Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated 1000 league games in charge of Manchester United
I’m not a great one for statistics, but here’s an interesting one for you to mull over. The League Manager’s Association estimates that the average tenure of a club manager is barely two seasons. So, as one now in his twenty seventh season in charge of one of the most high-profile, expectant sports clubs in the world celebrates his one thousandth league game at United, many will not even approach ten percent of this extraordinary figure.
Now add Ferguson’s winning ratio. Ahead of the trip to Saint Mary’s to face newly promoted Southampton, his record stood at 598 wins, 233 draws and 168 defeats. In total, he has won almost 60 per cent of all league games. Even more staggering is his winning record in the Premier League, with almost two thirds (65 per cent) of games won.
Quite simply, it’s a record that shines above all others. I might be a wordsmith, but words simply cannot put into words what the Scot has achieved. And yet, with less patience (and here, credit must go to Martin Edwards, then chairman, for his patience when others may have wielded the axe without hesitation), the most successful manager in United’s history could have found himself following ‘Big Ron’ Atkinson out of the Old Trafford doors all too quickly.
Appointed on November 6th 1986, Ferguson’s opening game was an infamous 2-0 defeat to Oxford United. A lacklustre, limp United that day did ultimately improve, but still fell short of matching both Merseyside clubs. Building the dominant, disciplined, driven side to wrestle Liverpool’s dominance would take time.
Yet once this time had been given, things turned around on a scale only a great like Ferguson could manage. ‘Furious Fergie’, as he had become known at Aberdeen, would install his strict, determined, highly motivated persona upon the team, and above all, a never say day attitude.
Growing up at the time, I’ll never forget the pain of the 1991/92 season and losing the league to Leeds. Yet the heartache of that season appeared to be the catalyst for what was to come in the latter nineties. The football United played in the 1992/93 season remains some of my favourite to relive.
At the same time though, the quality over the years has always been there. Whilst the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City (and, in earlier years, Arsenal) have raised their game, and ultimately made for equally difficult climaxes to the season (I still rate losing the league to Chelsea by a point amongst one of the greatest lows of my time following United), one thing has always rung true throughout Ferguson’s league game – consistency.
United have never finished below third in any Premier League campaign (the only league side that can claim this), and who else can say they came from twelve points behind and ‘no hope’ with ‘kids’ in the side to win the league?
I could go on and on about the achievements Ferguson has amassed in the league. The 9-0 demolition of Ipswich, Andy Cole’s long-standing record of five goals in one game (in the same match), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s ten minute hat-trick away to Nottingham Forest in the treble season, the treble itself, record goals scored and conceded… but the reality is that much has already been said about these feats.
Instead, put simply, consider this: for all that United is a club which prides itself on the diversity of its achievements, as well as the frequency, the league perhaps remains the focal point of all success. So, with this in mind, perhaps Ferguson’s achievements should be no surprise. Make no mistake, there will be many more milestones in the career of a man who continues to create superlatives. But the comebacks, the statistics, the successes, the memories of these one thousand games, will live long in the memory.
Here’s to many more…
By Nick Aston
RedArmy is Britain’s biggest Manchester United Magazine.
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