Sir Alex Ferguson was one of the greatest managers the world, let alone English football have ever seen, and he will forever be remembered by Manchester United fans as the man who shaped the club’s modern history and helped make the club a giant in the world of football. In this article we are going to look back at Sir Alex’s 3 major European Competition wins from his illustrious career.
His affair with European glory did not start at Manchester United, for that we are turning the clock back to 1983.
• 1983 European Cup Winners' Cup with Aberdeen (Score of the final: Aberdeen 2-1 Real Madrid, Nya Ullevi Stadium)
Sir Alex’s legendary European success while he was at Aberdeen is one of the highest managerial achievement even for someone like Sir Alex. Ferguson and Archie Knox, his appointed assistant had brought the club under a strict regime, believing in discipline and working hard. Even at that younger age, Sir Alex knew how to get the best out of his players. Archie Knox told the BBC, ”I had a baseball bat. I would sometimes go into the boot room with a baseball bat and let fly at a few of them.” United fans might find some similarity with like the infamous “Hairdryer Treatment”.
Aberdeen managed to win the Scottish Cup in 1982, which qualified them for the European Cup Winners’ Cup during the 1982-83 season. The young, fast-paced and well-drilled team of Aberdeen caught Europe off-guard. The first real test came against Bayern Munich, star-studded with the likes of Rummenigge, in the quarter-final. They played a goalless draw at Munich in the first leg. In the second leg, Bayern scored early with the all-crucial away goal, but in a closely contested match and through “Never write us off” mentality, Aberdeen managed to get a 3-2 victory, with one of the goals for Aberdeen from a training-ground free-kick. They flew past Waterschei in the semi-finals. Aberdeen took the lead with a training-ground corner routine, but they lost the lead with the scorer McLeish’s dreadful back pass to the keeper leading to conceding a penalty. Ferguson was said to have “let rip” at McLeish in the dressing room at the half time. Ferguson’s game-reading came really handy for Aberdeen when he kept urging forward Hewiit to keep pushing forward rather than dropping to help out defensively, and Hewitt headed home the winning goal at extra-time and Aberdeen saw the match out with a 2-1 victory.
This was undoubtedly Aberdeen’s biggest achievement as a football club.
• Ferguson Takes Over as the Manager of Manchester United
After his heroics at Aberdeen, Ferguson was appointed as the Manchester United manager on 6th November, 1986, with none other than Sir Bobby Charlton’s support and argument to the United board members. Success did not come easy, but it came eventually in forms of FA Cup win in 1990 and Premier League win in 1993.
• 1999 UEFA Champions League with Manchester United (Score of the final: Manchester United 2-1 Bayer Munich, Camp Nou)
During the pre-season of 1998-99, the centre-back Jaap Stam joined Manchester United from PSV Eindhoven to strengthen the defensive aspects of the team. He joined the class of ’92 reigning the United team. After a trophy-less previous season, the team was hungry to prove themselves, especially after England’s sorry performance in 1998 World Cup, and David Beckham being widely berated all-over England.
This was United’s famous treble-winning season, they lost only 5 games in all competitions, and had an unbeaten run of 33 games. Various pundits have lauded the United payers’ deep-instilled never-say-die attitude throughout the previous seasons under Sir Alex Ferguson, which ultimately manifested into a never-before feat by an English club. The comeback heroics of United were proven to be very precious especially in the Champions League.
Manchester United were in the “group of death” Group D in Champions League, with Bayern Munich and Barcelona regarded as the favourites to progress to the knock-out stages. Both the home and away ties against Barcelona ended high-scoring 3-3, with Giggs, Scholes and Beckham finding the score-sheet in the first game at home and Yorke and Cole scoring away from home. They tied both their games against Bayern Munich too, but Barcelona failing to register a victory against United at the last game of group stage saw them qualifying to the round of 16. In the quarter-finals Beckham proved his worth by proving two assists to Yorke at home, helping his team win the first leg at home against Internazionale, with Scholes scoring an away goal and United registering a 3-1 victory on aggregate. The semifinal tie against Juventus saw Juventus getting an away goal in the first leg, which ended in a 1-1 draw. In the 2nd leg, United found themselves 2-0 down thanks to Inzaghi within the first eleven minutes of the game. But it was a famous United comeback where Keane, Yorke and Cole scored to have an aggregate of 3-3, but United progressed on away goal. Keane and Scholes were suspended in the final. Ferguson played a 4-4-2, Blomqvist and Butt came in for the suspended players, Beckham moved to centre and Giggs moved to right wing. Bayern were up 1-0 in the sixth minute. When Bayern looked like the certain champions, at the injury time, two Beckham corners, two goals from Sheringham and the super-sub and the current United manager Solskjaer made history on the date of Sir Matt Busby’s 90’s birthday, that will be remembered by football fans.
Alex Ferguson was knighted and given the Freedom of Glasgow after a tremendous season.
“Football, bloody hell!”, the iconic man, the iconic moment, the iconic quote, the iconic the treble winning season of 1998-99 can never be forgotten.
• 2008 UEFA Champions League with Manchester United (Score of the final: Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (6-5 on pen.), Luzhniki Stadium)
Manchester United were flying high domestically despite a slow-start, with new signing Nani, Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez, Giggs in the team. Manchester United’s brand of attacking football and quick counter with the help of their wingers and forwards saw the supporters rallying behind and hoping for a great and exciting Manchester United season. They won the Premier League, edging out Chelsea by 2 points.
The group stage of the Champions League ended with 5 wins and a draw, which meant Manchester United progressed to the round of 16 as the group leader. The round of 16 match against Lyon, United came back from being a goal behind to draw the away leg 2-2. They won the home leg 2-1 to progress to the quarter finals. In the quarter-finals against Roma, the first leg, away from home, saw the Champions League debut of “3-lungs” Park Ji-Sung, and Carrick starting the game unexpectedly.
The game ended with a 2-0 victory for United with goals by Ronaldo and Rooney, and a worrisome Vidic injury. Ferguson played the second leg without Vidic (due to injury), Ronaldo, Rooney and Scholes, and managed a 1-0 victory with a goal from Tevez. Roma missed a wrongly awarded penalty before that, which could’ve been their greatest chance to come back to the game. They faced Barcelona in the semi-finals, where the first leg, away from home, ended in a goalless draw. Ronaldo missed a penalty, and denied one very legitimate penalty shout later, as he looked on in dismay. In the return leg, Ferguson set-up and administered a resolute defensive performance, with Scholes getting the winner with a brilliant goal.The final against Chelsea had all the drama packed in it. United scored the first goal with a Ronaldo header, with Lampard equalising. The game went on to extra time. In the second half of the extra time, Drogba was sent off for a slap on Vidic. In the penalty shootout, Ronaldo missed his penalty. But an infamous slip by Terry and Anelka’s miss sealed the victory for United.
Sir Alex Ferguson had been a great leader and manager since his Aberdeen days, and his strong personality, leadership, combined with with tactical moves, quick and direct football was fundamental behind his European success. The feat he achieved at both those clubs, none of which were not in a good shape when he came in is nothing short of miracles. Let us know your favourite Sir Alex memories in the comments, and whether you think he is one of the greatest managers in the history of football.