When it comes to managers in football, no manager is ranked above Sir Alex Ferguson and for good reason too. There’s the gold standard for managers and then there’s Sir Alex Ferguson with achievements akin to some mythical figure from ancient legends. He simply accomplished it all: a jack of all trades and a master of all of them too. The Scottish manager had a combination of loyalty and trophies. He broke record after record and acquired a bizarre amount of trophies. Manchester United reached the zenith of football under his tutelage. He set the stage for the world-class level of football and talent Man United would be known for.
SAF is the most decorated manager in football history with 38 trophies, including 13 PL titles, 5 FA Cups and 2 UCL Titles. To put it into perspective, a big team like Chelsea hasn’t even won half as many PL titles. Under Ferguson, Man United became one of only 7 teams to have ever won the European treble in 1998-99. So many of the greatest players in history came out or became great because of his tenure at Manchester United. Who can forget Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, and Edwin Van Der Sar.
Chasing Sir Alex Ferguson is like chasing Theogenes, the Greek Olympian of legendary strength said to have won 1300 crowns. But there are a few who are racing towards that nigh-unattainable legendary status only held by Sir Alex Ferguson. The one leading that race is arguably Pep Guardiola. The 48-year-old Spanish former player and manager has already cemented himself as an elite-level manager.
The Noticeable Difference:
The big difference between the two was that Alex Ferguson was a one-club man, managing Manchester United from 1986 to 2013; a pillar of loyalty to say the least. Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, has managed multiple clubs, like Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City. Different types of managers in that, one is remembered for his loyalty and the other will be remembered for how he elevated multiple clubs. That doesn’t mean you can compare them because, at the end of the day, they belong to the same field.
Sir Alex Ferguson has always been a genius mixing man-management and tactical prowess to get the job done. He could adapt like no one else and he had an affinity for attacking football and with players like Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, etc. player on his team, it’s clear that he knew how to play his squad’s strengths.
Pep Guardiola has often been considered to be a champion of tiki-taka football but it seems he evolved the possession and passing based play to a whole new level with Barcelona and Manchester United.
Ronaldo and Messi:
Two of the greatest players of all time and they were discovered by Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting CP and he became one of the best players, not only in the league but of all time. Even though he was at Sporting earlier, it was at Manchester United where he exploded and people couldn’t help but take notice. He won 1 Ballon D’or with the club before being sold to Real Madrid for a record-breaking transfer. He initially held the scoring record for most goals in the PL before it was eventually broken by Mo Salah in the 2017-18 season.
Similarly, Pep Guardiola is often credited for nurturing Lionel Messi’s genius, the Argentine having played only for Barcelona throughout his career. He is also considered to be one of the greatest of all time, often ranked alongside Pele and Maradona and frequently above them. He has won the Ballon D’or five times. He holds the record for the most goals scored in the La Liga.
Guardiola is also one of the very few managers to have won the European treble, with Barcelona. He also won the English Domestic treble with Manchester City this past season. He has won the La Liga 3 times, the Bundesliga thrice as well as the PL two times in a row so far. He has won the Champions League twice with Barcelona. He was the first manager in the Premier League to take his team to 100 points with Manchester City in 2017-18 and almost did the same thing with the Blues in the following season amassing 98 points. To put it into perspective, the previous record was 95 points(Chelsea).
Guardiola has been criticized for having a big budget to fiddle around with, especially during his time at Manchester City. That criticism would warrant a lot of merits if Manchester City fared poorly. But the opposite could not be truer; Manchester City is possibly the most feared team in world football right now, having scored a gargantuan 95 goals in the 2018-19 season. The fact is that he used the money wisely and bought some great players, most notably Bernardo Silva, Ederson and Benjamin Mendy. The former two are considered to be one of the best attackers and one of the best goalkeepers respectively. There’s also the fact that Guardiola currently holds the highest points per game for a Premier League manager with 2.42 ppg. Alex Ferguson is no.2 with 2.16. The thing to note here is that Alex Ferguson’s ppg is across over 800 games while Guardiola’s is over the course of 114. Maintaining that average will be beyond tough and considering Alex Ferguson has a huge ppg across over 800 games, what unfolds over the remaining season will be interesting to consider.
So, in the end, Sir Alex Ferguson is a towering figure when it comes to football management. Even great managers don’t come close to him. That being said, if there’s one person who can reach the heights that SAF did, it’s Pep Guardiola. It’s far from settled whether Guardiola will actually dethrone Sir Alex Ferguson but surely, everyone will be glued to their tv screens and speculate on who will prevail.