Sir Alex Ferguson
|Managing:|| Manchester United|
|Date of Birth:|| 31/12/1941|
Alex Ferguson succeeded Ron Atkinson as Manchester United manager on 6th November 1986 and in his first full season guided United to a League runners-up position. This was nothing compared to the success he was to later enjoy at Old Trafford as he built a team capable of matching the best in Europe.
Born in Govan, Glasgow Ferguson made his league debut for Scottish Second Division side Stranraer in 1957 having joined from amateur club Queen's Park and having represented his country at Youth and Amateur levels. He joined St Johnstone on a part-time basis in 1960 whilst completing his apprenticeship as a toolmaker for a typewriter manufacturer. He went on to score 19 goals in 37 league appearances for St. Johnstone before an exchange deal took him to Dunfermline Athletic as a full-time professional in 1964.
He gained his first taste of European football with the Fife club and moved to Rangers, the team he supported as a boy, in 1967, spending two-and-a-half years at Ibrox before joining Falkirk where he began to take on coaching duties. His final playing days were spent at Ayr United as a part-timer as he pursued business interests before being appointed to his first managerial position at East Stirlingshire in July 1974.
He moved to moved to St Mirren in October that year and promptly guided the Paisley club to the First Division Championship in 1976-77. This led to a number of offers from the bigger clubs in Scotland and Ferguson accepted the manager's job at Aberdeen in 1978.
It was with the Granite City club that he really began to make a name for himself as The Dons eclipsed their Old Firm rivals taking three league titles, four Scottish Cups and a League Cup in eight seasons. Probably Ferguson's greatest achievement at Pittodrie came in 1983 when he led Aberdeen to victory over Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners Cup.
The untimely death of Scotland manager Jock Stein in 1986 led to Ferguson taking over the national team temporarily for the World Cup finals in Mexico. He turned down the opportunity to remain in charge of Scotland on a permanent basis however, as well as several other lucrative offers, to move South of the border and manage Manchester United.
He was charged with returning the glory days to Old Trafford and United fans were expectant having waited over twenty years since their last league title. His first three years at United did not bring the success that he had enjoyed in Scotland however and it seemed at one stage that his tenure in Manchester may be short-lived.
Victory in the 1990 FA Cup final replay over Crystal Palace however began an incredible run that saw United win countless trophies as they dominated the English game. A European Cup Winners Cup followed in 1991 and a League Cup in 1992, as United were edged into second place in the League by Howard Wilkinson's Leeds United.
The following year saw the inauguration of the Premier League and Ferguson drafted in the mercurial French striker Eric Cantona, a League Championship winner with Leeds and a precocious talent. He was instrumental in helping United end their twenty-six year wait to capture the elusive League title, with Ferguson becoming the first man to manage teams to Premier League titles on both sides of the border.
1993-94 saw United and Ferguson repeat their success of the previous year, this time going one better, winning the League and Cup double. Blackburn Rovers pipped the Reds to the trophy in 1994-95 and Ferguson tasted defeat in the FA Cup final but United were triumphant once again, on both fronts, as they won another Double in 1995-96, missing out on an unprecedented treble as they lost to Aston Villa in the League Cup final.
Another League title followed in 1996-97 before Arsenal stole the limelight, winning the Double themselves in 1997-98, coming from behind to snatch the Premiership trophy from the holders. This served only to stir Ferguson and his team into action as the 1999-2000 season brought United an incredible treble. Despite losing his long-time assistant Brian Kidd halfway through the season, Ferguson - with the help of Kidd's replacement, Steve McClaren - led the Red Devils to victory in the League, the FA Cup and the European Champions League in an incredible two-week period, the like of which may never be repeated.
Controversially, United did not defend the FA Cup the following year and they were knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage by eventual winners Real Madrid. They made a successful defence of their Premiership title however, beating Arsenal by an incredible 18 points.
The following season brought United's seventh league title in nine years as they clinched the Premiership crown yet again, this time with a record five games to spare, making Ferguson the most successful manager in the history of English football.
Alex Ferguson became Sir Alex in 1999 (having already received the OBE and CBE honours in 1983 and 1995 respectively) as his achievements in football were recognised. It is largely thanks to his success in the transfer market that he has achieved so much in English football.
Signings such as Peter Schmeichel, Dennis Irwin, Eric Cantona, Paul Ince, Andy Cole, Jaap Stam, Roy Keane, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have all made significant contributions to United's success during Ferguson's time in charge. Alongside young players like David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary and Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Wes Brown, whose talents have been nurtured at Old Trafford, these players helped United produce an almost unchallenged level of performance that has enabled them to dominate the domestic game in a similar fashion to the Liverpool side of the 1980's.
Having spent nearly £50million on two new players in the summer of 2001 - Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastien Veron - Sir Alex took to the training field. Having served his apprenticeship as a coach at Derby and Old Trafford, Steve McClaren accepted an offer to become the manager of Middlesbrough. Having planned to retire as manager of United after the 2001/2002, Ferguson felt it would be unfair to recruit an new assistant for a single season and appointed Jim Ryan as his number two, taking on more of the coaching responsibilities himself.
Midway through the campaign, as speculation continued unabated as to who would replace Sir Alex, the United boss had a change of mind and signed a new three-year deal to stay on at Old Trafford.
Hoping to lead his team to Champions League glory once again, as well as a record fourth straight Premiership title, Ferguson was disappointed to end the year empty handed. Despite drawing both legs of their semi-final with Bayer Leverkusen, United went out of Europe's most prestigious competition on away goals.
To make matters worse, the league title was won by Arsenal - who completed another domestic double - and Liverpool snatched second place and automatic qualification for the following season's Champions League proper.
Nevertheless, Sir Alex's desire for success remains as strong as ever, as do his efforts to promote the work of the LMA and improve the lot of his fellow managers and the English game itself.
Prior to the beginning of the 2002-03 season, he appointed a new assistant, Carlos Queiroz, the Mozambique-born former Portugal and South Africa coach, and smashed the British transfer record to sign Rio Ferdinand from Leeds United for £33million; signally his intentions for the new campaign.
Aberdeen (SC), St.Mirren (SC), East Stirling (SC)
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