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5 of the greatest challenges overcome by Alex Ferguson at Manchester United

Scott Newman
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 15:43 IST

Manchester United v Swansea City - Premier League
Alex Ferguson is arguably the greatest manager in the history of football

Whether you loved him or loathed him, it’s hard to deny that former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is one of the greatest managers in the history of football.

The legendary Scottish supremo reigned at Old Trafford for the best part of three decades and during his time with the Red Devils, United were transformed into England’s most powerful club.

That’s not to say it was all plain sailing for Fergie. Over his years at United he was faced with various different problems and challenges – but for the most part, to his credit, he was always able to find a way to overcome them.

Here are five of the biggest challenges faced by Alex Ferguson during his career, and exactly how he got around them.

#1 Changing the culture

Talented players like Paul McGrath were sold in order for Ferguson to combat United
Talented players like Paul McGrath were sold in order for Ferguson to combat United's '80's drinking culture

The Manchester United that Ferguson took over back in November 1986 were a very different animal to the dominant side they’d become less than a decade later. Sure, by reputation alone they were one of England’s biggest clubs, but they hadn’t won a league title since the 1966/67 season that preceded their European Cup triumph, and despite winning three FA Cups in the 80’s under Ron Atkinson and by the time ‘Big Ron’ was fired, the side were in danger of freefall.

Ferguson inherited a team of talented players, but many of his best – the likes of Bryan Robson, Paul McGrath, Norman Whiteside and Gordon Strachan – had a reputation for liking a drink a little too much. According to his autobiography, Ferguson immediately enforced a rule that no player must drink in training and spoke to his captain Robson about curbing the party lifestyle. Robson took the advice on board but few others followed suit.

Also read: 5 things you didn't know about Sir Alex Ferguson

When his warnings went unheeded, some of the worst offenders like Whiteside and McGrath were shipped out a couple of seasons after his arrival.


While it took a little longer for success to arrive at United – supposedly, Ferguson’s job hung on the result of an FA Cup third-round tie against Nottingham Forest in 1989; a tie they won before going on to lift the trophy – his attitude towards the prevailing lifestyle at United changed the face of the club and showed that under Ferguson, you towed the line or were simply removed from the picture.

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Published 24 Apr 2018, 22:18 IST
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