A statue of Sir Alex Ferguson will be unveiled at Old Trafford this week to mark his 26th year in charge at Manchester United.
When Ferguson took charge in November 1986, United were second from bottom in the top flight of English football and a club very much in the shadow of the likes of Liverpool.
The change in fortunes that the Red Devils have enjoyed since has been staggering as the Scot has re-written the record books.
Ferguson has won over 20 major trophies in the two-and-a-half decades since he moved south of the border from Aberdeen – and is 5/4 to claim the Premier League title this season.
The 70-year-old’s roll of honour includes 12 Premier League titles, the UEFA Champions League twice, the FA Cup five times, four League Cups, a FIFA Club World Cup, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.
United have been transformed into one of the biggest clubs in the world and Ferguson is quite rightly lauded as one of – if not the – most-successful manager of all time.
A special band of players have played under Ferguson down the years – and here we’ve selected who we think represent his five best buys.
United career: 1987-1998
Honours won under Ferguson: Premier League (1992/93, 93/94, 95/96, 96/97), UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (90/91), UEFA Super Cup (91), FA Cup (89/90, 93/94, 95/96)
The trophy-laden Ferguson dynasty would simply not have been possible without players like McClair, who became the first player since George Best to score 20 league goals in a season for the club.
McClair was one of Ferguson’s first signings and went on to net 127 times for United in 471 appearances. To put that goal record into some perspective, only 14 players have scored more goals for United and McClair currently forms part of Ferguson’s coaching team in his role as academy director.
United career: 1991-1999
Honours won under Ferguson: Premier League (92/93, 93/94, 95/96, 96/97, 98/99), UEFA Champions League (98/99), FA Cup (93/94, 95/96, 98/99), League Cup (91/92)
Ferguson’s record of signing goalkeepers is more suspect than his time-keeping skills, but in Schmeichel the Scot uncovered what he has since described as “the bargain of the century”. It’s difficult to argue otherwise.
Schmeichel had pretty much every quality a manager looks for in a keeper. He was quick off his line, agile, incredibly difficult to beat in a one-on-one situation, vocal, good in the air and he even managed to score a goal for United in a UEFA Cup tie against Rotor Volgograd.
United career: 1992-1997
Honours won under Ferguson: Premier League (92/93, 93/94, 95/96, 96/97), FA Cup (93/94, 95/96)
Players of the ilk of Cantona come along once in a generation and the Frenchman assisted in putting in place the foundations for Ferguson’s record-breaking tenure.
Cantona not only scored important goals – like the winner in the 1996 FA Cup final against Liverpool – he helped to nurture the crop of United youngsters who went to dominate English football in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was Cantona’s unpredictable streak that made him so enigmatic, even though it resulted in him being a flawed genius.
United career: 2003-2009
Honours won under Ferguson: Premier League (2006/07, 07/08, 08/09), UEFA Champions League (07/08), FA Cup (03/04), League Cup (05/06, 08/09), FIFA Club World Cup (08)
Think back to the Ronaldo who first graced the Premier League nearly a decade ago and it’s hard to believe that he would go on to become the player he is today – and much of the credit for this must go to Ferguson.
Ronaldo’s was a rough gem with plenty of potential, but his perceived petulance hampered his progress. Ferguson, though, had faith in Ronaldo and turned him into one of the most prolific players in modern football. Love him or loathe him, Ronaldo was pure box-office entertainment during his time in England.
United career: 2004-present
Honours won under Ferguson: Premier League (06/07, 07/08, 08/09, 10/11), UEFA Champions League (07/08), League Cup (05/06, 09/10), FIFA Club World Cup (08)
A pivotal part of Ferguson’s longevity is his willingness to give young players the platform to shine. Rooney was only 18 when Ferguson lured him away from Everton and he made an instant impact on his United debut, scoring a Champions League hat-trick against Fenerbahce.
Rooney has gone to become fourth overall in the list of United’s all-time scorers and at 27 has time on his side in his bid to create more history. Ferguson has built his current team around Rooney and the England striker – like Cantona before him – is also providing influential to the next generation of players coming through the ranks.
Do you agree with our list of Ferguson’s five best buys?