Sir Alex Ferguson (born Alexander
Chapman Ferguson December 31, 1941 in Govan, Glasgow) is a
Scottish football manager, currently managing Manchester United
F.C.. He has won more trophies than any other manager in the
history of English football and been in charge of Manchester
United for over 1000 matches.
He has previously managed East Stirling and St. Mirren, before a
highly successful period as manager of Aberdeen. He was briefly
the manager of Scotland, in a temporary capacity, owing to the
death of Jock Stein, before becoming the manager of Manchester
He is also the owner of a top international race horse, Rock of
Sir Alex Ferguson's first big success in management came with
Aberdeen. They won the Scottish Premier Division championship in
1980, then followed this up with back to back titles in 1984 and
1985. They racked up three Scottish cup successes in a row;
1982, 1983 and '84. Their greatest success came when they beat
Real Madrid to lift the European Cup Winners Cup in 1983.
He was appointed manager at Old Trafford on November 6, 1986 as
replacement for Ron Atkinson who had been sacked after five
years in charge despite winning two F.A. Cups and putting
together an impressive side containing players like Bryan Robson,
Norman Whiteside and Gordon Strachan.
When Ferguson took over, the club was second from bottom in the
old First Division and relegation looked a real possibility. As
the season went on, Ferguson rejuvenated the club's fortunes on
the pitch and they climbed up the table to finish 11th. Their
only away win of the league campaign was against runners-up
Liverpool and that victory effectively cost the opposition their
defence of the league title.
The 1987–88 season saw some major signings at Old Trafford,
including Steve Bruce, Viv Anderson, Brian McClair and Jim
Leighton. Alex Ferguson did a lot to bolster the club's position
and they finished runners-up to Liverpool by nine points. But
United's best chance of success was in the FA Cup where they
blew it in the 5th Round, missing the chance to convert a last
minute penalty into an equaliser against Arsenal.
Alex Ferguson sought to add to the ranks for 1988–89 by re-signing
Mark Hughes, the 24-year-old Welsh striker who had left Old
Trafford for Barcelona two years previously, but the player had
never settled in Spain and had spent the 1987–88 season on loan
to Bayern Munich in West Germany. During the season he also
added Mal Donaghy and Mike Phelan to the team, but their league
form slipped during the final phase of the season and they
The 1989–90 season began on a high for United and it ended on a
high. It was just a shame about what happened around the middle
of the season.
On the opening day of the season United beat defending champions
Arsenal 4-1 and there was hope that the league title would
return to Old Trafford having being absent since 1967. The squad
had also been boosted by the addition of Paul Ince, Neil Webb,
Danny Wallace and Gary Pallister. But in September, United
suffered a humiliating 5-1 away defeat against neighbours
Manchester City who had just been promoted back to the top
division after a two year absence. Over the next three months
things went downhill, and by the turn of 1990, Manchester United
were 15th of 20 in the First Division and there were calls from
the press and from the club's supporters for Ferguson to be
sacked. But Ferguson later revealed that the club's board of
directors had never discussed the possibility. Although
naturally disappointing at the lack of success in the league,
the board understood that Ferguson's chances of success had been
sabotaged by an injury crisis amongst the players and they were
pleased with the way he had reorganised the club.
In January 1990, Manchester United were drawn away to Nottingham
Forest in the third round of the FA Cup. Forest were one of the
most feared cup teams in that era, and everyone was predicting
for United to lose the game and for Ferguson to lose his job.
But United won the game 1-0, with Mark Robins scoring the goal,
and made it all the way to the final despite never being drawn
In the final United drew 3-3 with Crystal Palace, with Mark
Hughes scoring twice and Bryan Robson scoring once. United won
the replay 1-0 with a goal from defender Lee Martin, who nearly
didn't play because the manager feared that he was physically
unfit to withstand the challenge, and United would be England's
representatives in the 1990–91 European Cup Winners Cup - the
ban on English teams playing in Europe following the Heysel
Stadium disaster was now lifted after five years.
United finished 13th in the 1989–90 league season but everyone
was confident they could finish much higher in 1990–91.
1990–91 brought more success for Manchester United. Their league
form was improved but still inconsistent, so they finished sixth,
but they fared much better in cup competitions. Although they
lost their defence of the FA Cup to Norwich in the fifth round,
they reached the finals of both the Cup Winners Cup and the
League Cup. In the League Cup final they underestimated the
opposition, Second Division promotion challengers Sheffield
Wednesday, and lost 1-0 to a team managed by former United
manager Ron Atkinson. The goalscorer on that day was John
Sheridan, a lifelong Manchester United supporter.
United were drawn with Barcelona in the Cup Winners Cup final at
Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Mark Hughes, who had spent a
season at Barcelona in the 1980's but failed to settle, scored
twice against his old club to secure a 2-1 win for United. It
was a fine way to mark the return of English clubs to European
football, and confirmed Mark Hughes' status as one of Manchester
United's greatest strikers ever.
In 1991–92, Manchester United won their first ever League Cup
but lost out on the league title to Leeds United. The key player
in the Leeds team was Gordon Strachan, who had been sold to
Leeds from Manchester United three years earlier and taken them
to the league title just two seasons after winning promotion.
1992–93 saw Manchester United become members of the new Premier
League and from the outset they were firm favourites to be
champions. But after a slow start to the season (they were 10th
of 22 at the beginning of November) it looked as though they
would miss out on the championship again. But then Alex Ferugson
paid Leeds United £1.2 million for their brilliant French
striker Eric Cantona and the deal proved to be a turning point
in the history of Manchester United. Cantona formed a strong
partnership with Mark Hughes and fired the club to the top of
the table, ending up winning the title with a 10-point gap over
runners-up Aston Villa. The 26-year wait was over, and it
officially ended without United kicking a ball - their nearest
rivals Aston Villa had suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat to
Oldham Athletic which did much to keep the Latics safe from
1993–94 brought more success for Alex Ferguson and Manchester
United. He 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, although the Old
Trafford legend remained in the squad for one more season.
United led the 1993–94 Premiership table virtually from start to
finish and this time they finished champions ahead of runners-up
Blackburn. Eric 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 Ron Atkinson's Aston Villa. In the F.A Cup final
Manchester United achieved an impressive 4-0 scoreline against
Chelsea and the result confirmed Alex Ferguson's place as one of
the greatest managers in the English game. United had become
only the sixth club ever to win the League Championship/F.A Cup
1994–95 was perhaps Alex Ferguson's most difficult season as
Manchester United manager. Key players like Paul Parker, Lee
Sharpe and Andrei Kanchelskis were absent in many matches
because of injury, and Eric Cantona was absent for the final
four months of the season as he began an eight-month ban for
assaulting a Crystal Palace supporter in a game at Selhurst
Park. Cantona 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
hit the headlines two weeks before the Cantona incident when
they paid a British record fee of £7million for Newcastle's
prolific striker Andy Cole, who began his Old Trafford career
with 12 goals in 18 league games.
Unfortunately, the championship slipped out of Manchester
United's grasp as they were unable to get the better of West Ham
United who held them to a 1-1 draw on the final day of the
season. It was all the more frustrating because champions
Blackburn (celebrating their first title success since 1914)
lost 2-1 in their final game of the season at Liverpool. United
also lost the F.A Cup final to Everton, although promising
20-year-old striker Paul Scholes came close to scoring twice
only to be foiled by the brilliant Everton goalkeeper Neville
Still, United had finished in the top two of the league for the
fourth season running and had reached their third F.A Cup final
in six seasons, even if they had endured their first trophyless
season since 1988–89.
The summer of 1995 brought three major transfer surprises at
Alex Ferguson's club. First Paul Ince moved to Inter Milan of
Italy in a £7.5 million. Within 24 hours of Ince's departure,
long serving striker Mark Hughes was suddenly sold to Chelsea in
a £1.5 million deal. And not long after these two transfer
surprises, it was reported that Ukrainian winger Andrei
Kanchelskis was going on the transfer list because he had fallen
out with Alex Ferguson. Liverpool and Middlesbrough both
expressed interest in signing Kanchelskis, but in the end he
agreed a £5million move to Everton, although he did not complete
the transfer until after the first game of the 1995–96 season
because of a dispute as to whether his former club Shakytr
Donetsk should receive £1million of the fee. In the wake of
these departures, United were linked with several world class
players including Roberto Baggio of Juventus and Italy, Darren
Anderton of Tottenham and England and even the Wimbledon striker
Dean Holdsworth. But none of the moves ever happened, and United
began the 1995-96 season without a major signing, only a minor
signing of David May from Blackburn Rovers. After losing 3-1 to
Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, the media swooped
upon Ferguson with undisguised glee. They wrote United off
because Alex Ferguson's squad contained so many young and
Ferguson felt he could achieve success with such a young squad,
and United's form improved dramatically during the first few
weeks of the season. Young players like Gary Neville, Phil
Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes gelled well
into a squad with more experienced players like Steve Bruce,
Gary Pallister and Denis Irwin. The return of Eric Cantona from
his suspension was also a positive change to the United side.
They ended the season as champions with just six league defeats
all season, an achievement made all the more impressive by the
fact that they had been 10 points behind Newcastle at Christmas.
In the F.A Cup final, they were drawn with Liverpool and won 1-0
with a last gasp goal by Eric Cantona - voted Football Writers
Player of the Year by the footballing press and made team
captain by his club after the departure of Steve Bruce to
The summer of 1996 saw the departure of Steve Bruce, Paul Parker
and Lee Sharpe, and the arrival of four major signings. Czech
winger Karel Poborsky had put on an impressive performance at
Euro 96, but failed to win a place at Old Trafford and was sold
to Benfica after 18 months. Dutch forward Jordi Cruyff (son of
the legendary Johann) was also signed, but was never a regular
player during four seasons as the club. It was the two less well
known signings which proved most successful.
23-year-old Norweigan striker Ole Gunnar Solskjær was virtually
unknown outside his homeland, yet ended the 1996–97 season as
United's leading scorer with 19 goals in all competitions.
Norweigan defender Ronny Johnsen also proved to be a key player
in the team as well.
1996–97 saw Alex Ferguson guide Manchester United to their
fourth Premiership title in five seasons, despite some trials
and tribulations along the way. In late October, they suffered
three league defeats in a row and conceded 13 goals in the
process. In January they were knocked out of the F.A Cup by
Wimbledon in the Fourth Round, meaning they would not be in the
final for the first time since 1993. They also lost their 4-year
unbeaten home record to unfancied Turkish side Fenerbahce. But
they still reached the Champions League semi final, where they
lost to Borussia Dortmund of Germany, and fought off competition
from Newcastle United, Arsenal and Liverpool to win the league
title. At the end of the season, Eric Cantona announced his
retirement as a player and sent shock waves around the
1997–98 ended trophyless but United still finished runners-up to
Arsenal (who had trailed them by 11 points at the beginning of
March but had taken advantage of games in hand) and reached the
Champions League quarter final.
In the summer of 1998, Alex Ferguson spent a total of £33
million on four major signings: Aston Villa's Trinidadian
striker Dwight Yorke, PSV's Dutch defender Jaap Stam,Parma's
Swedish winger Jesper Blomqvist and Blackburn's Henning Berg..
Long serving players Gary Pallister and Brian McClair both left
the club to seek pastures new for the final few years of their
The new signings paid off in 1998–99, which proved to be the
most successful season yet in the history of Manchester United.
They fought off the competition from rival teams to win a unique
treble of the Premiership title, F.A Cup and Champions League.
They defeated Newcastle United 2-0 in the F.A 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 Nou Camp in Barcelona thanks to a Mario Basler free kick, but
in 3 minutes of injury time allowed by the referee, Teddy
Sheringham equalised and extra time looked certain. But with
just seconds left on the clock, Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored the
winning goal and history was made.
On 12th June 1999, Alex Ferguson was knighted in recognition for
his services to the game. He was now regarded by many as the
best manager ever to work in English football.
During the summer of 1999, Peter Schmeichel left Manchester
United after eight years as the club's first choice goalkeeper.
During that time he gained the reputation of being one of the
best goalkeepers in the world. His replacement, Aston Villa's
Australian goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, was less highly rated but
Sir Alex Ferguson seemed to think that he was the right man to
Bosnich was the only major close season signing, but within the
first few weeks of the season three more new players were signed
- South African winger Quinton Fortune, Italian goalkeeper
Massimo Taibi and French defender Mikael Silvestre. Taibi played
just five games before being injured and eventually returning to
his native Italy on loan with Reggiana before his transfer was
made permanent at the end of the season. Fortune is still at the
club more than five years later, but has been unable to win a
regular first team place due to the form of left winger Ryan
Giggs. Silvestre gradually established himself as a top class
player on the left side or the centre of defence.
Manchester United ended the 1999-2000 season as champions with
just three Premier defeats, and with Arsenal in second place.
Last season the gap at the top had been just 1 point. This time
the gap was 18 points.
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
The major change to the Manchester United side for the 2000-01
season was the acquisition of 29-year-old French goalkeeper
Fabien Barthez from Monaco for £7.8million - making him the most
expensive goalkeeper to be signed by a British club.
Another change to the line-up was Teddy Sheringham winning his
first team place back after two seasons of often being included
as only a substitute. By the end of the season, the 35-year-old
Sheringham was Manchester United's leading scorer in all
competitions and had been presented with both the PFA Player of
the Year Award and the Football Writers Player of the Year
Award. Sheringham was reported to be considering a new contract
at the end of the season but instead opted to return to his old
club Tottenham Hotspur on a free transfer. This decision was
mainly down to the British record £19 million signing of Dutch
striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, one year after the player's
original move collapsed due to a knee injury.
During the 2001 close season, Manchester United again broke the
British transfer record - this time paying Lazio £28.1million
for Argentine attacking midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón.
Although the player's form wasn't at all bad and he had his fair
share of first team appearances, Verón failed to live up to the
high expectations his transfer fee suggested and two years later
he was offloaded to Chelsea in a £15million deal. Verón's spell
at Chelsea proved to be even less successful, and after just
seven Premiership appearances during the 2003-04 season he
agreed a one-year loan deal with Inter Milan.
Two games into the 2001-02 season, Manchester United fans were
shocked when Dutch central defender Jaap Stam was suddenly 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. The club's supporters were even
more shocked when Sir Alex Ferguson replaced Stam with Inter
Milan's 35-year-old central defender Laurent Blanc.
During November and early December in 2001, Manchester United
endured their worst league form in over a decade - six defeats
in seven Premiership fixtures, three defeats at each side of a
win. On 8th December 2001, Manchester United were ninth in the
Premiership - 11 points behind leaders Liverpool who had a game
in hand. Sir Alex Ferguson had already written off his side's
chances of claiming a unique fourth successive Premiership
But then came a dramatic turn around in form. Between mid
December and late January, nine successive wins saw Manchester
United climb to the top of the Premiership and put their title
challenge back on track.
In the end, United finished third in the Premiership (their
first finish outside the top two since they finished sixth in
the 1990-91 old First Division), lost on away goals to Bayer
Leverkusen in the Champions League Semi Finals, were knocked out
of the F.A Cup in the Fourth Round by Middlesbrough, and were
knocked out of the League Cup in the Third Round by Arsenal.
This meant that Manchester United had failed to finish winners
or runners-up of a major competition for the first time since
the 1988-89 season.
The 2001-02 season was to have been Sir Alex Ferguson's last as
Manchester United manager, but in February 2002 he agreed to
stay in charge for at least another three years.
But 2001-02 was the last season at Old Trafford for some of its
longest serving players, including full back Denis Irwin (who
had joined the club in 1990) and Ronny Johnsen (who had been on
the club's payroll since 1996).
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.
Manchester United yielded their eighth Premiership title in 11
seasons at the end of 2002-03, yet just over two months before
the end of the season they had lost to Liverpool in the League
Cup final and slipped eight points behind leaders Arsenal on the
same day. But an improvement in form for United, and a decline
for Arsenal, saw the Premiership trophy gradually slip out of
the Londoner's grasp and push it back in the direction of Old
On 4 May 2003, Manchester United's title success was confirmed
when Arsenal lost 3-2 at home to Leeds United - a result which
ended Arsenal's title hopes and secured Leeds's survival.
Ironically, it was to be Arsenal's last Premiership defeat for
49 games - a run which was ended in October 2004 by Manchester
United, a run which included Arsenal completing the 2003-04
season as unbeaten Premiership champions.
The close season saw the Manchester United squad boosted by the
arrival of several foreign players including American goalkeeper
Tim Howard, Brazilian midfielder Jose Kleberson, Cameroonian
midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba and French striker David Bellion.
On their way out were retiring central defender Laurent Blanc
and, more significantly, David Beckham. The 28-year-old
midfielder had agreed to end 12 years at Old Trafford by signing
for Real Madrid in a £17million deal which could eventually rise
to £25million. Beckham is still at Madrid nearly two years
later, although he has been linked with a return to England
since not long after arriving in Spain. Arsenal and Chelsea have
both been linked with transfers to sign Beckham.