Fergie and His Foes

Sir Alex Ferguson Jose Mourinho

Sir Alex Ferguson began his managerial career in 1974, at East Stirlingshire, aged just 32.

By contrast Chelsea’s new manager Andre Villas-Boas is only 33 years of age and arrives at Stamford Bridge after the Londoners paid his previous club, FC Porto, £13.3m in compensation to release him but age is just one point of contrast between Ferguson and Villas-Boas.

Sir Alex won his historic treble, aged 58, back in 1999, but Villas-Boas completed his own, less prestigious, treble last year, showing what a promising talent he is. Although statistically Ferguson’s career win percentage is lower than Villas-Boas’, at 57.74 % to 66.67%, it is clear that the Portuguese youngster has yet to produce results consistently over many seasons.

In fact, Boas is yet to reach triple figures in his managerial career, with only 90 games under his belt, meaning for every 2 games he has managed, Sir Alex has won more than 1 piece of silverware (47 competitive trophies won).

Nonetheless, despite this huge gap in age and experience, nothing will come between the pair of them, when they meet in the Premier League, next season. This competition will surely be something Sir Alex will thrive on, having enjoyed some great rivalries during his time at Old Trafford.

The first of these occurred after his appointment, in 1986, when Fergie developed a natural rivalry with his fellow countryman Kenny Dalglish, who was already player-manager at Liverpool. Both managers were born and played in Glasgow; Dalglish for Celtic, Ferguson at Rangers. In Ferguson’s debut season, United defeated Liverpool home and away and other notable wins include a 3-1 win at Old Trafford, which cost Liverpool the title in ‘88.

The last laugh remained with Dalglish though who picked up Liverpool’s 18th title in 1990, before retiring on health grounds, when this phase of the personal duel ended with United’s four-goal drubbing at Anfield in 1990.

Dalglish returned to the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers in ’92, losing 3-1 at Old Trafford in his first season with the Lancashire club. Over the next two seasons Dalglish managed just one win against Fergie, drawing once and losing three in this period. Dalglish would retire ‘upstairs’ but not before leading Blackburn to the league title in ’94, denying United a hat-trick of titles.

On Tyneside, another former Liverpool player, Kevin Keegan, guided Newcastle United to the Premier League in 1993 and led his team to a first win over United in ‘95, with a 2-0 victory at Old Trafford which briefly put Newcastle at the top of the league. Ferguson then weakened the Geordie’s attack by signing Andy Cole, leaving Newcastle to finish sixth that season before blowing a 12 point lead to finish second the next season.

At this point, Arsene Wenger arrived as Arsenal’s first overseas manager as United claimed the double in ‘96. Keegan, meanwhile, ended up retiring at the end of the campaign but not before his side put five past United at St. James’ Park. Surprisingly, Dalglish was lured back into management to replace Keegan but the Scot’s brief stint at the club came to an end after he was sacked and replaced by Ruud Gullit.

But Ferguson’s  real challenge was Wenger, who led Arsenal to the “double” in ’97 when he defeated United home and away before Sir Alex got his revenge during the 1998-99 season, when Arsenal lost the Premier League title to Manchester United by a single point and were eliminated in the FA cup semi-final by ‘that’ extra time goal from Ryan Giggs.

United’s surge to the FA Cup that season began with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool, at Old Trafford. Initially, Roy Evans and the newly appointed Gerard Houllier were joint managers of the club until Evans resigned, leaving Houllier as Liverpool’s sole challenger to Fergie’s throne.

After losing twice and drawing twice against United in his first two seasons, Houllier ended his 10-year winless drought at Old Trafford, with a 1-0 victory against the Reds in 2000, before completing their first league double over us in 22 years.

However, once again, Arsene Wenger rose to dominance in 2001-02 when he accomplished the cup double, along with two heavy wins in the league against United. The following season looked to be heading the same, with Arsenal leading the table for most of the season, but Manchester United overhauled the Gunners in the latter stage of the season to win the title and regain Sir Alex’s Premier League crown, before the Invincibles won Wenger’s third Premier League trophy, in a season where Sir Alex could only restrict the Gunners to two draws.

After Arsenal’s “Invincible” season ended, Sir Alex renewed hostilities with Kevin Keegan, when he brought Man City back into the Premier League and embarrassed Sir Alex with a thumping 3-1 victory at Maine Road. Next season, Ferguson replied with a similar 3-1 score line Old Trafford and eliminated City from the FA cup, with a 4-2 thrashing, to compensate for the previous season’s humiliation.

In 2004-05, Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho joined Chelsea and quickly turned the title challenge into a three-way fight between him, Wenger and Sir Alex. Transforming Chelsea into a title winning side, Mourinho bought immediate success to Stamford Bridge, thanks to generosity of their new club owner, Roman Abramovich.

During this period, when United were seemingly in a transition period, Sir Alex may have been frustrated by his lack of Premier League silverware but he was still able to end Arsene Wenger’s 49 game unbeaten run, with a 2–0 win at Old Trafford, before ending his title ambitions with a 4-2 win at Highbury (as well as seeing off Kevin Keegan, who retired having won only a quarter of his games against Sir Alex).

Manager Played Win Draw Loss Win %
Jose Mourinho 14 2 6 6 14.29
Arsene Wenger 45 19 11 15 42.22
Kenny Dalglish 24 10 9 5 41.67
Kevin Keegan 17 8 5 4 47.06
Gerard Houllier 12 5 2 5 41.67
Harry Redknapp 43 26 11 6 60.47

Many Thanks to @MUFCinfodotcom for these figures, check out their site here.

The Russian oligarch’s money saw Chelsea win back-to-back league titles under Mourinho who was statistically the toughest opponent Sir Alex faced in the Premier League to date, having defeated him only twice.

This theory is strengthened when you look at the success Sir Alex has enjoyed against his other rivals, since the Special One’s departure in 2006, with Fergie winning nine of his last 10 clashes against old-foe Arsene Wenger, in all competitions.

If you see the Premier League as a battle field, then Sir Alex Ferguson is most certainly a war veteran. He has weathered many storms through the years and won 12 League titles during his 24 years at United, while other clubs have tried desperately to find the same consistency and stability that Sir Alex has perpetuated during his time at Old Trafford.

Next season Sir Alex Ferguson will find that the enemy has grown stronger than before, as Old Trafford finds itself under attack from all corners but it is a challenge I am sure he can withhold.

Villas-Boas will be the new man leading the charge, with Mancini, Wenger and Redknapp close behind but Sir Alex always has, and always will, use this competition as a source of strength in the dressing room, that will see him reinvent himself once again as he looks to prove why he is one of the most successful managers in British football history.

first published on cantheyscore.com

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