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  33. ^ "Arise Sir Alex?". BBC News, 27 May 1999. 27 May 1999. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1999/05/99/uniteds_treble_triumph/354282.stm. Retrieved 3 December 2005. 
  34. ^ Ferguson, Alex; Peter Fitton (1993). Just Champion!. Manchester United Football Club plc. p. 27. ISBN 0952050919. 
  35. ^ a b "How Robins saved Ferguson's job". BBC News 4 November 2006. 4 November 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/m/man_utd/6096520.stm. Retrieved 8 August 2008. 
  36. ^ "20 years and Fergie's won it all!". Manchester Evening News. 6 November 2006. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/football/manchester_united/s/227/227442_20_years_and_fergies_won_it_all.html. Retrieved 8 August 2009. 
  37. ^ a b "Recalling the pressure Ferguson was under". The Independent. 8 May 1997. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_19970508/ai_n14109476. Retrieved 8 August 2009. 
  38. ^ Managing My Life. p. 302. 
  39. ^ Managing My Life. p. 311. 
  40. ^ Managing My Life. p. 320. 
  41. ^ "Arise Sir Alex". BBC News. 12 June 1999. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1999/06/99/queens_birthday_honours/366834.stm. Retrieved 18 June 2007. 
  42. ^ "Saviour Robins: Fergie just cannot let go". ESPN Soccernet, 4 November 2006. http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=389632&cc=5739. Retrieved 11 January 2007. 
  43. ^ "Wenger: Managers should emulate Ferguson". ESPN Soccernet, 4 November 2006. http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=389800&cc=4716. Retrieved 11 January 2007. 
  44. ^ "Man Utd capture Larsson on loan". BBC Sport. 1 December 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/m/man_utd/6198464.stm. Retrieved 11 January 2007. 
  45. ^ Bostock, Adam (23 December 2006). "Report: Villa 0 United 3". Manutd.com. http://www.manutd.com/default.sps?pagegid=%7BF9E570E6-407E-44BC-800F-4A3110258114%7D&newsid=389318. Retrieved 18 June 2007. 
  46. ^ "Ferguson: This is the best squad I've ever had". Daily Telegraph. 12 November 2007. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2007/11/12/sfnfro112.xml. Retrieved 27 November 2007. 
  47. ^ "Queiroz could step up to boss United when Sir Alex decides to call it a day". Mail Online (UK). 25 May 2008. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1021771/Queiroz-step-boss-United-Sir-Alex-decides-day.html. Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  48. ^ "Fergie won't be retiring for some while yet, insists Manchester United chief Gill". Mail Online (UK). 25 May 2008. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-1021832/Fergie-wont-retiring-insists-Manchester-United-chief-Gill.html. Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  49. ^ a b "Fergie v Strachan". The BBC. 2006-09-12. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/5335578.stm. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  50. ^ "Sir Alex Ferguson factfile". The Times. 1997-11-05. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/premier_league/manchester_united/article2810463.ece. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  51. ^ "Sir Alex Ferguson factfile". Manchester Evening News. 2006-11-06. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/football/manchester_united/s/227/227505_sir_alex_ferguson_factfile.html. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  52. ^ "Sir Alex Ferguson takes His case to Court". Racing and Sports. 2003-11-20. http://www.racingandsports.com.au/breeding/rsNewsArt.asp?NID=30626. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  53. ^ "Magnier's legal action damages hopes of a deal". The Independent. 2004-02-03. http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/magniers-legal-action-damages-hopes-of-a-deal-568624.html. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  54. ^ "United won't answer the 99 questions". The Guardian. 2004-02-01. http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2004/feb/01/newsstory.sport5. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  55. ^ "Ferguson will never talk to The BBC again". The Independent. 2007-09-06. http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/ferguson-will-never-talk-to-the-bbc-again-401487.html. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  56. ^ "Sir Alex Ferguson will be forced to speak to the BBC under new Premier League rules". The Telegraph. 2009-11-14. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/leagues/premierleague/manutd/6570541/Sir-Alex-Ferguson-will-be-forced-to-speak-to-the-BBC-under-new-Premier-League-rules.html. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  57. ^ "Sir Alex Ferguson Factfile". Manchester Evening News. 2006-11-06. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/football/manchester_united/s/227/227505_sir_alex_ferguson_factfile.html. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  58. ^ "Ferguson banned for two matches". The BBC. 2007-12-14. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/m/man_utd/7113777.stm. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  59. ^ "Sir Alex Ferguson banned and fined £10,000". The Times. 2008-11-19. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/premier_league/manchester_united/article5183446.ece. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  60. ^ "Sir Alex Ferguson banned for two games and fined after Alan Wiley jibe". The Guardian. 2009-11-12. http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2009/nov/12/sir-alex-ferguson-banned. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  61. ^ "Wiley's time-keeping hands United lifeline". Daily Telegraph. 2004-08-30. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2385788/Wileys-time-keeping-hands-United-lifeline.html. Retrieved 2010-02-21. 
  62. ^ "It’s a fact! Fergie time does exist in the Premier League". The Times. 2009-10-24. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/fink_tank/article6887985.ece?print=yes&randnum=1151003209000. Retrieved 2010-02-21. 
  63. ^ "UK Politics | 'Luvvies' for Labour". BBC News. 1998-08-30. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/161057.stm. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 

References

  • Crick, Michael (2003). The Boss: The Many Sides of Alex Ferguson. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-7434-2991-5. 
  • Managing My Life. Coronet Books. ISBN 0340728566. 

External links


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