MANCHESTER: Sir Alex Ferguson – full name Alexander Chapman Ferguson – was born on December 31, 1941, in the working-class docklands district of Glasgow known as Govan – traditionally an area which produces the toughest of men. He was a union representative in the shipyard and has been a life-long supporter of the Labour Party.
From that tough start he rose to become the most successful manager in the British game through not only his successes with United but, before that, with Aberdeen in Scotland. Ferguson’s Aberdeen broke the strangehold of Rangers and Celtic and landed two European trophies.
A centre-forward with Rangers in his modest playing days, he had gone into management with East Stirlingshire and St Mirren before going on to the Granite City [Aberdeen].
In the summer of 1986 he took over as Scotland manager at the World Cup finals in Mexico after the death of Jock Stein. He was then appointed manager of Manchester United the following November.
Ferguson had turned down Tottenham, Arsenal and Wolves in the six years before he took over at United.
The United job was a tough one because every new manager had to try to get out from under the long, powerful shadow which had been cast by Sir Matt Busby. Indeed Ferguson, too, would have been sacked had United not won the FA Cup in 1990: United’s board had almost run out of patience with him.
With almost 25 years to his credit, he is the longest serving manager in their history after overtaking Sir Matt Busby’s record on December 19, 2010. His tenure is also the longest of all the current League managers. In 2008, against Chelsea in Moscow, he became the third British manager to win the European Champions League Cup on more than one occasion (after Brian Clough and Bob Paisley).
The first triumph, in 1999, will remain the most memorable; United scored twice in stoppage time to turn over Bayern Munich 2-1 in Barcelona.
At the end of normal time even Ferguson was resigned to defeat and had been preparing words of consolation for his players. The most famous of his many comments about the game was uttered at the press conference afterwards: “Football? Bloody hell!”
Already a CBE, Ferguson was honoured months later with his knighthood for “services to football.”
Last November United unveiled a statue of Ferguson at Old Trafford – at the entrance to the North Stand named after him a year earlier.
The statue was the work of sculptor Philip Jackson, whose previous works had included Busby as well as the ‘United Trinity’ of George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law.
At the unveiling chief executive David Gill summed Ferguson’s significance in the United story by saying: “Everyone knows the success Alex has achieved and everyone can talk eloquently about the great football teams he has built and the world class players he has developed and managed.
“But for me, as a fan, a colleague and a friend, the greatest thing he has brought back to this Club is respect. Respect for the staff; respect for the heritage and history of the Club and respect for the Manchester United way.”