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EDITIONS
World Club Championship Monday, 20 December, 1999, 19:21 GMT
Ferguson: Football's King Midas
Alex Ferguson
Alex Ferguson: His tireless work helped deliver the Treble
In a career crammed full of success, 1999 has seen Sir Alex Ferguson's crowned as the King Midas of British football.

Everything the Manchester United manager has touched in the past 12 months seems to have turned to gold - or should that be silver.

United's honours under Ferguson
1990: FA Cup
1991: Cup Winners' Cup
1992: League Cup
1993: League title
1994: League and FA Cup Double
1996: League and FA Cup Double
1997: League title
1999: European Cup, League title, FA Cup Treble, Intercontinental Cup
An unprecedented Treble of European Cup, Premiership title and FA Cup marked the pinnacle of Ferguson's 13-year tenure.

A knighthood followed, as his achievements in promoting English football on the continent were recognised by the Establishment.

His autobiography was published and proved a huge best-seller, swelling an already healthy bank account.

United then finished the year as the first ever English holders of the Intercontinental Cup.

And for good measure, as Gary Lineker commented on the BBC's Sports Review of the Year, even when Ferguson took a weekend off from management - as he did for the FA Cup third round - he still went to Wrexham and saw his son Darren score the winner in a giantkilling victory.

With United ready to take on the leading clubs from the six continents, Ferguson will be hoping that for him 2000 picks up where 1999 finished.

Sir Matt's heir

"Fergie" is now a British footballing icon to rank alongside Sir Matt Busby, who established United as a world class outfit in the 1950s, and whose reputation every Old Trafford manager since has been trying to rival.

Ferguson and Busby
Ferguson with Man United mentor Matt Busby
In truth, Ferguson had been a worthy heir to the Busby crown even before the victory against Bayern Munich in May, which brought United their first European Cup since 1968.

Since he broke a 20-year drought to bring the league title home to Old Trafford in 1993, he has delivered on his promises.

The side has topped the Premiership in five of the last seven years.

Born in Glasgow to a Protestant, working class family, his leadership skills first came to the fore as a shop steward in the Clyde shipyards, when Ferguson led an unofficial walk-out over a pay dispute.

His first love had always been football and Ferguson cut a reasonably impressive figure with Rangers. But he was made a scapegoat in the team's humiliating 4-0 defeat against arch rivals Celtic in the 1969 Cup Final.

World Club Championship
He switched to management, first with St Mirren and then, from 1978, at Aberdeen.

His tough-talking, hands-on approach was a winner at Pittodrie and Ferguson smashed the Celtic-Rangers "Old Firm" monopoly, winning three championships, four Scottish Cups and the European Cup Winners' Cup in the space of six years.

Known for his fiery temper, he also won the reputation of a fiercely loyal coach who invests time and effort in star players and apprentices alike.

Smiling
Letting a smile slip before the match with Bayern Munich
It is this mix-and-match approach which has served him so well at Manchester, where Ferguson has weaved home-gown talent and foreign flair into cohesive, gutsy sides.

Yet the going has not always been good for him at Old Trafford, where his abilities were initally called into question by the fans. The low point came in 1989 when the team found itself hammered 5-1 by their most bitter rivals, Manchester City.

On his third anniversary at the club a flag was unfurled at a home game which read: "Three years of excuses, ta-ra Fergie."

But chairman Martin Edwards and the board did not waver - and a 1990 FA Cup victory bought him valuable time.

The family atmosphere he had worked hard to establish was bearing fruit and three years later the Guv'nor from Govan finally brought home the League title.

His management style has been thoroughly analysed by lovers of the sport. They have attributed his success to factors as diverse as a "working class ability" to asses the qualities of men around him, and "tunnel vision".

Friends in high places

Richard Greenbury, the former chairman of Marks and Spencer and a friend, called him the "best man-manager in Britain today". Ferguson himself has said: "Control everything in management."

Ferguson kissing the cup
At last: The European Cup had always been Ferguson's Holy Grail
Whatever his given talents, Ferguson, who is married to Cathy and a father of three grown-up sons, also puts in the hours. He is usually at the ground by 0730 and regularly works 18-hour days. He is loyal to his players although never shy to give them a blast of his temper.

Added to this is the fact that he is a pure football fan; a fountain of knowledge about the sport.

Ferguson has fostered a wealth of international talent including Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the Neville Brothers, as well as signing overseas players such as Eric Cantona, Peter Schmeichel and Jaap Stam.

For someone so consumed by football, it may come as a surprise that he has outside interests. He is a successful racehorse owner and has been a high profile campaigner for Tony Blair and the Labour Party.

So now Fergie is at the peak of his powers, has his seemingly insatiable thirst for glory been quenched?

United may be the most feared force in football, but he knows the crockery-smashing dressing room antics fabled of top flight managers are never far away.

He admits he has started taking life easier this days, but adds: "Until we start losing and then it will be teacup time again."

See also:

20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
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