|Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United F.C.|
Sir Alexander Chapman "Alex" Ferguson, CBE (born 31 December 1941) is a Scottish football manager and former player who has managed Manchester United since 1986. His time at the club has led to Ferguson being one of the most admired and respected managers in the history of the game.
Ferguson managed East Stirlingshire and St. Mirren before a highly successful period as manager of Aberdeen. After briefly managingScotland following the death of Jock Stein, he was appointed manager of Manchester United in November 1986.
Ferguson is the longest serving manager of Manchester United, overtaking Sir Matt Busby's record on 19 December 2010, and the longest serving of all current League managers. He has won many awards and holds many records including winning Manager of the Year most times in British football history. In 2008, he became the third British manager to win the European Cup on more than one occasion. He was knighted in 1999 for his services to the game and also holds the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen.
On 8 May 2013, Ferguson announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United. During his 26 years at the club, he won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, and the UEFA Champions League twice.
Born to Alexander Beaton Ferguson, a plater's helper in the shipbuilding industry, and his wife, the former Elizabeth Hardie, Alex Ferguson was born at his grandmother's home on Shieldhall Road, Govan, on 31 December 1941, but grew up in a tenement at 667 Govan Road which has since been demolished where he lived with his parents as well as his younger brother Martin.
He attended Broomloan Road Primary School and later Govan High School, and supported Rangers.
Ferguson's playing career began as an amateur with Queen's Park, where he made his debut as a striker aged 16. He described his first match as a "nightmare", but scored Queen's Park's goal in a 2–1 defeat against Stranraer. Perhaps his most notable game for Queen's Park was the 7–1 defeat away to Queen of the South on Boxing Day 1959 when ex-England international Ivor Broadis scored four of the Queen of the South goals. Ferguson was the solitary Queen's Park goalscorer.
Despite scoring 20 goals in his 31 games for Queen's Park, he could not command a regular place in the side and moved to St. Johnstone in 1960. Although he continued to score regularly at St. Johnstone, he was still unable to command a regular place and regularly requested transfers. Ferguson was out of favour at the club and he even considered emigrating to Canada, however St. Johnstone's failure to sign a forward led the manager to select Ferguson for a match against Rangers, in which he scored a hat trick in a surprise victory. Dunfermline signed him the following summer (1964), and Ferguson became a full-time professional footballer.
The following season (1964–65), Dunfermline were strong challengers for the Scottish League and reached the Scottish Cup Final, but Ferguson was dropped for the final after a poor performance in a league game against St. Johnstone. Dunfermline lost the final 3–2 to Celtic, then failed to win the League by one point. The 1965–66 season saw Ferguson notch up 45 goals in 51 games for Dunfermline. Along with Joe McBride of Celtic, he was the top goalscorer in the Scottish League with 31 goals.
He then joined Rangers for £65,000, then a record fee for a transfer between two Scottish clubs. He was blamed for a goal that they conceded in the 1969 Scottish Cup Final, in a match in which he was designated to mark Celtic captain, Billy McNeill, and was subsequently forced to play for the club's junior side instead of for the first team. According to his brother, Ferguson was so upset by the experience that he threw his losers' medal away. There have been claims that he suffered discrimination at Rangers after his marriage to a Catholic, Cathy Holding, but Ferguson himself makes it clear in his autobiography that Rangers knew of his wife's religion when he joined the club and that he left the club very reluctantly, due to the fall-out from his alleged cup final mistake.
The following October, Nottingham Forest wanted to sign Ferguson, but his wife was not keen on moving to England at that time so he went to Falkirk instead. He was promoted to player-coach there, but when John Prentice became manager he removed Ferguson's coaching responsibilities. Ferguson responded by requesting a transfer and moved to Ayr United, where he finished his playing career in 1974.
Early managerial career
In June 1974, Ferguson was appointed manager of East Stirlingshire, at the comparatively young age of 32. It was a part-time job that paid £40 per week, and the club did not have a singlegoalkeeper at the time. He gained a reputation as a disciplinarian, with club forward Bobby McCulley later saying he had "never been afraid of anyone before but Ferguson was a frightening bastard from the start."
The following October, Ferguson was invited to manage St. Mirren. While they were below East Stirlingshire in the league, they were a bigger club and although Ferguson felt a degree of loyalty towards East Stirlingshire, he decided to join St. Mirren after taking advice from Jock Stein.
Ferguson was manager of St. Mirren from 1974 until 1978, producing a remarkable transformation of a team in the lower half of the old Second Division watched by crowds of just over 1,000, toFirst Division champions in 1977, discovering talent like Billy Stark, Tony Fitzpatrick, Lex Richardson, Frank McGarvey, Bobby Reid and Peter Weir while playing superb attacking football. The average age of the league winning team was 19 and the captain, Fitzpatrick, was 20.
St. Mirren have the distinction of being the only club ever to sack Ferguson. He claimed wrongful dismissal against the club at an industrial tribunal but lost and was given no leave to appeal. According to a Billy Adams Sunday Herald article on 30 May 1999, the official version is that Ferguson was sacked for various breaches of contract including unauthorised payments to players.He was counter-accused of intimidating behaviour towards his office secretary because he wanted players to get some expenses tax free. He didn't speak to her for six weeks, confiscated her keys and communicated only through a 17-year-old assistant. The tribunal concluded that Ferguson was "particularly petty" and "immature". It was claimed during the tribunal by St. Mirren chairman, Willie Todd, that Ferguson had "no managerial ability".
On 31 May 2008, The Guardian published an interview with Todd (then aged 87), who had sacked Ferguson all those years earlier. He explained that the fundamental reason for the dismissal was a breach of contract relating to Ferguson having agreed to join Aberdeen. Ferguson told journalist Jim Rodger of the Daily Mirror that he had asked at least one member of the squad to go to Aberdeen with him. He also told the St. Mirren staff he was leaving. Todd expressed regret over what happened but blamed Aberdeen for not approaching his club to discuss compensation.
Ferguson joined Aberdeen as manager in June 1978, replacing Billy McNeill who had only managed the club for one season before he was offered the chance to manage Celtic. Although Aberdeen were one of Scotland's major clubs they had won the league only once, in 1955 under Dave Halliday. The team had been playing well, however, and had not lost a league match since the previous December, having finished second in the league the previous season. Ferguson had now been a manager for four years, but was still not much older than some of the players and had trouble winning the respect of some of the older ones such as Joe Harper. The season did not go especially well, with Aberdeen reaching the semi-final of the Scottish Cup and theScottish League Cup Final, but losing both matches and finishing fourth in the league.
Aberdeen also lost the 1979–80 Scottish League Cup Final, this time to Dundee United after a replay. Ferguson took the blame for the defeat, saying he should have made changes to the team for the replay.
1980s and silverware
Aberdeen had started the season poorly but their form improved dramatically in the new year and they won the Scottish league that season with a 5–0 win on the final day. It was the first time in fifteen years that the league had not been won by either Rangers or Celtic. Ferguson now felt that he had the respect of his players, later saying "That was the achievement which united us. I finally had the players believing in me".
He was still a strict disciplinarian, though, and his players nicknamed him Furious Fergie. He fined one of his players, John Hewitt, for overtaking him on a public road, and kicked a tea urn at the players at half time after a poor first half. He was dissatisfied with the atmosphere at Aberdeen matches, and deliberately created a 'siege mentality' by accusing the Scottish media of being biased towards the Glasgow clubs, in order to motivate the team. The team continued their success with a Scottish Cup win in 1982. Ferguson was offered the managers' job at Wolvesbut turned it down as he felt that Wolves were in trouble and "[his] ambitions at Aberdeen were not even half fulfilled".
Ferguson led Aberdeen to even greater success the following season (1982–83). They had qualified for the European Cup Winners' Cup as a result of winning the Scottish Cup the previous season, and impressively knocked out Bayern Munich, who had beaten Tottenham Hotspur 4–1 in the previous round. According to Willie Miller, this gave them the confidence to believe that they could go on to win the competition, which they did, with a 2–1 victory over Real Madrid in the final on 11 May 1983. Aberdeen became only the third Scottish team to win a European trophy and Ferguson now felt that "he'd done something worthwhile with his life". Aberdeen had also performed well in the league that season, and retained the Scottish Cup with a 1–0 victory over Rangers, but Ferguson was not happy with his team's play in that match and upset the players by describing theirs as a "disgraceful performance" in a televised interview after the match, a statement he later retracted.
After a sub-standard start to the 1983–84 season, Aberdeen's form improved and the team won the Scottish league and retained the Scottish Cup. Ferguson was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1984 honours list, and was offered the managers' jobs at Rangers, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur during the season. Aberdeen retained their league title in the 1984–85 season, but had a disappointing season in 1985–86, finishing fourth in the league, although they did win both domestic cups. Ferguson had been appointed to the club's board of directors early in 1986, but that April he told Dick Donald, their chairman, that he intended to leave that summer.
Ferguson had been part of coaching staff for the Scottish national side during qualifying for the 1986 World Cup, but manager Jock Stein had collapsed and died on 10 September 1985 – at the end of the game in which Scotland qualified from their group for a play-off against Australia. Ferguson promptly agreed to take charge of the Scottish national side against the Australians and subsequently at the World Cup. To allow him to fulfil his international duties he appointed Archie Knox as his co-manager at Aberdeen. However, after Scotland failed to progress past the group stages of the World Cup, Ferguson stepped down as national team manager on 15 June 1986.
Around this time, Tottenham Hotspur offered Ferguson the chance to take over from Peter Shreeves as manager, but he rejected this offer and the job went to Luton Town's David Pleat instead. There was also an offer for Ferguson to replace Don Howe as Arsenal manager, but he rejected this offer as well, and fellow Scot George Graham took the post instead. That summer, there had been speculation that he would take over from Ron Atkinson at Manchester United, who had slumped to fourth in the English top flight after a ten-match winning start had made title glory seem inevitable.
It was not the first time that Ferguson had been linked with a move to England. In February 1982, Wolverhampton Wanderers had approached him about succeeding John Barnwell as manager as they were heading for relegation from the First Division. He rejected this offer, perhaps concerned about the club's financial stability, as they were more than £2million in debt at the time and narrowly avoided going out of business. At the end of the 1984–85 season, it was reported that Ferguson was being considered for the Liverpool manager's job after the retirement of Joe Faganwas announced, but the job was quickly accepted by Liverpool striker Kenny Dalglish.
At the end of the 1985–86 season, both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur had approached him about becoming their new manager, but he rejected the offers from both North London clubs.
Ferguson had also been approached for the Rangers job in October 1983, but also rejected this offer.
Although Ferguson remained at Aberdeen over the summer, he did eventually join Manchester United when Atkinson was sacked in November 1986.
Managing Manchester United
Appointment and first years
Ferguson was appointed manager at Old Trafford on 6 November 1986. He was initially worried that many of the players, such as Norman Whiteside, Paul McGrath and Bryan Robson were drinking too much and was "depressed" by their level of fitness, but he managed to increase the players' discipline and United climbed up the table to finish the season in 11th place, having been 21st (second from bottom) when he took over.
His first game in charge was a 2–0 defeat at underdogs Oxford United on 8 November, followed seven days later by a goalless draw at newly promoted Norwich City, and then his first win (1–0 at home to QPR) on 22 November. Results steadily improved as the season went on, and by the time they recorded what would be their only away win of the league campaign at title challengers and deadly rivals Liverpool on Boxing Day, it was clear that United were on the road to recovery. 1987 began on a high note with a 4–1 victory over Newcastle United and United gradually pulled together in the second half of the season, with relatively occasional defeats on the way, and finished 11th in the final table. Ferguson's mother, Elizabeth died of lung cancer, aged 64, three weeks after his appointment. Ferguson appointed Archie Knox, his assistant at Aberdeen, as his assistant at Manchester United in 1986.
In the 1987–88 season, Ferguson made several major signings, including Steve Bruce, Viv Anderson, Brian McClair and Jim Leighton. The new players made a great contribution to a United team who finished in second place, nine points behind Liverpool. However, Liverpool's points lead had been in double digits for most of the season and while United had lost only five league games all season, they drew 12 games and there was clearly still some way to go before United could be a match for their north western rivals.
United were expected to do well when Mark Hughes returned to the club two years after leaving for Barcelona, but the 1988–89 season was a disappointment for them, finishing eleventh in the league and losing 1–0 at home to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup Sixth Round. They had begun the season slowly, going on a nine-match winless run throughout October and November (with one defeat and eight draws) before a run of generally good results took them to third place and the fringes of the title challenge by mid February. However, another run of disappointing results in the final quarter of the season saw them fall down to mid table.
During the season, United played in friendly matches against the Bermudan national team and Somerset County Cricket Club as part of the Bermudan team's tour of England. In the match against Somerset, both Ferguson himself and his assistant, Archie Knox, took to the field, with Knox even getting on the scoresheet. The match remains Ferguson's only appearance for the Manchester United first team.
For the 1989–90 season, Ferguson further boosted his squad by paying large sums of money for midfielders Neil Webb, Mike Phelan and Paul Ince, as well as defender Gary Pallister and wingerDanny Wallace. The season began well with a 4–1 win over defending champions Arsenal on the opening day, but United's league form quickly turned sour. In September, United suffered a humiliating 5–1 away defeat against fierce rivals Manchester City. Following this and an early season run of six defeats and two draws in eight games, a banner declaring "Three years of excuses and it's still crap ... ta-ra Fergie." was displayed at Old Trafford, and many journalists and supporters called for Ferguson to be sacked. Ferguson later described December 1989 as "the darkest period [he had] ever suffered in the game", as United ended the decade just outside the relegation zone.
However, Ferguson later revealed that the board of directors had assured him that they were not considering dismissing him. Although naturally disappointed with the lack of success in the league, they understood the reasons for the sub-standard results (namely the absence of several key players due to injury) and were pleased with the way that Ferguson had reorganised the club's coaching and scouting system.
Following a run of seven games without a win, Manchester United were drawn away to Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup. Forest were performing well that season and were in the process of winning the League Cup for the second season running, and it was expected that United would lose the match and Ferguson would consequently be sacked, but United won the game 1–0 thanks to a Mark Robins goal and eventually reached the final. This cup win is often cited as the match that saved Ferguson's Old Trafford career, even though it has since been stated that his job was never at risk. United went on to win the FA Cup, beating Crystal Palace 1–0 in the final replay after a 3–3 draw in the first match, giving Ferguson his first major trophy as Manchester United manager. United's defensive frailties in the first match were unilaterally blamed on goalkeeper Jim Leighton, forcing Ferguson to drop his former Aberdeen player and bring inLes Sealey.