Alex Ferguson signs an autograph.

35 years since Sir Alex's first United game

Monday 08 November 2021 13:15

Today, 8 November, marks 35 years since Sir Alex Ferguson took charge of a Manchester United team for the first time.

The Reds were beaten 2-0 at Oxford United in a top-flight league game, to suggest there was a lot of work to do for the man who replaced Ron Atkinson at the Old Trafford helm.

After much was said about the Scot's arrival from Pittodrie, the local newspaper in Aberdeen rightly pointed out: "Whatever words are used to describe the new Manchester United boss, 'ordinary' certainly can't be one of them."

Peter Barnes tries to break through the Oxford defence.

However, amid claims that chairman Martin Edwards had given somebody Sir Bobby Charlton had described as "a very good appointment" four years to 'put the great back into United', things got off to an inauspicious start at the Manor Ground.

The Reds struggled from the outset and needed Graeme Hogg to make desperate clearances to deny future Liverpool players John Aldridge and Ray Houghton. However, Aldridge was on the mark from the penalty spot after being brought down by fellow Republic of Ireland international Kevin Moran in the 16th minute, when United had lost possession deep inside our own half.

Another Aldridge effort deflected wide off Mike Duxbury and it was no surprise when Neil Slatter added a second goal with 11 minutes to go, after already going close from long distance, by converting from close range when Kevin Brock retrieved a deep cross by Houghton.

The newspaper reports afterwards claimed the new manager was 'left in no illusion about United's plight' as his team were described as 'nervous and hesitant'. Although Frank Stapleton hit the bar and Clayton Blackmore pulled an attempt wide late on, the visitors only had one shot on target all afternoon.

Always a sore loser, the Scot criticised the media glare on him, and the lack of atmosphere at Oxford's ground, when addressing the press afterwards.

"I'm glad it's over," he said. "It was a nightmare trying to concentrate with so much media attention and so many cameramen on top of me. I was disappointed with the atmosphere. I expected it to be more like a cup tie but perhaps supporters in Scotland are more vociferous. 

"The players' confidence has taken a bit of a battering. We only played with any composure when we went 2-0 down. You could see the strain come off the players and maybe that was understandable. They were a bit uptight and they wanted to do well."

Peter Davenport is held off by Malcolm Shotton.

The man who would become Sir Alex would rebuild the United team and hit that four-year target, to an extent, by landing his first trophy in 1990 - the FA Cup - and scooping the European Cup Winners' Cup in the following season.

From the 12 players on duty at the Manor Ground, only Blackmore was involved in that historic FA Cup final replay win over Crystal Palace, as a substitute, although Duxbury also helped the side get to Wembley. 

Aldridge, meanwhile, had already expressed his desire to leave Oxford just before the United game and he joined Liverpool a couple of months later, for a transfer fee of £750,000.