Sir Alex Ferguson will probably go down as the greatest manager of all time, and rightly so. But was he given the chance to achieve this feat more so than anyone else?
He was appointed manager of Manchester United in November 1986, and didn't win his first major honour until the 1989/90 season when they beat Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup final.
His first English Premier League title didn't come until the 1992/93 season. Had he been operating in today's game, where clubs are run by big money owners wanting immediate success, I am not so sure he would have gone on to become the great manager we know he is.
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We can't ignore the fact that before Sir Alex Ferguson joined Manchester United, he achieved great success with Aberdeen in Scotland, most noticeably a league title win in the 1979/80 season (the first time the league had not been won by either Rangers or Celtic in 15 years) and then going on to win it again during the 1983/84 season and retaining the season after that.
He did also win the European Super Cup with Aberdeen in 1983. To achieve what he did in Scotland, he clearly had something special about him, and this was to be proven as time went on.
Top coaching staff
One thing Ferguson was great at doing was bringing in top men around him, great assistants who I am sure he would admit made his job a great deal easier, people such as Archie Knox, Steve McClaren, Brian Kidd and Carlos Queiroz spring to mind. Nonetheless, he was the main man and he was the man at the forefront of everything.
Not many, if any managers who have been able to build top team after top team like Ferguson did. I don't think there will ever be a team like that of the class of 92, a team built around a core of players who came through the youth ranks mixed in with a wealth of experience in players such as Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister and Paul Ince, not to mention one of the greatest Premier League players we have ever seen in Eric Cantona.
Will we ever see a team now winning a title in which the main core of players were brought through the youth ranks?
Of course, Ferguson did have a great academy to work with, and a great academy coach in Eric Harrison, but this was his own doing.
I remember watching the Class of 92 and Eric Harrison himself saying when Ferguson joined he felt the academy needed to be improved. He knew exactly what he was doing.
He knew how good these players were and it takes a manager of his calibre to develop them into the players they became and the success they went on to achieve, most noticeably a treble in the 1998/99 season in which no club since has been able to achieve.
I look at the great managers of today, Jose Mourinho no doubt is one of them, and has gained great success at a number of clubs.
He is the only one in my lifetime who possibly has a chance of surpassing Ferguson. However, for me, to be considered the best is being able to consistently do it at one club over a substantial period of time.
I do believe Mourinho can achieve this, but right now he is not quite in Ferguson's league based on his longevity at one club.
Arsene Wenger is certainly up there as one of the greatest, unfortunately for him he hasn't quite achieved the success Ferguson has, even though he did develop a Premier League winning side which was able to go a whole season unbeaten.
One thing that has eluded him is a Champions League medal. I think a manager has to be assessed based on what he wins, and with 49 trophies to his name, including 13 English Premier League titles and two Champions League medals, Ferguson is definitely at the top of this tree.
The one thing Ferguson may regret when looking back over his managerial career is the fact he was only able to win two Champions League winners medals. With the players he had and the teams he built, he will know this number should have been higher. However, had he not won any, maybe we wouldn't be talking about him as the greatest.
The fact is, he won everything there was to win, he gained consistent success as a manager in probably the toughest league in the world and I do think currently he is the best we have ever seen. Will he ever be surpassed?
Only time will tell. With the way football is nowadays, I personally don't think managers will get the opportunity to achieve longstanding success, but I hope I am proven wrong. As I documented previously, would he have gone on to achieve the same success if he was a manager in the modern era?
One thing is for sure, he has set the bar, and it is up to the chasing pack to aspire to what he has achieved in the game.
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