Not even Sir Alex Ferguson thought this day would come.
When he arrived at Old Trafford from Aberdeen in November 1986, his goal was simple: “I came to win that first title,” he recalls. “The aim was to match Liverpool [in terms of performance – they were the best team at the time] and then be successful ourselves.”
Mission well and truly accomplished. Fast forward almost 25 years later and the manager, still at the helm, has steered the good ship Manchester United to a veritable bounty of silverware. Two Champions League trophies, five FA Cups, four League Cups, nine Community Shield honours (one shared), the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, the Intercontinental Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup… and, of course, 12 Premier League titles, the most recent of which, secured at Ewood Park on the penultimate day of the 2010/11 season, cements United’s place at the very top of English football’s trophy tree.
It’s an incredible achievement and one that surely casts Sir Alex as the greatest British manager of all time. In fact, during his Old Trafford tenure, he’s won as many major trophies (36) as the esteemed Bob Paisley (18), Brian Clough (10) and Bill Shankly (8) did over the course of their combined managerial careers.
This one is unlikely to be the last. That’s the thing about Sir Alex: it would be easy to bow out now, having, to paraphrase the great man, knocked Liverpool off their perch. But that’s not how he works. Even at his most successful, the boss is never content. He doesn’t rest on his laurels nor allow even a moment’s reflection on what’s been a momentous career.
“I haven’t watched a single video of the trophies we’ve won,” he once said. “I never look back. I think it’s important that you move on in life.”
As if to illustrate the point, in the dressing room after the Reds’ 2008 Champions League final victory, while most fans were savouring those mad Moscow moments, Sir Alex and his senior players were already plotting a route to the following season’s