On May 19, 2013, an era of more than a quarter of a century ended. On that day, Manchester United played to a hockey score of 5:5 away from West Bromwich, and the game was the last for Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The great coach emerged victorious: since then, the Champions League has not been a guest at Old Trafford, further emphasizing his uniqueness and importance for United.
For 27 years at Manchester United, Ferguson had to solve many difficult situations in which the coach showed not only managerial skills, but also a subtle psychologist. The fight against drunkenness and the riotous lifestyle of the Manchester United players almost cost the Scotsman his job in the early 1990s, when the team was in the relegation zone. He was especially tough in the early seasons. Alex even had to show by his own example what level of dedication he expects from his charges. To do this, in 1987, Ferguson spent one game in the United shirt as player-coach. And so he had a huge impact on the future of the team.
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In the early years of Manchester United’s management, Ferguson trained with the team
For the sake of the dream of leading Manchester United in 1986, Fergie took a significant pay cut: in Aberdeen, the coach received twice as much, but he saw a great prospect of working in Manchester. At that time, the “Red Devils” were a pitiful sight: the leaders suppressed alcohol, trained at full capacity, and the club saved every penny. Alex took charge of the team on November 6, 14 rounds after the start of the championship: under coach Ron Atkinson, the “devils” won only three matches and remained in the relegation zone. The last straw for the management was the defeat of Oxford United (0:2).
Alex Ferguson one month after being signed by Manchester United
Photo: Gerry Crowther/Getty Images
The Scotsman has changed every aspect of club life, from training and nutrition to the scouting network and youth team, with a particular focus on rooting out drunken antics from the players. It’s only fitting that the manager faced fierce rejection of the new rules from Manchester United leaders Norman Whiteside, Paul McGrath and Bryan Robson. “I made it clear to them that now they will have discipline for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” the coach practiced eloquence in front of the journalists. He helped: Manchester United finished that season in 11th place and Alex began to think about how to further push the new philosophy of the players.
Fergie decided that the best way to improve the dedication of footballers was to show by example. From the first days at Old Trafford, the coach took part in team training, despite the already respectable age of 45 years. Alex spent his entire playing career in Scotland, played for the national team and even became the author of a record transfer to Rangers for £ 65 thousand in 1966. Fergie scored a lot, was famous for his intransigence in martial arts, which was immediately felt by the United players in training.
In the 1987 winter offseason, the coach took the team on a brief tour of Bermuda. The Devils agreed to hold two friendly matches, with the Bermuda national team and the Somerset Trojans football club. In the first game, the Mancunians defeated the “warriors” (nickname of the Bermuda national team) with a score of 4:1. The hosts were noticeably inferior in skill to the English team, therefore they countered the rivals with unprecedented rudeness. As a result, several “devils” were injured at once.
Ferguson threatened to break his opponent’s nose
The Coral Island representatives continued to pound Ferguson’s team in the next game. They acted so bloodthirsty that they broke United goalkeeper Gary Walsh: when he took a corner, a textured opposing striker pushed him towards the goal along with the ball. Walsh received a severe blow to the head, lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital. The goalkeeper recovered from the consequences of that injury for several years.
In 1983 Fergie won the European Cup Winners’ Cup with Aberdeen, and in 1991 he repeated this feat with Manchester United.
Photo: Simon Bruty/Getty Images
Passions ran high, they soon limped off and called for a replacement, Bryan Robson. The coach was confident that the tough fights would temper the team before the start of the second round of the English Championship, but he did not expect such a high level of play from the rivals. Faced with such a situation, half an hour before the end of the match, Alex decided to enter the field himself, and even in the company of the millennial assistant Archie Knox. Two thousand spectators gathered at the stadium greeted the commander-in-chief of the “devils” with a deafening whistle and selective curses – the atmosphere of the game turned out to be very tense.
“Archie was a friend of Walsh’s, so he would go out on the pitch especially loaded,” said former Manchester United defender Arthur Albiston. – Opponents walked away from him like fools, Knox crawled in the innings and at the end of the match scored an outstanding goal with a shot from 30 meters, exactly nine. Ferguson also tried hard. At 46, he was nothing like a footballer whose playing career ended more than a decade ago. Playing at the forefront of the attack, Alex had two great chances from crosses down the flank, but sent the ball over the goal twice from close range.
In injury time, a fight almost broke out on the pitch after a hard tackle by Fergie on a defender, who had recently hit the trainer in the stomach in a horse fight, but the referee didn’t see. “Alex cursed and threatened to break the offender’s nose. He did not calm down in the friendly match of the teams after the game. When one of the rivals joked that they felt sorry for Manchester United by scoring only two goals (the “devils” won 4-2), Fergie jumped out of her chair and struck a formidable pose,” recalled the former Troyanov goalkeeper. and Bermuda National Team Llewelyn Simmons.
Another notable event of that trip was the discovery of the striker – United signed the young Bermudian Sean Gowther. He never played a single official match for Manchester United, but he left a remarkable mark on Manchester City’s history. At the turn of the century, Sean scored 84 goals in 184 games for the Citizens, defeating the Devils with a brace in his team’s 2002 derby victory.
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He hits the offending teammate and receives a red card
The trip to Bermuda isn’t the only exotic adventure Ferguson has undertaken as a player-coach. In 1976, Alex, just beginning his coaching career, took the St. Mirren he was driving to the Caribbean. The British played friendly matches with local teams for three weeks with the sole aim of establishing links in the whiskey export industry in this way, the owner of the “saints” Harold Curry.
Fergie in her only game in a United shirt
In the first games the atmosphere was friendly, but then Fergie’s team went to Guyana to play with the local team, which was preparing for the decisive World Cup qualifier. The hosts came out to battle the Europeans and evidently crossed the line. Scottish striker Robert Torrance was hit especially hard: the defending giant from the Caribbean hit him, and the referee missed the most obvious fouls. Late in the first half, Torrance got her hard again, and a furious Alex went to lace up his boots. The coach recalled his emotions at that moment in his autobiography: “I told the assistant: ‘He’s done, I’m going out onto the field. This bastard is completely pissed.”
The ball was of little interest to the young coach: he wanted to get closer to the rude defender. At the start of the second half, he finally did it: with Fergie’s nudge, he knocked the wind out of his opponent and received a yellow card. “Our fierce matchup continued for a while longer, and then I hit Torrance’s attacker perfectly. As I was rolling down the field in pain, the referee showed me a red card. I was pleased with myself,” Alex recalled from the episode.
These episodes vividly illustrate how a tough and charismatic manager led United and made the team the most successful in England. Sir Alex instilled in the “devils” not only the philosophy of winners (the Scotsman won 38 trophies at Old Trafford), but also the ability to strike back at any time.