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25 years in charge, Fergie makes winning a habit at Old Trafford

Last updated on: November 2, 2011 10:06 IST

25 years in charge, Fergie has made winning a habit at Old Trafford

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As Sir Alex Ferguson completes 25 years in charge of Manchester United, Bikash Mohapatra takes a look at the Scot's legacy at Old Trafford.

Since he was three Stuart used to accompany his father, Gordon, to Old Trafford.

The latter, a big Manchester United fan, wanted his son to be the same. The routine continued for almost 15 years.

"We rarely missed a home game," gushed Gordon, getting nostalgic when quizzed on the topic. The fact that Manchester United won most of those games ensured several memorable moments for the father-son duo.

For the past three years, though, the two have seldom followed the routine they followed so diligently for many years. Gordon has moved back to London, now pledging his support to First Division side West Ham while Stuart continues to be in Manchester, albeit switching his allegiance to the city's other club, Man City.

"It's become boring," said Gordon, in a matter-of-fact tone.


Image: Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is rewarded with an honorary doctorate during the graduation ceremony at the University of Stirling
Photographs: Getty Images
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Winning is no surprise at Old Trafford any more

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"United has won so much in the last few years that it has become very predictable," he continued, adding, "Yes, Blackburn, Arsenal and Chelsea have also won, but Sir Alex Ferguson has made Man United invincible."

It is sheer irony that in the year Ferguson completes a silver jubilee at Old Trafford (on November 6) two of the clubs' most loyal fans haven't watched a single game of their once-favourite club.

It is not difficult though to fathom the waning interest of Gordon and Stuart. In his 25 years at Manchester, Ferguson has led United to such great heights that them winning doesn't come across as a surprise anymore.


Image: Sir Alex Ferguson manager of Manchester United in action as he attends the Manchester United training session prior to UEFA Champions League Final versus Barcelona
Photographs: Getty Images
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Fergie has led United to many accolades

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The statistics speak for themselves. A whopping 12 Premier League titles -- out of 19 since the inception of the EPL in 1992-93, five FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions League and a Cup Winners' Cup are among the many accolades the club has garnered with Fergie in charge.

The manner in which the Red Devils have dominated the Premier League, in particular, makes Gordon's 'boring' at the outset an apt remark. Suffice to say United, under Ferguson, has made the Premier League a one-horse race on most occasions.

The Scot has made winning such a regular feature that it has become boring. For fans like Gordon, there is always an option to switch allegiance. For other loyalists, it is just about waiting eagerly for their manager to lead them to their next triumph.


Image: Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson is greeted by mascot Fred the Red
Photographs: Getty Images
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Man U languished in 21st place when Ferguson took charge

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It wasn't all hunky-dory to begin with, though.

Man United languished in 21st place in the table when Ferguson took charge, replacing Ron Atkinson, on Novemeber 6, 1986.

The Scot, who had led Aberdeen to unprecedented success in his previous assignment, could lead his new club to no higher than 11th place in each of his first three seasons in charge.


Image: Sir Alex Ferguson
Photographs: David Cannon/Allsport
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'Three years of excuses and...'

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In his fourth season (1989), the club had an early season run of six defeats and two draws, this despite the manager making several high-profile signings. A humiliating 1-5 reverse to City in a derby that September added to Ferguson's agony.

So frustrated had the fans become with the club's miserable performances that a banner declaring 'Three years of excuses and it's still crap...ta-ra Fergie' was displayed at Old Trafford, with many scribes joining the fans in demanding Ferguson to be sacked.

The astute manager later described December 1989, one that witnessed United ending the decade just outside the relegation zone, as 'the darkest period he had ever suffered in the game'.


Image: Sir Alex Ferguson
Photographs: Getty Images
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In his seventh year in charge, Fergie finally delivered

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Respite came in the form of an FA Cup triumph in May 1990, Ferguson's first trophy at the Old Trafford. United winning the now-defunct UEFA Cup Winners' Cup the following year further eased the pressure on the manager.

Further success came in the 1991-92 season with United winning the League Cup and Super Cup. However, there was disappointment in store as well as the club failed to win the League, losing out to Leeds United despite leading for most parts of the season.

However, in the first year of the Premier League (1992-93), a smart purchase by Ferguson -- Eric Cantona from Leeds -- proved to be the masterstroke as the Frenchman helped the club win their first league title in 26 years.

In his seventh year in charge, Fergie had finally delivered!


Image: Eric Cantona (left) of Manchester United and Alex Ferguson (right) Manager of Manchester United hold the trophies after winning the F A Cup and the Premier League
Photographs: Getty Images
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'Football. Bloody hell.'

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It also marked the start of the golden phase of the club. The Red Devils won the league title four more times that decade and the FA Cup on three more occasions. And, in 1999, Ferguson took the club to European supremacy.

Down a goal, against German giants Bayern Munich, for most of the match, United made a spectacular comeback at the Nou Camp to score two extra-time goals to seal a memorable triumph -- their first since the legendary Matt Busby had led them to glory back in 1968.

'I can't believe it. I can't believe it. Football. Bloody hell,' Ferguson was quoted as saying later.


Image: Sir Alex Ferguson with the 1999 UEFA Champions League trophy
Photographs: Getty Images
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Ferguson made some intelligent signings

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The new millennium ensured more success for United and Ferguson. Six league titles, one FA Cup, three League Cups and a second Champions League triumph in 2007-08, amongst others, made it one of the most successful decades for the Red Devils and Fergie, in turn, became their most successful manager ever.

During his tenure at Old Trafford, Ferguson has made a plethora intelligent signings, Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Edwin van der Sar and Javier Hernandez, to name a few. Many of Ferguson's picks haven't necessarily been high-profile names. They, nonetheless, have made immense contributions in making United the winning machine that the club currently is.

It is not that Fergie has never gone wrong with his selections, signings like Jaap Stam, Juan Sebastien Veron, Diego Forlan et al proved anything but an asset at Old Trafford. However, on more occasion than not the Scot's astute mind has picked the right player for the right role.

Besides, credit has to be given to him for grooming the likes of David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and even Ryan Giggs.

With United winning a record 19th league title this season (2010-11), their manager's stock has further gone up.


Image: Alex Ferguson welcomes new signing, Ruud Van Nistelrooy to Manchester United at Old Trafford
Photographs: Getty Images
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It has been a long and extremely productive journey

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As Fergie completes 25 years in charge at the club, he shows no signs of calling it quits, even though he is about two months short of his 70th birthday.

'I just don't think about retirement any more. When you've been on the treadmill for so long, 25 years in my case, and my health is good at the moment, it's just a matter of looking forward to being the manager of Manchester United, rather than worrying about Alex Ferguson,' he was quoted as saying last month when queried on the topic.

When he says something like the above, it is not for effect. Even as he enters the eighth decade of his life, Ferguson is still looking forward to new challenges. And reverses, when they do happen -- like the 6-1 thrashing to City in the recent Manchester derby -- serve more as inspiration than a distraction.

For Ferguson, the last 25 years have been a long and extremely productive journey, probably one that will continue for many more years. 


Image: -Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson applauds the fans after victory in the FA Community Shield match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium
Photographs: Getty Images
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