Sir Alex Ferguson, Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly or Brian Clough - the debate over who is Britain’s greatest manager of all time has gone on for years and will no doubt continue to rumble on.
It’s difficult to compare them all, as some managed for much longer than others. No doubt United fans will always choose Ferguson and Liverpool fans will plump for Paisley or Shankly.
Ferguson has an overall win percentage of 58.19% in all games managed, compared to Paisley’s 57.38% so there is very little in it in that respect.
Liverpool fans constantly point to Paisley’s three European Cups in support of their man, but when you look more closely at how they were won, compared to Ferguson’s two, it is again difficult to say that this proves Paisley was better.
Not to take anything away from Liverpool, but when they won their first European Cup in 1977 they beat Crusaders, Trabzonspor, Saint Etienne, FC Zurich and Borussia Monchengladbach - hardly five giants of the game.
A year later when they retained the cup, they had a first round bye before beating Dynamo Dresden, Benfica, Borussia Monchengladbach and Brugge, again not exactly a fearsome list of opposition.
Compare this to when Ferguson won his first trophy in 1999 beating LKS Lodz, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Brondy, Inter Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich again in the final, and you have to concede this is a more impressive list of conquests by far.
It would be hard to argue against the fact that the Champions League is far harder to win than the old European Cup. Yes, only the league champions were in the competition back in the days of the European Cup, so it was harder to gain entry, but just ask yourself - would you rather be up against Barcelona and Real Madrid plus two other Spanish teams, as well as AC Milan and Juventus plus another two Italian teams, as well as possibly three or four German outfits, or would you rather just have to beat one team from each country?
Obviously competing against just one team from each country is far easier, so I don’t think there can be much argument that these days, becoming the 'Kings of Europe' is much more difficult.
Another thing in Ferguson’s favour is that he took over a club that had not won the league for 18 years and had to build his own team, whereas Paisley took over from the great Bill Shankly who had won the league two years before Paisley took charge, and finished second just before handing over the reigns.
Paisley won 20 honours in nine years whilst Ferguson has so far won 48 trophies in his 26-year reign. Aside from their European Cups, Ferguson has 12 league titles to Paisley’s six, five FA Cups to Bob’s none and four League Cups to the Liverpool man’s three. Clough won two European Cups, two league titles and four League Cups, whilst Bill Shankly won three league titles, two FA Cups and a UEFA Cup.
Ferguson also broke the Celtic and Rangers stranglehold on Scottish football with his achievements at Aberdeen, even winning a European trophy with them, which was no mean feat. Of course he is also the only British manager to win the treble, in 1999, though Paisley was only stopped in the 1977 FA Cup final from achieving the same, by Tommy Docherty’s United.
If Paisley had stayed on at Liverpool longer, who knows what else he would have achieved and campaigns for posthumous knighthoods for him, Shankly and Clough certainly deserve support in a world where Terry Wogan, Bruce Forsyth and Cliff Richard have received such honours.
But overall, despite his many detractors, I think you have to conclude that Sir Alex Ferguson, due to his longevity, his success in building both Aberdeen and United to greatness, and his unique treble win, has to be considered the greatest.
Do you agree? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.
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