Sir Alex Ferguson is widely regarded as the greatest football manager of all time and deservedly so.
The legendary Scot transformed Manchester United into a winning machine during his remarkable 26-year tenure, sealing 13 Premier League trophies, five FA Cups and two Champions Leagues among a host of other team and individual honours.
However, Ferguson is only human, which means he made his fair share of mistakes along the way.
Fergie, like every other football manager, sometimes got it wrong - very wrong, in some cases - when it came to judging players.
It goes without saying that he got a lot more right than he did wrong over the course of his managerial career - but let’s remember those times when Ferguson showed that even the managerial GOAT was capable of making errors…
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“I'm one of the few who felt Gerrard was not a top, top player.”
Ferguson caused a stir with this statement about the Liverpool legend in his 2013 autobiography.
Gerrard admitted he was “a bit gutted” to hear abut Fergie’s comments afterwards, but put it down to the fact that he rejected the chance to sign for Man Utd in the early-2000s.
Whatever the reason, Ferguson was completely wrong about Gerrard, who was a world-class all-action midfielder at his peak and undoubtedly one of the greatest players we’ve seen during the Premier League era.
Fergie famously rejected the chance to sign Henderson because of his running style.
The United boss was concerned that the midfielder, who was plying his trade with Sunderland at the time, had a running gait which “might cause him injury problems later in his career”.
A decade later and Henderson is now a Champions League-winning captain and will also be a Premier League-winning captain very soon. He is also favourite to win the PFA’s Premier League Player of the Year award.
As with Gerrard, United’s loss was Liverpool’s gain.
"Lampard, for me, was a marvellous servant for Chelsea. But I didn't think of him as an elite international footballer.”
While none of us know anywhere near as much about football as Ferguson, we can’t agree with his 2013-opinion about Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Lampard was a world-class midfielder who shone in both the Premier League and the Champions League. He also did well for England although, like many of his fellow Three Lions, was unable to replicate his club form on the international stage.
"I see some values on players, like Hazard for instance. To me it was a lot of money. He's a good player, but £34m?”
If Ferguson knew that Chelsea would sell the Belgian winger for £100 million seven years later, he would have soon revised that opinion.
"In the Hazard deal, Chelsea paid the agent £6m,” he added back in July 2012. “It's all about what you think is value for a player. I am not envious of those deals at all. We placed a value on Hazard which was well below what they were talking about.
"So if it doesn't work, well we're not worried about that. We think we've got good value in (Shinji) Kagawa."
That worked out well…
"Jones, arguably the way he is looking, could be our best ever player. I think Jones may be one of the best players we have ever had, no matter where we play him. At 21 years of age, he is going to be a phenomenal player. I think he can play anywhere on the pitch.”
Yes, Ferguson actually said this about Phil Jones in 2013. Phil Jones!
Fergie genuinely thought that Jones could become Manchester United’s best player ever, surpassing the likes of Bobby Charlton, George Best, Ryan Giggs and every other club legend.
"At the time he had just come back from an achilles injury and we thought he had just lost a little bit. We got the offer from Lazio, £16.5m for a centre-back who was 29. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.”
After three successful seasons at Old Trafford, Ferguson dumped the brilliant Dutch centre-back.
By his own admission, this was an error.
“But in playing terms it was a mistake,” Fergie admitted. “He is still playing for Ajax at a really good level."
Before moving to his final club Ajax in 2006, Stam shone with Lazio and AC Milan.
“I went to see him in 2003 for Rennes. We thought Petr was a bit young for the bruisers in the Premier League.”
Peter Schmeichel left Man Utd in 1999 but it took Ferguson six years to finally bring in another world-class goalkeeper in the form of Edwin van der Sar.
Before that, the likes of Fabien Barthez, Tim Howard and Roy Carroll all failed to convince in between the sticks at Old Trafford.
But had Ferguson been a bit braver in 2003, they could have landed Cech - who is arguably the best ‘keeper of the Premier League era.
“Fergie, Sign him up! Fergie, Fergie, Sign him up!”
Man Utd fans made their feelings clear about Tevez towards the end of his two-year ‘loan’ spell at Old Trafford in 2009.
But Ferguson didn’t appear to be overly convinced and his hesitancy resulted in Tevez being lured to Manchester City, where he further cemented his status as one of the Premier League’s best forwards.
Back when Ravel Morrison was 14 years old, Ferguson called Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney over in training to watch the talented young playmaker - but he may have gone a bit overboard with his analysis.
Ferdinand revealed in 2019: “Sir Alex Ferguson, I remember, he called me and Wazza [Wayne Rooney] over one day and said: “look at this kid, he’s better than you, Rooney when you were a kid, he’s better than you, Rio, better than Ryan Giggs when you were kids. This is the best kid you will ever see.”
While Morrison may have looked like a future world-beater as a teenager, it would be an understatement to say that the former England Under-21 international has failed to live up to the hype.
"He was never a problem until he got married,” Ferguson was quoted as saying by the Independent in 2007. “He used to go into work with the academy coaches at night time, he was a fantastic young lad.
"Getting married into that entertainment scene was a difficult thing – from that moment his life was never going to be the same. He is such a big celebrity, football is only a small part. The big part is his persona."
Beckham may have married Posh Spice and been involved heavily in the celebrity scene but, by all accounts, he still worked tirelessly both on the training ground and during matches.
United’s famous No. 7 always gave 100 per cent and to accuse him of becoming a problem after getting married feels unnecessarily harsh.
Okay, so this one was less Fergie’s fault and more Carlos Queiroz’s, but the United great still acted on the advice of his assistant manager without taking a good look at the player himself.
Bebe is subsequently remembered as one of Ferguson’s worst ever signings.
“When I arrived I went into the room and saw Ferguson was looking at me,” Bebe revealed in 2013. “He told me to cut my hair, it will look better. So I cut it the same day. In the next training session he didn’t recognise me. I went past him many times and he didn’t know me.
“He didn’t speak much but I didn’t understand much. He has a difficult accent, so I understood nothing. He called me ‘Baby’. After I told him it wasn’t like that.”
“Goals always help players of course, and when they are forwards in particular. There is a goal in Gabby, there is no question of that.”
Fergie was bang on the money, in fairness. There was a goal in Obertan - one goal in 28 games for the Red Devils before he was offloaded to Newcastle United two years after joining the Red Devils.
“Alex said that Eric [Cantona] had also mentioned Zidane to him, but Alex felt Zidane played in the same position as Eric,” Martin Edwards, the former Man Utd chairman, revealed in his book.
“Having gone over to France to persuade Eric to re-sign for us, after the Crystal Palace incident, he felt that, if he had brought Zidane in, it may have affected Eric’s position, so he stuck with Eric.”
Yes, Man Utd could have signed Zidane from Bordeaux in 1996 but Ferguson decided he didn’t want to risk upsetting Cantona, who would retire from football at the age of 30 just one year later.
Zidane ended up joining Juventus instead and, well, the rest is history…
Ferguson hated dealing with agents, which is partly why Man Utd missed out on the opportunity to sign Aguero.
“His agent was demanding a price we were not prepared to pay,” Fergie admitted.
Whatever the Argentine forward’s agent was demanding, Ferguson probably should have given the green light.
“Alex was watching Franck Ribery, the Marseille winger but decided by half-time that he was not good enough for United.”
The words of Alistair Campbell, the former Labour Party spokesman, who accompanied Ferguson to watch Bolton play Marseille in 2006.
Ribery was on the Marseille team but didn’t do enough on the night to impress Ferguson.
Bayern Munich ended up signing the French winger instead and it’s fair to say they didn’t end up regretting their purchase.
Ribery spent 12 seasons with the German giants, scoring 124 goals in 425 games and winning a host of major honours in the process, including nine Bundesliga titles, six German Cups and the Champions League.
“The first half we were battered, and we couldn't handle Charlie Adam, his corner kicks are worth £10m.”
Perhaps Fergie was being a bit mischievous with this comment, knowing full well that Liverpool wanted to sign the Scottish midfielder from Blackpool in 2011.
Or maybe he really did believe that Adam’s corner kicks were worth £10 million alone.
Fortunately for Man Utd fans, Ferguson didn’t go one step further and bring Adam to the Theatre of Dreams.
After signing Kleberson to fill the midfield void left by Juan Sebastian Veron and David Beckham in the summer of 2013, Ferguson praised the Brazilian’s ‘superb physique’.
"He is young and we certainly think he is one of the most progressive young players in Brazil at the moment," Ferguson told the Manchester Evening News, per Sky Sports. "He is athletic, creative and quick."
Kleberson ended up making just 30 appearances for United, scoring two goals.
In fairness, we’d be here all day if we were talking about the players Ferguson was spot on about.
But it’s important to remember that while he was a managerial genius, Fergie did get it wrong occasionally.News Now - Sport News