Sir Alex Ferguson in 1986

Five amazing objects from Sir Alex's reign

Thursday 31 December 2020 06:00

To celebrate Sir Alex Ferguson’s 79th birthday, we're reliving some of the key moments from his epic career as Manchester United manager by showing you items of memorabilia.

Although an extremely difficult task, we’ve managed to narrow down the list to just ten notable events and here we tell the story of the first five, featuring items from both the club’s museum and Sir Alex’s private collection.


This ball was signed by both teams following Sir Alex's first match in charge of United.

Sir Alex's arrival at Old Trafford on 6 November 1986 sparked an instant media frenzy with everyone keen to catch a glimpse of the new man in United’s hot seat. Two days after his official appointment, he travelled with the team to Oxford for his first fixture in charge. Unfortunately, on the day, the injury-stricken Reds failed to deliver and crumbled against the previous season’s League Cup winners Oxford United. Signed by both teams shortly after the 0-2 defeat, the ball represents one of the biggest turning points in United’s history - the beginning of the Ferguson era.


Sir Alex's early tactics board. We'd love to see what was written on there!

Despite featuring many established international players, the squad Sir Alex inherited was a team in decline. Faced with serious fitness issues in the ranks, he kicked off his reign by demanding new levels of professionalism from his players, strengthening the team with new signings and revamping the scouting system. This tactics board accompanied the Scot to away games during his early career with the Reds, and was used by the boss as he turned the underperforming Old Trafford side into FA Cup winners and league title contenders.


His FA Cup winner's medal, following the final replay win over Crystal Palace in 1990. Image courtesy of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Despite the initial improvement in form, Sir Alex’s United continued to underperform well into his third full season with the club. After a disappointing start to the 1989/90 campaign, which included a bruising 5-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester City, the Reds eventually ended the season 13th in the table, 31 points behind champions Liverpool. Under mounting pressure, the team managed to secure a place in the FA Cup final. Following a thrilling 3-3 draw, the final went to a replay, in which a single strike by Lee Martin secured Sir Alex's first trophy as United boss. The medal marks the start of a glorious spell, in which silverware arrived at Old Trafford at a steady rate, and is the first of five FA Cup winner’s medals presented to him during his career with the Reds.


Shirt worn by Mark Hughes in the 1991 European Cup Winners' Cup final.

With English clubs allowed back in European competitions, following a five-year ban, FA Cup holders United were invited to enter the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1990. Having won the competition with Aberdeen, Sir Alex expertly led United to the 1991 final in Rotterdam, where his side beat Barcelona 2-1 to lift the trophy. This shirt was worn by the man who scored our two goals, Mark Hughes, as the Reds won the club’s second continental trophy after a 33-year gap since the 1968 European Cup.


Miniature Premier League trophy presented in 1993 as an alternative to a champion's medal. Image courtesy of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Another key turning point in Sir Alex’s career at United came in the 1992/93 season. After narrowly missing out on the league championship to Leeds United in the 1991/92 campaign, Sir Alex made a bold move and brought his rivals' talisman, Eric Cantona, to Old Trafford. The arrival of the Frenchman kickstarted our two decades of dominance in the Premier League with the first title clinched in its inaugural season. United’s 26-year wait to be champions of England again was finally over. With the competition still in its infancy and with medals yet to be designed, both the manager and his players were instead presented with engraved miniature trophies to mark the occasion.

Happy birthday Sir Alex... and Happy New Year!

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