So 25 years later and he’s won 12 league titles, 2 European Cups, 5 F.A Cups, 4 League Cups, a European Cup Winners Cup and of course a World Club Championship – it’s safe to say anyone in opposition would refrain from having a medal comparison.
Not even Ryan Giggs would be able to say “get your medals out”.
As Alan Hansen said on yesterday’s MOTD “success is the easy part”, because many managers can build top sides and have a successful period. The trick is to be able to sustain that success. This being the hallmark of Ferguson’s era. Does the years 1995, 1998, 2002 and 2005 ring a bell? They are the only years that Manchester United have had a trophy-less season since Fergie’s first triumph in 1990. A feat that Celtic or Rangers would struggle with even in their mickey mouse league in Scotland. The main reason that this sustained success was the case is due to Sir Alex’s brilliance in dismantling one top side that are waning and then building an instant team again. There’s no Wenger transition at Manchester United, Ferguson refuses to allow it.
The team being built at the moment could be seen as Fergusons 6th or 7th team, but there are three sides in my mind that stand out. Football teams that would challenge any other in any era – three Ferguson sides that stood out from the rest and who became heroes amongst the Old Trafford faithful, who graced the turf with verve, panache, grit and determination, who could create moments that would encapsulate not only the imagination of Manchester United fans, but football supporters across the globe. Even ABU’s stopped and took notice, but how do you separate their brilliance? How can you decide which great team was better? By examining the 1994 double winning side, the 1999 treble winners and the 2008 European and League double winners – that is what I’ll be aiming to do…
Famously at the beginning of the 1993/94 season Ferguson showed his squad a small envelope, with seemingly five names enclosed inside and told his players that he has five names written down of possible big time Charlie’s, who will get complacent – only to be opened if the success of the previous season was not repeated. A masterstroke of sports psychology added with the record signing of Roy Keane, this season was destined for success, but why was this team so bloody good? They won the double, but then again so did Chelsea in 2010, but I wouldn’t call them a “Great team”. Simply because they would’ve wiped the floor with that Chelsea team. In goal was Peter Schmeichel in his pomp, then we had the famous Brucey/Pally partnership, Keane and Ince bossed the midfield with Sparky and the King making magic up front. No English opposition could beat them for skill, will or toughness. If you didn’t want to play and wanted a battle that’s what you would invariably get. Shortly after that glorious season, United with the same bunch came up against Dave Bassett’s Wimbledon, with Bassett depicting the strength of the United team : Before the game the press boys had asked me whether we could put Alex’s players under pressure a bit and maybe even intimidate them. I said: ‘Are you f***ing joking? Look, they’ve got Keane, Hughes and, Cantona – not to mention Steve Bruce. They’re not exactly a bunch of wimps, are they?’. The only thing lacking was the European success with the Reds infamously being knocked out by Galatasaray, but there was a legitimate reason for the European disappointment because Fergie was forced to choose between his foreign contingent of players due to the ridiculous 3 foreigner rule. This team will definitely be remembered for creating a lot of heroes for fans and also winning the clubs first ever Double.
Best 11: Schmeichel, Parker, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin/ Kanchelskis , Keane, Ince, Giggs/ Cantona, Hughes.
The greatest ever season in Manchester United history. Ferguson and his boys did what had never been done before – The Treble. The most swashbuckling team of the Ferguson era. They played with the belief that if they conceded three, they’d score four and most of the time that’s what they did. United in 99’ were incredibly exciting and possessed the most complete midfield the Premier League has ever seen. Beckham with his crossing ability, Giggs with his dribbling skills, Keane with the tackling, grit and determination and Scholesy with immaculate passing and goal scoring ability. Let us not forget about the fact that Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke tore half of Europe apart with mind boggling interchange. Yet if you go looking for the main trait of the team in the most magical of seasons it would have to be the never say die attitude. How many times did they come from behind and win late on or in dramatic fashion. They were the real invincible’s ( Never mind that Arsenal team in 2004, How did they do in Europe by the way? ). The F.A Cup 3rd round against the Scousers, Champions League Semi-Final in Turin, the most obvious Ole moment at Camp Nou. Ferguson instilled belief in the Treble side that could never be matched. The farce of the season was David Ginola receiving player of the year (I’d say he was even embarrassed at that). That astonishing year still sends shivers down my spine. The year Ferguson finally got his hands on old ‘Big Ears’.
Best 11: Schmeichel, Neville, Stam, Johnsen, Irwin/ Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs/ Yorke, Cole.
‘The Holy Trinity’ at Old Trafford will always be Best, Law and Charlton, but in 2008 us younger fans saw three forward players that felt the same to us – Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo. What a trio of attacking footballers! The first two were also as hardworking as any other in the team whilst the latter was the best footballer on the planet. These guys captured the imagination of the Stretford End like nobody since the men in the 60’s, scoring over 80 goals between them and with Vidic and Rio at the back , Fergie had not only assembled his best defence, but the best front players in his career. If these three had played together longer, we could well have seen a statue similar outside the Theatre of Dreams. And with Carlos Quieroz by his side Sir Alex also had his most European astute assistant. Only for a robbery of a defeat in the F.A Cup quarter final, we could’ve had a 2nd Treble, but c’mon lets not be greedy! I’d like to finish this paragraph off with three fitting words that contributed greatly to our year and might just ring a bell… “Viva John Terry”.
Best 11: Van Der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra/ Hargreaves Scholes Carrick/ Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez.
While writing this article I was still deciding which team were Fergie’s greatest, but I’ve thankfully come to a conclusion: For it’s incredible never say die spirit, magnificent midfield, Schmeichel in the nets and Jip Jaap at the back I’ve chosen the 99’ teams as Fergusons best. The reason they edged it was simply due to the fact that they were the complete team. There was not one weak link or average player in the starting XI and I’m not listening to anyone trying to say Gary Neville was average, because someone with his defending, crossing and utter determination cannot be seen as average. This was the year where Ferguson finally answered his critics, with the Champions League trophy and where his team talk in the Final made his player believe until the last second, and created so many “Football bloody hell” moments. A rollercoaster year that had every fan on edge from beginning to end.
No other manager could create three great teams, all on par or almost on par with each other. Thank you Sir Alex Ferguson for 25 wonderful years that made “the impossible… possible”. “Every single one of us loves Alex Ferguson. Long may you continue.
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Got to be the 1993-94 team, would of won European Cup if it was for the foreign player rule