m88 However he contested 8 European Cup semi finals, again winning 4. Fergie broke his own rule. I believe he underachieved in the European Cup. His Aberdeen side won 3 Scottish championships, 4 Scottish cups and a league cup, all won within his 8 year spell at the manager. He has let many players who did not agree with his view go. It is often overlooked that United outspent many rivals in the late 80s and early 90s. This is perhaps a tad unfair, but when we go into Europe it does hold.. David Beckham, Jaap Staam, and Roy Keane are three such high-profile cases. This ban was lifted in 1990 and Fergie won the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1991 at the first time of asking when United beat Barcelona 2-1. Indeed the so-called “Class of ’92″ which included Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Beckham and the Nevilles is rare in British football. However, his greatest achievement was actually ending the Old Firm dominance of Scottish Football by Celtic and Rangers. If you are unlucky and lose a few times in the big events (Jimmy White was a perennial loser in snooker’s World Championship and golfer Colin Montgomerie may have won 8 European Order of Merits but he could never win a major championship and there are 4 a season in golf) then you are atalented person or coach but you are not the best.

Fergie took over at United in 1986 when English clubs were banned from Europe. Possibly the only depth of young talent to come through in bulk like that were the Busby Babes of the 1950s and the Quality Street kids of the late 60s and early 70s at Celtic.

European Failure

To be considered the very best then you have to prove it. So Fergie didn’t even have to win the league!

Fergie won 2 European Cups in 22 years. In 2008 in the first all English final in Moscow, Chelsea’s captain John Terry had a penalty kick to win the trophy but he slipped and hit the post. He took the club from Scotland’s oil capital and won the 1983 European Cup Winner’s Cup in the Swedish city of Gothenburg against the mighty Real Madrid. So Fergie, in his 26 years at United we can remove 4 when he wasn’t allowed to be in Europe. He was outspent in his early years by the likes of Juventus and Real Madrid but in his later years he could attract the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo away from the European giants to play for him at Old Trafford.

Modus Operandi

First of all let’s look at his methods. His trophy count outstrips them massively. But as manager of Manchester United – “The Biggest Club in the World” then it doesn’t look so good. He knew Cantona was the best player in his team and he would do anything to keep him at the club. If we include non-British managers then Jose Mourinho has won 2 in the space of 12 years already and with different clubs (Porto and Internazionale). He has won 13 Premier League championships with United. Obviously a lot of credit has to go to the scouts and youth coaches too. The Glasgow clubs have a duopoly on Scottish titles and cups with almost 100 league titles between them in around 120 years of competition. Ironically once Cantona retired, Fergie finally gained the European success at United he craved.

Fergie can also be credited with bringing through a talented stream of youth players. More than 1 team from each country could now contest the big prize. This was true at Aberdeen and again at United. United’s goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar had went the wrong way!

Fergie won 2 European Cups in 22 years. He had a financial superiority over his domestic rivals for years until Chelsea turned up in 2004 under Russian oligarch Roman Ambramovitch. This may impress some, but if he was the manager of Ipswich Town or Sunderland and had done this, then it is an impressive record. However only 2 wins in European football’s premier competition in 26 years shows he cannot be classed as the best.

Over 22 years of leading United into Europe, Fergie would have to have won 4 or 5 European Cups to merit the “Greatest Ever” tag. His first final in 1999 saw United trail Bayern Munich 1-0 as the game went into injury time. And I’ll tell you why.

The Myth

Manchester United’s former manager, Sir Alex Ferguson is the greatest manager in the history of football. Critics of the Scottish league would say that for Jock Stein or Walter Smith to win many championships at Celtic and Rangers is down to the lack of competition in a ‘poor’ Scottish league, then one could argue that Fergie may not have had a great deal of competition too. You have to win the big competitions. Fergie believes in control and discipline. But United outspent them over the 1990s.

This is where domestic trophies should always be discounted when we discuss the best managers. It is one of British sports great “What If” questions to imagine what Fergie would have achieved at Aberdeen? What would Scottish football have been like in the 1990s? And what would Manchester United, Sky Sports, and the English Premiership have been like without Fergie and his all-conquering United side?

Pantheon of Greats

Without question Sir Alex Ferguson is an all time great. Pep Guardiola won 2 with his superb Barcelona team in just 4 seasons.

The Truth

Sir Alex, or ‘Fergie’ as he is known, is one of the greatest managers in British football, but when you considerdifferent judging criteria he comes up short as the best of all time. He contested 4 European cup finals in total winning 2. However it could be argued that he had a greater competitive advantage over his rivals for a longer period than these managers due to Manchester United’s rise as a global superpower. This is an impressive success rate over a sustained period in charge of a football club. Remarkably United scored twice in 3 minutes from David Beckham corners to pip the Germans. Perhaps Fergie was coming to achieve the dominance he craved near the end of his career as from 2008-11 he reached 3 out of 4 European finals, an achievement if he had sustained earlier then he would have become the all time best.

Domestic Success

This is the foundation ofFergie’s reputation. And 2 European Cup Winners Cup (1 with United and 1 with Aberdeen).

Aberdeen

Fergie’s greatest success was with Aberdeen. 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and 2 European Champions League trophies. Brian Clough won 2 with little Nottingham Forest! Bob Paisley won 3 European Cups in a very short spell. Blackburn Rovers and their millionaire owner Jack Walker ‘bought success’ when they won the title in 1995. This goes for any sport. However hiscontrol was found lacking during Eric Cantona’s infamous ‘kung fu’ kick at a spectator. His longevity at United is comparable to the likes of Brian Clough (Nottingham Forest), Matt Busby (Manchester United) and Jim McLean (Dundee United). Fergie broke this mould along with to a lesser extent Jim McLean at Dundee United. It could also be argued that when the European Cup was revamped to the Champions League he gained an advantage previous British and European managers never had. The number of trophies he won both at Manchester United and more impressively at Aberdeen is not debatable. The 2 wins Fergie achieved were also in very dramatic circumstances and could easily have went the other way

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Harry L. Cannady

Harry L. Cannady

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