One reason Sir Alex Ferguson is considered one of the game’s greatest-ever managers is because he has built all-conquering teams not just once or twice, but three times.
While aware of the immediacy and short-term nature of modern football - fans and media demand success now, not tomorrow – he has always nurtured a careful succession plan, meaning the next generation is lining up ready to step forward just as the heroes of today are in their pomp.
His challenge was, of course, to build a fourth ‘great’ team - and the foundations are well in place…
The class of ’94
This era’s first-choice XI boasted a 100 per cent record in the games they played together in the 1993/94 Double season, built on a spine of talent bought in over a period of six seasons. Peter Schmeichel, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister and Denis Irwin would become defensive bedrocks of that first great Ferguson outfit, aided by Paul Parker at full-back. Roy Keane and Paul Ince provided the bite and creativity to augment Bryan Robson in his swansong season; Ryan Giggs and Mark Hughes were homegrown and Andrei Kanchelskis was a fleet-footed find from Russia. Then there was Eric Cantona – the catalyst who turned a very good team into a great one.
2013 and beyond
"Despite winning the 2012/13 Premier League at a canter, today’s Manchester United team is yet to earn the ‘great’ title – but with so many blossoming youngsters, it's only a matter of time..."