Ferguson caught the attention of the top English clubs after successful spells with St Mirren and Aberdeen
In November 1986, Manchester United were second from bottom of the Division One table. They sacked manager, Ron Atkinson and became the fourth English club to approach Ferguson. This time, Ferguson was tempted away from Scotland. He became United manager and steered them towards mid table security with a win away at fierce rivals Liverpool along the way.
Years later, Ferguson revealed that when he joined United, his intention was to ‘knock Liverpool off their f***ing perch’. It was a bold ambition. Liverpool were by far the country’s most successful team. At the time they had won 16 League titles to United’s seven. They had also won the European Cup four times. United had only won it once
United hadn’t won the title for 19 years and they looked as far away as ever when Ferguson took the reins. It would have been extremely tough for United fans to have to watch their rivals picking up major trophies year after year.
Nevertheless, United were still a huge club that was just waiting for the right manager to drag it off its knees and turn it into a side that would consistently be credible contenders for the biggest prizes in the game.
Momentum starts to build
They believed that Ferguson was that man but he had a slow start to his United career. They finished runners up in the league in his first full season, but they didn’t win a trophy for the first three years and Ferguson’s future at the club seemed in doubt.
He got a lifeline in 1990 when United won the FA Cup. However, Liverpool still managed to outdo them that year by winning the league. The Following year, United won the European Cup Winners Cup and European Super Cup, a repeat of Ferguson’s achievement at Aberdeen eight years earlier.
The trophies helped to restore some pride to the club but they had suffered in the league, often finishing in disappointing mid table positions. In 1991-92, galvanised by their European success they became a force in the league once more. They came agonisingly close but finished the season as runners up, four points behind Leeds United.
The Premier League era
The 1992-93 season was the first of the new Premier League era. Much more money was starting to be pumped into the game thanks to matches being televised on Sky TV. Ferguson needed to build on United’s good form in the previous season and keep the momentum going.
However he was unsuccessful in his attempts to bring Alan Shearer and David Hirst to the club. United had a slow start to the season and it seemed their momentum was lost. The turning point came when they signed Eric Cantona from Leeds.
Bringing the title to Old Trafford
The Frenchman had won the title with Leeds the previous season but relished the fresh challenge offered by United. He proved to be the final piece in the jigsaw. He formed a lethal partnership with Mark Hughes and United never looked back.
The team that also contained Peter Schmeichel, Paul Parker, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Denis Irwin, Bryan Robson, Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharp, Paul Ince and Andrei Kanchelskis went on a fantastic run that saw them climb from mid table mid table in November to being top of the table by ten points at the end of the season. They were regarded as the first great Manchester United team that Ferguson built.
It was United’s first title for 26 years and once they had that pressure off their shoulders, there was no stopping them. They signed Roy Keane for a then record fee of £3.75m in the summer. The following season United quickly rose to the top of the table and remained there until the end of the season.
Not only did they win the league but they also won the FA Cup, beating Chelsea 4-0 in the final. It was the first time in United’s history that they had won the league and FA Cup ‘double’.
Ferguson rebuilds United’s team – Read more