One of the most well-known names in English football, and arguably the greatest manager to ever grace the game, Sir Alex Ferguson has built up quite the reputation for himself.
In a division regularly regarded as the most exciting, and possibly the best league in the world, the Scotsman has etched out a name for himself at the helm of one of, if not England’s most successful club – a feat massively down to his efforts.
In a tenure lasting more than 25 years as manager of Manchester United, Ferguson has accumulated 12 Premier League titles, two Champions League crowns, five FA Cup trophies, 10 Community Shields, one FIFA Club World Cup and the list goes on still.
Not only has the veteran brought a huge amount of silverware to Old Trafford, but his own trophy cabinet is laden with more personal accolades spanning across domestic football as well as from further abroad.
However,as someone great once wrote: “All that glitters is not gold,” and while trophies are most certainly valuable, there’s more to being a legendary manager than pieces of precious metal.
Over the next 15 slides, we’ll look at exactly why Sir Alex Ferguson will forever be remembered for the services he has rendered to this sport, and why he still is, to this day, the best manager that the English top flight has to offer.
Some managers are simply tuned to succeed in one area of football more than others, and when faced with a foreign challenge, it becomes clear exactly where the holes lie in some characters.
However, every now and then, a manager will show the ambiguity and flexibility to be able to perform well under the pressure of many threats, whether it be the bitter climates of English football in February, or the sweltering continental football in May, as well as the quick interchanges between the two.
Sir Alex Ferguson is very much the latter.
The ability to mold a team and make them pliable enough to bend in accordance with the requirements of varied surroundings is a rare and valuable one.
Only a few managers each generation seem to have such a gift – Bob Paisley, Jock Stein, Jose Mourinho and Brian Clough would be several names who would appeared to have shown at least glimmers of such talent in their careers.
In such a dazzling cast, Ferguson deserves his place, and while Paisley may have won a record three European Cup titles, Ferguson has bumped up to the peak of English managers and it’s his openness to change that makes it so.
As was widely described in the introduction to this slideshow, Sir Alex Ferguson has trophies – a lot of trophies.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a snap of the Scot’s trophy room would be quite the novel, challenging even the most lengthy of tales.
Ferguson’s last two-and-a-half decades in Manchester have woven a tapestry worthy of challenging any other in football and the colors used to sew such a story will often revert to silver and gold.
The 70-year-old currently holds the record for most league title wins in English football with 12, itself a standing testament to just why Ferguson is the greatest manager in the nation.
To add to that, however, he has 37 English titles in total, holds the record for most league victories in the top division (597) and the most wins in the European Cup/Champions League (106).
In short, Ferguson’s résumé speaks for itself, and should one wish to delve deeper into just why the captain of the Manchester United ship is the best in the Premier League, they need only take a glance to the Old Trafford history books to find the answers they seek.
One can’t speak about the source of Sir Alex Ferguson’s success without mentioning his tried and tested approach when it comes to breeding talent.
In 1986, the Manchester United first-team squad was greatly made up of players over 27-years-old who, although maybe were closer to their physical primes, didn’t have the futures of some alternative youngsters.
Today, we see a Red Devils squad consistently finishing higher up the table than when Ron Atkinson was in charge, and with an aggregate age far closer to 20 than 30.
The last generation United saw to utilize youth in the way it was intended was the Busby Babes, but after the Munich tragedy, the club had failed to replicate such magnificent young talent since.
More than two decades later, it seems that the 19-time champions of the English top flight may have developed a formula to rival that of the side that is such a huge reason why United are the team that they are today.
The famous “Class of ‘92” saw the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt rise through the ranks at Old Trafford, all of whom are and were hugely gifted stars.
All six stand as evidence of Ferguson’s skill in farming his youth.
Some managers can become obsessed with first-team matters and neglect the emerging starlets as a result, but the Scotsman’s eye for potential is second to none.
The aforementioned club legends almost all have their boots hung up by now, but with transfers a bigger part of the sport than ever, we can see that age hasn’t affected the passion that Sir Alex Ferguson has concerning the future of the club, with young players more evident in first-team matters than ever.
As was touched upon in the last slide, Ferguson has quite the knack for noticing talent and knowing where and when to get it.
The transfer market has, quite frankly, exploded over the last decade, and while Manchester United remain the most supported club on the globe and earn great financial benefits as a result, Alex Ferguson hasn’t reacted as others in his position may have.
Since the extremely extravagant spending of clubs such as Manchester City and Chelsea became apparent, Ferguson has always proclaimed that he won’t buy in a market where he sees no value; a modest approach seeing as how funds are undoubtedly available should he require them.
However, the manager hasn’t lost his thirst for bargains and still has the gift for noticing promise where others may not.
20 years ago, it was the likes of Eric Cantona, Ole Gunner Solskjaer and Peter Schmeichel that were coming from practically unknown backgrounds to surprise millions.
Years later and Sir Alex Ferguson is still unearthing players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez before their real talents can be realised by those who would attempt to scupper any transfer.
Yes, Ferguson has made a mistake or two in purchasing players, as has every club boss, but it’s the profitable positives that shine through for this manager by quite some distance.
The old saying goes that “Everything in Moderation” is what’s best for the soul and best for the body.
In the Manchester United body, it’s this balance that has been key in their quality over the years.
Youth and future prospects have always been important to Sir Alex Ferguson, but sometimes, it’s a cooler, more experienced head that is needed, and the tactician understands that perfectly.
Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are all examples of starting XI players over the age of 30 who remain at the club, and while some bosses may have chosen to sell the excess or “dead weight” of an aging star, it's Ferguson that notices opportunity.
There are some scenarios understood only by those who have been in them before, and a team of 20-year-olds can’t always get the job done.
Plenty of veterans have come and gone through the Old Trafford door under Ferguson’s tutelage, and the Scot knows their value more than many.
When speaking of this attribute, there are few current Premier League managers who can rival Sir Alex Ferguson at the moment.
The hot seat of a manager in the top tier of English football is a position wanted by many, taken up by many, but retained by very few.
In recent years, it has become customary for clubs to get rid of their head coaches when things go awry, and that doesn’t do any good for the nerves of the manager himself.
As a result, when things aren’t looking up for your side, it’s paramount to stay cool and not react rashly, something Ferguson has become a master at.
It’s gotten to the stage where Manchester United can be a goal down or drawing with mere minutes to go, and commentators everywhere will refuse to rule the Red Devils out, because if you glance over to their bench, the man chewing Wrigley's wouldn’t let you know that he’s panicked.
With Ferguson’s backing, United always appear capable of producing an ace from up their sleeve. It’s thanks to their manager’s demeanour that the team knows they can be calm too, just because their leader is.
Nice guys finish last.
Nowhere is that saying more applicable than in the hungry and rabid world of sport.
While he may give you the impression that he’s your best friend, and if you’re doing everything right, then you’ll be okay, it’s the trait of a good manager to be able to look his player in the eye and let him know that if he isn’t doing everything right, he’s in serious trouble.
Nobody gets to the stage at which Ferguson is in his career unless they have the mean streak that’s necessary to take them there.
The 70-year-old infamously injured one of his own players — David Beckham no less — as a result of a dressing room altercation in which a boot allegedly hit Beckham in the face (as reported by the Daily Mail).
Although the Englishman was one of Ferguson’s best players at the time, the incident shows the commitment that the manager has to the cause, and the lengths he will go to in order to get a point across to his men.
This “No-Nonsense Attitude” transcends into contract negotiations also, with Paul Pogba (reported by The National) and Ravel Morrison (reported by the Telegraph) being two youngsters to have left the club recently — allegedly due to Ferguson not budging on their excessive wage demands.
This stamp of authority that Alex Ferguson has over his players lets the entire squad know just who is in charge, and sets the entire foundation onto which they base their achievements.
With the David Beckham dressing room story in mind, we can look at another aspect of Sir Alex Ferguson’s style of communication that makes him the exemplar of the Premier League; the trademark “Hairdryer Treatment.”
Countless Manchester United veterans have come out of the club to tell stories of times when they had incurred the wrath of Ferguson for under-performing, and players have even told of receiving the spit-slewing stream when playing well, also.
In his younger days, Ferguson has even been known to dish the hairdryer treatment on the driver of the team bus (as reported by the Telegraph).
With the power to install fear in his platoon, we can look at numerous examples of when the tides have turned as quite possibly the direct result of a Fergie half-time team-talk or a middle of the match telling-off.
The 1999 Champions League semi-final comeback against Juventus, the final against Bayern Munich in the same competition, the Premier League turnaround against Manchester City in the 1993/94 campaign; all are great examples of majorly unexpected comebacks, yet they happened nonetheless.
Whether or not a calm approach works better is arguable but with the voice of ten men under his belt, Ferguson certainly seems to have done alright taking the slightly angrier route at times.
While some may be tempted to think otherwise, even a man like Sir Alex Ferguson can’t be everywhere at once.
Therefore, it’s important that the Scotsman delegate his responsibilities accordingly, lest he find himself stretched too far.
Ferguson has gone through a number of assistant coaches during his time at Old Trafford, but doesn’t appear to have stepped far wrong with any of them, all of whom have brought something to the table.
Mike Phelan, Carlos Queiroz, Brian Kidd, Steve McClaren, even Archie Knox contributed massively to the club, despite just missing out on the glory years.
It’s not just his pitch-side team that’s important however, it’s also the far-flung members who account for Manchester United’s success.
Ferguson has an incredible amount of faith in his training and scouting networks, allowing his colleagues in other nations the space necessary to build opinions on future stars and possible targets without feeling pressured.
The United manager uses his extensive contact book to recruit members to the cause, using ex-players and workmates such as Jaap Stam, Ole Gunner Solskjaer and Steve Bruce either as direct sources of information or as a source for players if they manage a team.
While Ferguson is the best manager in England’s elite, it’s more than an individual effort in earning that title and the team behind the man help hugely in that regard.
Of course, one of, if not the most important tool in the arsenal of any manager, is their knowledge of tactics and formation.
One would argue that Ferguson has a wealth of playing talent at his disposal that many managers would perhaps do just as well with, but whether or not other managers would have built the same wealth of playing talent is very debatable.
The Red Devil boss adapts to each game as it comes, handing opportunities to those that need it if he feels the time is right for them to receive it.
The Scotsman is also highly skilled at positioning his squad based on the opposition they face, utilizing a more offensive or defensive approach as he sees fit, and if his success in England and Europe is anything to go by, he would appear to be quite adept at it.
Like anyone, Ferguson is still open to fault and gets his choices wrong on occasion, but if team selection, tactics and formation truly are a manager’s greatest weapon, then Ferguson is a fierce warrior, indeed.
While tactics are paramount to success, another dimension of a good manager is good man management.
Martin O’Neill showed at Sunderland last season what an impact it can be to have a manager capable of squeezing the very best out of the players under his charge.
Despite having the very same batch of players at the club as Steve Bruce, O’Neill came into the Black Cats’ setup and immediately changed the whole outlook of the side into a more positive and forward-thinking squad.
Although Sir Alex Ferguson’s conundrum is one of an entirely different scale, the efficiency to which he performs the task is similar.
To quote a favorite superhero: “With great power comes great responsibility,” and there is certainly power within the Manchester United squad.
Keeping the feet of that many egos on the ground for more than 25 years is certainly a challenge any manager would find problematic and yet Fergie has managed to make sure that a huge majority of his superstars over the years have remained loyal, keeping them at the top of their game in the meantime.
Quite simply, managing Manchester United has led Sir Alex Ferguson everywhere that a manager can go in club football and back again.
What that means is that surprises are hard to come by for the Scotsman and when territory is that familiar, shocks become less and less frequent.
This experience is something few, if any, Premier League managers can boast, and if it could be weighed in gold, Ferguson would be the richest man in the English top flight – although he probably isn’t too far off in regular terms.
Roberto Mancini. Rafael Benitez. Kevin Keegan. Sir Alex Ferguson has done battle in the mental arena with the heavyweights of the football world.
Mind games almost appear to have become second nature for a lot of coaches and with the emergence of television, the web and social media, managers know that their voices can echo through the minds of their opponents at every corner.
Of his dozens of championships won, it’s impossible to calculate how many points, matches or ties have been won based on the mental challenges posed by Ferguson to his opposite number, but you can bet it’s considerable.
With the words of such a respected member of the football brotherhood on their minds, managers and players alike can be affected adversely in terms of tactics, standard of play and decision-making when nerves are at their most frail, working in the favor of the Premier League’s greatest manager.
The claim that football is a business has gathered huge momentum over the last 15 years, and a pound, euro or dollar is worth more than it ever was before.
Everywhere in this sport, players fail to hit the standards immediately expected of them after a transfer, and instead of giving them renewed opportunity, chances become hard to come by before the star finds themselves frozen out altogether.
Michael Carrick, David de Gea, Jonny Evans, Anderson and Antonio Valencia are all very recent examples of players to have gone through rough times at Old Trafford, but through perseverance, have gone on to reclaim their best form eventually thanks to second chances.
The four aren’t sole cases either, as plenty of other players under the charge of Ferguson have only gone on to see their best form when handed further opportunity.
Sir Alex Ferguson has shown in his career that he can be cutthroat also, seeing it fit to limit the chances of players where others may not.
Sometimes, players can affect the morale or style of the team in a negative way, and while they may be great players, their presence isn’t always what’s right for the club – Dimitar Berbatov’s 2011-12 exclusion being particularly applicable.
With this in mind, Sir Alex Ferguson’s only thoughts are with the interests of his team and that loyalty is invaluable in a manager.
With an estimated fan base of almost 700 million members across the globe, Sir Alex Ferguson can’t quite reach all his supporters, but he certainly makes a good job of interacting with those he can.
From Africa to Asia, America to Australia, you’d have to travel almost off-planet to meet someone who was unaware of the Red Devil brand.
Preseason tours are a regular occurrence in the Manchester United calendar, and when they come about, Sir Alex Ferguson does a good job of communicating his thanks to the fans his side are visiting, keeping relations at their warmest.
While those fans outside of England may be the ones contributing the most financially to the club, Ferguson is also appreciative of those in the stands at home.
When it comes down to it, football is played for the entertainment of those watching and they should be appreciated as such; something Ferguson seems to grasp completely.