2001-02: Reverses retirement decision in February
2001-02: Bayer Leverkusen deny Sir Alex a dream Glasgow date with Real Madrid
2002-03: Real Madrid knock United out in a classic European tie
2002-03: Arsenal are reeled in as the Reds make it eight titles in 11 years
2003-04: United win the FA Cup by beating Millwall 3-0
2003-04: Arsenal's Invincibles win the title, Porto knock Reds out of Europe
2004-05: Wayne Rooney arrives
2004-05: 1,000th game, against Lyon
2004-05: FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal on penalties ends hopes of silverware
2005-06: Roy Keane leaves United
2005-06: A 4-0 romp against Wigan delivers the Carling Cup
With the manager's impending retirement casting a cloud over the season, it was perhaps inevitable that the Reds would struggle to hit the heights in 2001/02. The solution was provided by Sir Alex himself as, in February, he reversed his decision to quit following consultation with his wife Cathy.
The manager had designs on what could have been a glorious swansong in the Champions League final in Glasgow and, although his team came agonisingly close to fulfilling that wish, the campaign was a trophyless one with Arsenal claiming the title as United lost nine times in the league. Although some memorable games were played out (including a 4-3 defeat at Newcastle, 4-3 success at Leeds and amazing 5-3 wins at Spurs and West Ham), the season as a whole was not one of Ferguson's finest even if the best news possible came with his decision to stay on and sign a new contract. Injuries to Roy Keane and David Beckham proved crucial as, despite Ruud van Nistelrooy's explosive debut term, United had to settle for third place behind the Gunners and old foes Liverpool.