Sir Alex Ferguson has done a lot for Manchester United, and his transfer policy played a big part in winning 37 trophies during his 25 years.
Whenever a new manager joins a top club, they always make big claims about their ambitions for what they hope will be a long-term and successful period.
When Sir Alex Ferguson came to Manchester United, the Scot made the wild claim that he wanted to ‘knock Liverpool off their perch’. And a quarter of a century later, he’s done just that.
With Sunday the 25th anniversary of Ferguson’s managerial reign at Old Trafford, and with the 69-year-old showing no signs of slowing down, GMF takes a look at 25 players he has purchased or nurtured in his time at United, and how they shaped the club into the most successful sides of the last 20 years.
25. Paul Ince
Ince was the first black player to captain England, and left West Ham United for Manchester under controversial circumstances in 1989. Sir Alex Ferguson wanted the midfielder on board, and Ince leading the side to an FA Cup semi-final victory against Crystal Palace in the same year, with the star producing a man-of-the-match performance in the replay.
Over four years, Ince earned over 200 appearances for United, but Ferguson had a tumultuous relationship with the England international, calling him a ‘big-time Charlie’ after he left and making clear his distain for 31-year-old.
The Scot sold him for £7.5 million in 1995. Fans were upset at the sale, particularly when Nicky Butt was chosen as his replacement, rather than the Scot invest the money from the sale. But Ferguson’s genius showed through with Butt proving a capable replacement.
24. Rio Ferdinand
Ferdinand was a big buy for United, with the defender moving to the club in 2002 for in excess of £30 million. While the England international has suffered some controversy, including failing to show up for a drugs test in 2003 and subsequently being fined for eight months, Ferguson stuck by the star, and has been rewarded with nearly 10 years worth of consistent displays.
Nowadays, Ferdinand has suffered from injuries and poor form, and once again Ferguson is sticking with the 31-year-old, insisting that he can change his game style to adapt to playing without the same pace and strength, like many of his previous charges.
23. Brian McClair
One of Ferguson’s early signings, McClair joined the club in 1987 and lasted 11 years before moving back to native Scotland to play for Ferguson’s old side Motherwell.
Another player to come close to breaking the transfer fee record, McClair moved to United for £850,000, and in his first season he became the first Red Devil to score more than 20 league goals in a season (24) since George Best in 1967-68.
With United fans still not entirely sure of Ferguson’s transfer policy – the manager had been in place for just a season – McClair was proof that Ferguson had a keen eye for a player that could deliver.
When other strikers, such as Mark Hughes, Dion Dublin and Eric Cantona joined the club, McClair played a more withdrawn role, and helped the side to their first Premier League title while Ferguson was in charge.
22. Phil Neville
Neville was one of Fergie’s fledgings, with the England international coming through the youth ranks with brother Gary. Neville was particularly versatile, and helped the side win six Barclays Premier League titles, three FA Cups and a UEFA Champions League.
The youngster was just a taster of Ferguson’s ability to see potential in players, and bring those players through to become senior stars at Old Trafford. Neville moved to Everton after 10 years at United, and is currently club captain of the Toffees.
21. Javier Hernandez
A player still with plenty of potential, no one can argue that Javier Hernandez played a big part in helping United to their record 19th league title last season. The Mexico international was purchased by Ferguson for a bargain £6 million, with the manager jumping at the chance to take the youngster on board even before his spectacular performances at the 2010 World Cup.
Hernandez equaled Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record for the most goals scored in a debut season for United, and the man dubbed ‘Chicharito’ has become a fan favourite, showing that Ferguson has still got the ability to find the next best talent.
20. Gary Pallister
Pallister’s move to United in 1989 made him a regular in the England international line-up, and the centre-back was another early testament to Ferguson’s ability to splash the cash on players who would deliver.
Pallister cost the club £2.3 million, a record fee for a defender in England, and the 24-year-old at the time was able to forge one of the most successful defensive partnerships the club had seen in their history with Steve Bruce.
But he could score all-important goals too, including an equaliser against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup semi final that earned a replay in 1990, which United won to claim Ferguson's first trophy at United; and a brace against Liverpool in a title decider in April 1997.