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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 15:21 GMT
Fergie's 15 years
From the dark days of December 1989 to the glory of the Nou Camp 10 years later, Sir Alex Ferguson turned Manchester United from English football's underachievers to one of Europe's most feared sides.

On the 15th anniversary of his arrival at Old Trafford from Aberdeen, BBC Sport Online's Piers Newbery takes a look back at Ferguson's time in charge.


  Fergie's first team
Chris Turner
Mike Duxbury
Arthur Albiston
Paul McGrath
(Jesper Olsen)
Kevin Moran
Graeme Hogg
Clayton Blackmore
Frank Stapleton
Remi Moses
Peter Davenport
Peter Barnes
Ferguson arrived with United in the bottom four and lost his first match in charge 2-0 at Oxford United. Relegation threatened but he steadied the ship while taking a good look at his squad. Despite making no signings, the new boss guided United to 11th at the end of the season.

Things improved dramatically in Ferguson's first full season in charge. New signings Viv Anderson, Steve Bruce and Brian McClair helped United finish runners-up in the championship.

Frank Stapleton left the club, while McClair became the first United player to score more than 20 goals in a season since George Best, finishing with 24.

The re-signing of former United favourite Mark Hughes from Barcelona proved popular with the fans, and Aberdeen goalkeeper Jim Leighton was also brought in.

Russell Beardsmore, Mark Robins and Lee Sharpe all progressed from the youth system, but the season still proved disappointing as United slipped back to 11th.


  1990 FA Cup winners
Les Sealey
Paul Ince
Lee Martin
Steve Bruce
Gary Pallister
Bryan Robson
Neil Webb
Brian McClair
Mike Phelan
Mark Hughes
Danny Wallace
Big money had been spent bringing in Neil Webb, Mike Phelan, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince and Danny Wallace but after a poor start United could only finish 13th in the table.

By Christmas the fans were vocal in their disapproval of the manager.

Ferguson's position was saved by an FA Cup run that began with a 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest and ended in May with victory in the final replay over Crystal Palace.

United made a glorious return to European football with victory over Barcelona in the European Cup Winners' Cup final.

The FA Cup holders lost their grip on the trophy with a fifth-round defeat to Norwich, but finished runners-up in the Rumbelows Cup to Sheffield Wednesday.

As well as considerable activity in the various cup competitions, United improved to sixth in the league.

Despite winning trophies in successive years, the United faithful were impatient for league success. The team made an early exit from both the Cup Winners' Cup and FA Cup, but more importantly they led the title race at Easter.

Three defeats in the final four games handed the title to Leeds, and Rumbelows Cup success was scant consolation.

Hope for the future lay with Ryan Giggs, who won the PFA Young Player of the Year Award and led a victorious FA Youth Cup team.

Ryan Giggs in 1993
Ryan Giggs made an immediate impact
The arrival of the Premiership signalled a change in fortune for Ferguson's side, and the 26-year wait for a league title finally ended.

The signing of Eric Cantona from Leeds United for 1.2m in November completed the team that took the title, finishing 10 points clear of Aston Villa.

United went out on penalties against Torpedo Moscow in the Uefa Cup first round, and a Steve Bruce miss from the spot ended their FA Cup run in the fifth round at Sheffield United.

Nottingham Forest's relegation allowed United to sign midfielder Roy Keane for 3.75m and he helped United to a season of domestic domination.

They completed a League and Cup double with victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup final, and almost sealed the treble before losing to Aston Villa in the Coca-Cola Cup final.

The club's return to the European Cup was less successful and they lost on away goals to Galatasaray.

Mike Phelan, Clayton Blackmore and Les Sealey left, while David May arrived from Blackburn.

Eric Cantona's attack on a fan at Crystal Palace led to him being banned for eight months and even the 7m signing of Andy Cole from Newcastle could not stop the title going to Blackburn on the last day of the season.

There was another shock at Wembley as United went down 1-0 to Everton in the FA Cup final.

David Beckham in 1996
Beckham won the double in his first full season
When Ferguson let Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelskis and Paul Ince go in the summer, many observers thought he was throwing away the title before the season began.

But following an opening day 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa, the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville helped United to the "double double".

Victory in the FA Cup final against Liverpool was particularly sweet, with the rejuvenated Cantona grabbing a late winner.

Norwegians Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ronny Johnsen joined the squad as Ferguson completed 10 years in charge at Old Trafford.

With their Premiership superiority re-established, it was time for United to make a bigger impact in Europe.

A 4-0 thrashing of Porto in the European Cup quarter-final suggested it could be their year, but uncharacteristic misses from Cantona saw United lose to eventual winners Borussia Dortmund in the last four.

The club was shocked by Eric Cantona's decision to retire, but Ferguson moved quickly to bring in Teddy Sheringham as a replacement.

The season proved to be something of a let-down, with surprise exits to Monaco and Barnsley in the European Cup and FA Cup.

A run of only five wins in the last 10 Premiership games let Arsenal come from behind to complete the double.


  European champions
Peter Schmeichel
Gary Neville
Denis Irwin
Ronny Johnsen
Jaap Stam
David Beckham
Nicky Butt
Ryan Giggs
Jesper Blomqvist
(Teddy Sheringham)
Andy Cole
(Ole Gunnar Solskjaer)
Dwight Yorke
If the previous season was a let-down, this campaign was anything but.

Ferguson added Jaap Stam, Jesper Blomqvist and Dwight Yorke to an already powerful squad that went on to win an unprecedented treble.

Regaining the Premiership and FA Cup was impressive, but claiming the club's second European Cup with a dramatic win over Bayern Munich made it the season that Ferguson will always be remembered for.

A bizarre season started with the retirement of Peter Schmeichel and the signing of Quinton Fortune and Mikael Silvestre.

United reached the high of taking the Inter Continental Cup against Palmeiras in Tokyo and retained the Premiership title.

But pulling out of the FA Cup to take part in the inaugural World Club Championship in Brazil was widely unpopular, and defeat to Real Madrid saw the European Cup disappear.

A third successive Premiership title was won, but such was the transformation enjoyed under Ferguson that the season was still considered disappointing.

Another quarter-final defeat in the European Cup, this time to Bayern Munich, led Ferguson to make some big signings in preparation for his final year in charge.

Sir Alex Ferguson claims the pressure on today's football managers is unbearable. Too tough?
Are managers under too much pressure?

Images of Sir Alex Ferguson's 15 years in charge of Manchester UnitedMixed emotions
Fergie's 15 years in charge at Man Utd - in pictures

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06 Nov 01 |  Man Utd
Fergie admits to pressure
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