As Sir Alex Ferguson prepares for his 1000th league game in charge of Manchester United, it would be appropriate if we took a look back at the finest moments of Fergie while managing Manchester United Football Club.
# 10 – The Bargain of the Century
Yes. Sir Alex has signed some wonderful players during his tenure at Man Utd. But, Peter Schmeichel was different. He was not a superstar, he was not a wonderkid and nor was he a high profile transfer. But, if you take Schmeichel out of the picture, Manchester United’s dominance over the Premier League in the 1990′s could have not been possible.
Schmeichel came to Manchester United in 1991 for a price of £505,000, a move which even Sir Alex dubs as the “Bargain of the Century”. He kept more than 100 clean sheets during his time at Manchester United and ended his career lifting the Champions League trophy.
His save against Newcastle United in 1997 was voted as the “save of the decade”.
# 9 – Cantona – Keane – Ronaldo
Sir Alex Ferguson, as said above, has signed numerous top players during his time at Man Utd. But, these three signings have been instrumental in United’s success over various periods.
We all know what Eric Cantona did to Manchester United. Cantona transformed a team of unproven youngsters into League Champions. It was only after his arrival in 1992 that Manchester United began winning endless number of league trophies. With a killer strike, an eye for innovation and insurmountable power, Eric Cantona lifted the spirits of players and fans alike.
Roy Keane arrived from Nottingham Forest in 1993 for a then record fee of £3.75 million. He rose amongst the ranks at Man Utd and in the latter 1990′s became a dominant figure in the squad earning the captain’s badge after Cantona’s retirement. His display in the 1999 Champions League Semifinals against Juventus is still regarded as one of the most passionate display of football the world has ever seen. And of course, who can forget the fights with Partick Vieira?
Then there was Cristiano Ronaldo. Words cannot describe what Ronaldo did at Manchester United. The power, the skill and the ability that Ronaldo possessed might never be matched by a Manchester United player ever again. His signing is definitely one of the greatest coups in the history of football.
# 8 – All the injury time winners!
Nobody can count out Manchester United until the whistle is blown. This trend has become more and more true during Sir Alex’s tenure at the club. How many last minute goals? How many matches won during the injury time? How many memorable moments?
Michael Owen’s last minute goal against Manchester City, Paul Scholes goal against Man City, Giggs’ goal against Norwich are the recent ones that come to mind.
# 7 – The Quotes
Sir Alex Ferguson often wins the battle of words. His quotes have been a source of inspiration to his players, they have often ridiculed his counterparts and on other occasions, they have just been too funny.
Here is a look at some of these quotes,
“They say he’s an intelligent man, right? Speaks five languages! I’ve got a 15-year-old boy from the Ivory Coast who speaks five languages!” – on Arsene Wenger
“Pippo Inzaghi was born in an offside position.” – Sir Alex on Inzaghi.
# 6 – Bringing an end to the “Invincibles”
In the 2003-2004 season, Arsenal did the unthinkable. They became the first English top division team in more than a century to go throughout an entire season without a defeat.
The next season began and Arsenal were still cruising. With a 49-game undefeated streak, they prepared to face Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Wayne Rooney, who was a youngster at Manchester United won the first penalty which was converted by Ruud van Nistelrooy. Later, Rooney added one more on his own to make it 2-0. Arsenal were finally defeated. The game demoralized them and they are yet to win a league title after that game.
There is a brilliant story behind this game. To know more about that – click here.
# 5 – Champions League win in 2008
Manchester United faced Chelsea in an All-English finale at Moscow for the Champions League trophy in 2008. The win would give Sir Alex his second Champions League trophy and would re-establish United’s dominance in Europe.
The game began and United took the lead through Ronaldo’s header. Lampard then equalized for Chelsea. The game went in to overtime when Didier Drogba was sent off. Eventually, the game moved on to a penalty shootout and the rest as we know is history.
# 4 – The 1992/93 League Title
26 years had passed and Manchester United were still searching for their lost glory. A new Premier League had begun and Aston Villa were leading the pack.
By March, Man Utd were placed third behind Aston Villa and Norwich City. But, a late resurgence meant that Man Utd were able to win the league by a mammoth 10 points.
Cantona was there, Robson was there, Bruce was there, Giggs was there, Ince was there and Pallister was there. Yes. Sir Alex Ferguson had arrived at the major scene.
# 3 – Fergie’s Fledglings
After a opening day defeat against Aston Villa in the 1994-95 season, analyst Alan Hansen famously said “You’ll never win anything with kids”. Alex Ferguson had other ideas.
The youthful squad of Sir Alex Ferguson averaging only 24 years (which was very low at that time) went on to turn down a 10 point deficit to win the league.
Nicky Butt, Phil Neville, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs were those ‘Kids’ that Hansen was talking about. They were also the players who turned Manchester United into the Football Club that it is today.
# 2 – Football, bloody hell!
The Treble was looming large. Ryan Giggs had produced a masterful run to push Manchester United into the Finals of the FA Cup in 1999. In the finals, United beat Newcastle to win the FA Cup. They had already won the League.
In the Champions League semifinals against Juventus, they were trailing 2-0 and their Captain Roy Keane received a yellow card which would rule him out of the finals if United made it through. Roy Keane transformed into a different man. He single-handedly lead Manchester United into the finals beating Juventus 3-2. Sir Alex commented:
“It was the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field. Pounding over every blade of grass, competing if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him. I felt it was an honour to be associated with such a player.”
In the finals, Manchester United were playing Bayern Munich. With only 3 minutes of injury time left in the game, the officials were preparing the bring out the trophy decorated with Bayern’s logo and name. But, the match was not yet over.
From a David Beckham corner and Ryan Giggs assist, Teddy Sheringham scored a injury time goal to make it 1-1. But, things weren’t over even then. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer converted another corner by Beckham to win the treble for Manchester United. The things that transpired during that night led Sir Alex to utter these words – “Football, bloody hell!”
# 1 – Knocking Liverpool off their perch
The year was 2002. Manchester United were not doing very well. They were already six points behind Arsenal and the season was only beginning. Alan Hansen questioned the situation at the greatest challenge of Sir Alex’s career. Sir Alex replied
“My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f***ing perch. And you can print that.”
Winning that 19th title was a fixation for Sir Alex. Nothing seemed to matter more than that. Two seasons before, Manchester United were tied with Liverpool on 18 titles each. Sir Alex had 11 titles to his name in less than two decades. In the penultimate game of the season, United had to face Chelsea and a win will ensure them the 19th title. Inspired by a 1st minute goal from Javier Hernandez, United won the game and the 19th title.
Liverpool were knocked off their perch.