The following season, Ferguson received an invitation from St. Mirren, which despite being lower in the league than East Stirlingshire, was a bigger club and he took up the offer. This move was a good one, with Ferguson converting the team from a trailing Second Division team to First Division champions by 1977. On the way, Ferguson uncovered talent such as Tony Fitzpatrick, Frank McGarvey, Peter Weir and Billy Stark, amongst others. Despite this, St. Mirren holds the distinction of being the only club to sack Ferguson. Even though he claimed wrongful dismissal, Ferguson lost and was then given no leave to appeal. Some of the reasons given were that Ferguson indulged in unauthorized payments to players and for intimidating his office staff to get his players expenses tax free. So much so, that Willie Todd, St. Mirren chairman, went on to claim that Ferguson has ‘no managerial ability’. Later when asked about the comment, Todd revealed that the cause for dismissal was Ferguson having agreed to join Aberdeen, without consulting the club.
Ferguson did indeed join Aberdeen as manager in 1978, succeeding Billy McNeill, who had been managing the team for only the last season. At the time of his joining, Aberdeen, despite being one of the bigger clubs in Scotland, had not won the league since 1955. But the team was performing remarkably well, and had finished second in the league the last season. Despite having four years of experience under his belt, Ferguson was having trouble gaining the trust of players, who were nearly his own age, in particular Joe Harper. Aberdeen finished a disappointing fourth at the end of the season. They lost the league cup again in 1979, for which Ferguson took responsibility,
But after the rough start, Aberdeen went on to win the Scottish League, breaking the run of the Rangers and the Celtics, who had been winning the title since the last 15 years. Furious Fergie, a nickname his players gave him, was finally able to claim that he had the faith of the team in him. The team went on to win the Scottish Cup in 1982.
But Ferguson was not done with the team. In the 1982-83 season, Aberdeen qualified for the European Cup Winner’s Cup, due to their Scottish Cup win, and began by beating Bayern Munich and then Real Madrid for the final prize. Aberdeen was the third Scottish team to lift a European trophy, and they even retained the Scottish Cup for the second time. But Ferguson described the team’s performance as disgraceful, despite the win, though he retracted the statement later.
The 1983-84 season started out to a sluggish start, but soon picked up when the team won the Scottish league and retained the Scottish Cup. In honour of his achievements Ferguson was awarded the OBE, in the 1984 honours list. He received offers from Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Rangers. Aberdeen also retained the title in the 1984-85 season, though they had bad luck in the next season with a fourth place finish, but two domestic title wins. In early 1986 Ferguson joined the club’s board of directors, though by April he made clear that he would be leaving in the summer. In 1986, Ferguson also took charge of the Scottish national team, after manager Jock Stein died in September, 1985.
Ferguson also received an offer from Tottenham Hotspur, which he rejected, and another from Arsenal, to replace Don Howe as manager, which also he rejected. Rumour began that Ferguson may head to Manchester United, even though had earlier rejected a move to England with the Wolverhampton Wanderers. Eventually Ferguson confirmed rumours and joined with Manchester United in 1986.
On joining, Ferguson’s main concern was that some players were drinking too much, mainly Paul McGrath, Bryan Robson and Norman Whiteside. He was also unhappy about their level of fitness, and discipline. Ferguson turned it all around and the team began moving up the table, finishing 11th, up from 21st place.
Fergusson had come into English football with one goal, to knock Liverpool off their “[email protected]#!king perch”.
With changes coming in thick and fast, Steve Bruce, Viv Anderson, Brian McClair and Jim Leighton came in as United went up all the way to second place in the title race. Still, Liverpool ended 9 points ahead while maintaining a double-digit lead for almost the entire season.
Things became worse the following year, with United again dropping to 11th in the league while losing in the sixth round of the FA Cup.
Alex Fergusson made his first, and only, appearance for Manchester United when he, along with assistant manager Archie Knox, took to the field in a friendly against a combined team of the Somerset County Cricket Club and the Bermudan National Team. Knox even scored in the game!
In 1989-90, Neil Webb, Paul Ince, Mike Phelan, Gary Palliter and Danny Wallace, all came into Fergusson’s team. The three seasons went by poorly and calls for Fergusson’s head were abound. However, United continued to persist with SAF despite United finishing just outside of the relegation zone in December 1989. An injury-struck United trudged on as Fergusson continue to improve the way the club carried out its coaching and scouting activities.
Then came the match that, everone says, saved Fergusson’s career at Old Trafford. Having lost 7 games on the trot, Fergusson went into a third round FA Cup clash against League Cup defending champions Nottingham Forest. Expected to lose the game, and get fired, Fergusson managed to eke out a 1-nil win over their favoured rivals. United would charge on to win the FA Cup, beating Crystal Palace 1-nil in a replay, following a 3-3 draw in the opening game.
Fergusson had finally managed to win his first title as manager of Manchester United.
Things began improving at the Theatre of Dreams as an inconsistent United finished at sixth on the table, in 1990-91. Manchester United were still looking for their first league title since Sir Matt Busby. United had finished second in the League Cup and had won the European Cup Winners’ Cup, beating Spanish Champions FC Barcelona. Fergusson vowed to win the title the following season.
Peter Schmeichel and Paul Parker came in to bloster his side that now also boasted of an 18-year old Ryan Giggs. Lee Sharpe was the other impressive young player to come out of the youth ranks. Andrei Kanchelskis came in to give the right side another attacking option.
Leading the table for most of 1991-92, Alex Fergusson’s United fell short of Leeds United. The team just couldn’t score enough and despite winning the European Super Cup and the League Cup, United’s brilliant start to the season came to a stop-start close.
In 1992-93, Fergusson splurged in the transfer market and came up with a 12 million pound Eric Cantona. Along with Mark Hughes, Cantona fired United to the top of the Premiership table. Just when it looked like United were going to miss out on the title once again, Cantona & Hughes came good and United managed to end their 26-year league title drought. Alex Fergusson won the first of his many Manager of the Year titles.
Roy Keane came into United, in place of Bryan Robson and Fergusson’s United led the table from the beginning of the season to the end.
Losing the League Cup in the final meant that they wouldn’t manage to grab a domestic treble, despite beating Chelsea 4-nil, to win the FA Cup.
In 1994-95, things became harder for Alex Fergusson. Cantona was banned for 8-months following an assault on a crystal palace supporter. Looking likely to leave England for good, Cantona left Fergusson with no choice but to look for a replacement.
Andy Cole came in from Newcastle with a fine record, while Keith Gillespie went out in exchange. Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes came through the youth ranks, helping United build a solid back-up unit. However, on the final day of the season, a 1-1 draw against West Ham United, when they needed a win, meant that United wouldn’t win their third consecutive title.
Paul Ince then moved on to Internazionale Milan, Mark Hughes moved to Chelsea whil Andrei Kanchelskis went to Everton. No replacement came, only criticism from all ranks at Fergusson’s inability to find backups. Instead of Darren Anderton, Marc Overmars and Roberto Baggio, all of whom were linked with United, Fergusson relied on his youngsters, the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Nicky Butt.
With Cantona’s return, the season was quickly changing as Manchester United were, yet again, a force to be reckoned with. Fergusson’s inexperienced squad was doing the job and well!
United went on to win the league title after a combination of great performances and a series of disasters by league leaders Newcastle United. Fergusson also led United to the FA Cup title, repeating another double.
In the following season, Alex Fergusson won United’s fourth league title in 5 seasons. Although they ended up breaking their European unbeaten home record, they did manage to reach the semi-finals, losing to eventual champions Borussia Dortmund.
In 1997-98, Fergusson got in Teddy Sheringham and Henning Berg to bolster his last season’s signings, Ole Gunnar Solskaer and Ronny Johnsen. Arsenal won the premier league and began a long rivalry with United. Fergusson went trophy-less in 1997-98.
Jaap Stam, Dwight Yorke and Jerper Blomqvist came in to complete a Manchester United side that would go on to create history in 1998-99.
After a series of highly dramatic games such as a 3-2 win over Juventus, in Turin, where United were down 0-2, Fergusson managed to take his side to the finals against German giants Bayern Munich, in the UEFA Champions League. Despite the Germans taking the lead and dominating for the entirety of the game, Manchester United had the last laugh. Two late substitutions, Sheringham and Solskaer, gave United the win over Bayern, with two goals in the last 3 minutes of injury time, at the end of the second half. Bayern had been leading 0-1 up until that point.
This was probably the most dramatic of the three, however not the only one. Their FA cup semi-final tie was against arch-rivals Arsenal and after the scores remained level for almost the entire regulation time, Arsenal got a penalty in the 90th minute. Peter Schmeichel came up big to give United the chance to take the game into extra time. In extra time, it was a magical run by Ryan Giggs, from inside his own half, past 4 Arsenal players, that led to the match-winner being struck.
While the final was a comfortable 2-0 win over Newcastle, Alex Fergusson completed the League, Cup and European treble to gain knighthood at the end of the season.
In the following year, Manchester United and Fergusson would continue their run to the titles, winning the Premier League for a third-consecutive season. Despite Arsenal and Leeds putting pressure, United were clearly miles ahead of their rivals.
In 2000, Fergusson looked to bring Ruud van Nistelrooij to Old Trafford but failing a medical, he was forced to return. Fabien Barthez came in and United won their fourth title in a row. The following season, Ruud van Nistelrooij came to Manchester and so did Juan Sebastian Veron. While the Argentine didn’t have such a good time, Nistelrooij had no trouble running through the gears.
2001-02 saw the beginning of a rebuilding phase where Fergusson made many changes to his team. Laurent Blanc came in, in place of Jaap Stam. After coming in at 9th place, during the December half-way point, Fergusson turned United’s fortunes around and eight successive wins later, they were near the top again. United ended the season in third place!
A trophy-less season was marred by the fact that they went without reaching the semi-finals even, of any tournament. Bringing Rio Ferdinand in, United looked set for their 8th title in 2002-03, after Arsenal gave up an 8-point lead in the final two months of the season. A combination of good football and great luck was helping Fergusson maintain his trophy winning seasons at United.
In 2003-04, Arsenal had an undefeated season that saw them win the Permier League title, Fergusson’s United only managing third place. Fergusson brought in Cristiano Ronaldo, a young Portuguese winger who promised much. At the beginning of 2004-05, Wayne Rooney and Gabriel Heinze came intot he team but without an injured van Nistelrooij, Fergusson was suffering for the lack of goals. Chelsea and Jose Mourinho won the Premier League title while United were humiliated out of the Champions League by eventual finalists AC Milan. The League and FA Cups didn’t go well and United ended without a trophy.
Fergusson’s build-up in 2005-06 was marred by a change in ownership, in the Manchester United boardroom.
Despite everything, Fergusson did manage to sign Edwin van der Sar and Park ji Sung to block out their midfield and goalkeeping issues.
Roy Keane left the club and Nemanja Vidic came in along with Patrice Evra. Chelsea again won the title as United came in at second.
In November, 2006 Fergusson celebrated his 20th season as manager of Manchester United.
Despite a ninth Premier League title, United were denied a double by Chelsea. In 2007-08, Fergusson brought in Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich, along with Nani, Luis Anderson and Carlos Tevez.Despite a terrible start to the season, Fergusson’s United pulled things back and won the league title as well as the UEFA Champions League title, again as a second best team to Chelsea.
In 2008-09, Fergusson played out his cards slowly, struggling with an injury struck team. He did, however, go on to win his second run of three consecutive league titles, with his 11th in a United shirt. United also went on to win the League Cup but lost their second consecutive UEFA Champions League final to FC Barcelona.
In 2009-10, Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea held Manchester United off to win the title with a record number of goals and points. Fergusson had to settle for the League Cup only, losing out to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.