As Sir Alex sends his player out to face Real Madrid in this evening’s mouth-watering Champions League tie, few will realise he might’ve been in the away dugout tonight at Old Trafford.
The Times today report that Fergie has twice come close to managing Real Madrid. They reveal that in Ferguson’s book, ‘Just Champion’, he claims he was “tapped” by Real, or an agent acting on their behalf, in 1991.
Ferguson’s United had just beaten Barcelona in the final of the Cup Winner’s Cup when Real approached Fergie. He was wanted to take over from the soon to be departed Raddy Antic, but Real ended up hiring Leo Beenhakker for a second time instead.
In 2003 the Spanish giants came back with a second attempt to lure the Scot from Old Trafford but again they couldn’t persuade Fergie to leave United. On that occasion Real had to settle for Fergie’s assistant Carlos Queiroz.
Ferguson left a lasting impression on Real Madrid
Apparently the Real Madrid hierarchy never forgot how impressed they were with Ferguson when he presented Real legend, Alfredo Di Stefano, with a bottle of Scotch as a gift, before his Aberdeen side beat them in the 1983 Cup Winner’s Cup Final.
Ferguson reveals he also had the opportunity to boss Real’s fierce rivals Barcelona when the club believed Terry Venables was set to resign. Venables himself, discussed the possibility of Ferguson taking over the Catalan giants, but the deal never materialised.
It is hard to imagine Ferguson taking charge of any club other than United, but things weren’t always that way.
Although Ferguson is now an almost unchallengeable figure at Old Trafford, in his early career he was open to scrutiny and not always in a position of strength.
“I loved being manager of Manchester United”
Many United fans wanted him sacked after he failed to deliver the league title in his first few seasons and Ferguson was resentful at the fact that he was paid far less than he felt he was worth.
“I was too timid when it came to fighting for my worth,” Ferguson wrote in his autobiography, Managing My Life . “Nevertheless the chairman [Martin Edwards] refused to budge an inch and I had to accept what was an improved contract, but one that left me at a pay level far below that of either (George) Graham or (Eric) Cantona.
“My one reason for signing it was that I loved being manager of Manchester United. I was, I suppose, a captive of my own passion for the club and the job I was doing there.”
Tonight as the two biggest clubs in the world collide, I wonder if Ferguson will have time to stop to wonder how many trophies he could’ve brought to the Bernabéu instead of Old Trafford.