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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Sir Alex: The working-class hero
Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson - the greatest modern day manager
BBC Sport Online profiles Manchester United's peerless manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sir Alex Ferguson has remained the foundation stone as the new Manchester United empire was carefully assembled brick by brick.

Players come and go, silverware piles up, and Old Trafford itself barely resembles the stadium that greeted Ferguson in 1986.

And now, after fears he may leave the success story he himself wrote, Ferguson is staying on to help write new chapters in the glittering history of Manchester United.

United's title winning campaign of last season - their third in succession - was never in doubt.

Worthy heir

And there is little to suggest that next year, Ferguson's final season at the managerial helm, will prove any different after the 47.1m purchases of Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastian Veron.

The Scot will want to finish on a high and leave a legacy as marked as Sir Matt Busby's which he began to challenge 15 years ago.

In truth, Ferguson has been a worthy heir to the Busby crown since he broke a 20-year drought to bring the league title home to Old Trafford in 1993.

  Ferguson factfile
Born: 31 December 1941
Ferguson the player
1958-60: Queens Park
1960-64: St Johnstone
1964-67: Dunfermline
1967-69: Rangers
1969-73: Falkirk
1973-74: Ayr United
Ferguson the manager
1975-78: St. Mirren
1978-86: Aberdeen
1986-present: Man Utd
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.

However his first love has always been football.

Ferguson cut a reasonably impressive figure in a 16-year playing career.

The most infamous incident for Ferguson the player came when he was with Rangers and was made a scapegoat in the team's humiliating 4-0 defeat against arch rivals Celtic in the 1969 Cup final.

Management material

As a rumbustious striker the Scot never remotely possessed the playing prowess of some of the most celebrated names in the game.

But as a manager he has received plaudits a plenty, and on top of the trophies he has accumulated over a 26-year period, Ferguson was knighted shortly after the treble triumph in 1999.

He started out with St Mirren in 1975 before joining Aberdeen three years later.

Alex Ferguson with Archie Knox after European success with Aberdeen
Ferguson celebrates European success with Aberdeen in 1983
In the granite city his tough-talking, hands-on approach was a winner.

While at Pittodrie Ferguson smashed the Celtic-Rangers "Old Firm" monopoly, winning three championships, four Scottish Cups and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 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.

Southern success

It is this mix-and-match approach which has served him so well at Manchester, where Ferguson has weaved home-grown talent and foreign flair into cohesive, gutsy sides.

Yet the going has not always been good for him south of the border.

Initially his abilities were called into question by the fans.

The low point came in 1989 when the team found itself hammered 5-1 by its most bitter rivals, Manchester City.

Alex Ferguson celebrates his first trophy with United
Ferguson is out of his seat as United win the FA Cup in 1990
But chairman Martin Edwards and the board did not waver and they, like Ferguson, were rewarded by FA Cup success in 1990.

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.

Another six have been secured and European, League and FA Cup victories litter United's success in the nineties which reached a pinnacle in 1999 with the treble triumph to follow a brace of doubles.

Single minded

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".

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 training ground by 0730 and regularly works 18-hour days.

He is also loyal to his players, although never shy to give them a blast of his temper.

Alex Ferguson holds aloft the European Cup in 1999
Ferguson holds aloft the European Cup in 1999
For someone so consumed by football, it may come as a surprise that he has outside interests.

He owns a racehorse and has been a high-profile campaigner for Tony Blair and the Labour party.

After performing miracles at Aberdeen and Manchester United, "Fergie" is now a British footballing icon.

He has equalled and arguably surpassed Busby's record at Old Trafford.

And now he will adopt the role of worldwide statesman - and advisor no doubt - as he attempts to continue the Old Trafford dynasty.

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