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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 22:05 GMT
Ferguson's defining moments
By Alex Trickett

Sir Alex Ferguson marked his 1,000th game in charge of Manchester United safe in the knowledge that his legacy as one of the greatest managers in history is secure.

But it was not always that way.

Drawing on your thoughts on the 606 messageboards and on expert views, BBC Sport reflects on six key episodes in Ferguson's Old Trafford career.

FA CUP GLORY - 1990

Bryan Robson (left) and Alex Ferguson after the 1990 FA Cup win
Bryan Robson (left) and Alex Ferguson after the 1990 FA Cup win
It hardly seems plausible now, but Ferguson was perilously close to losing his job at the start of the 1990s.

He had enjoyed only limited success at Manchester United since taking over in 1986 and had seen his charges crumble to a limp 5-1 loss to neighbours City three years later.

Many believe a defeat to Nottingham Forest in the third-round of the 1990 FA Cup would have ended his Old Trafford reign.

Ferguson survived thanks to unlikely hero Mark Robins, whose goal settled that tie.

And United went on to lift the trophy courtesy of even-more-unlikely hero Lee Martin, who won a final replay against Crystal Palace.

CUP WINNERS' CUP JOY - 1991

If the Cup final win staved off the critics, United's subsequent Cup Winners' Cup victory announced the club's return to Europe's top table.

This time, Mark Hughes did the honours, scoring twice against former club Barcelona in a 2-1 win in Rotterdam.

ARRIVAL OF A KING - 1992

Eric Cantona
Name: Eric Cantona
Man Utd appearances: 190
Man Utd goals: 88
The pieces were starting to fall into place for Ferguson.

But the picture was not complete until the Scot pulled off arguably the biggest transfer coup of the decade by signing Eric Cantona for 1.2m from defending Division One champions Leeds.

The Elland Road club had pipped Manchester United to the title in 1992.

But Ferguson's Reds became unstoppable when they added "King" Cantona's creative flair to a team that already included Hughes, Bryan Robson, Ryan Giggs and defensive rocks Peter Schmeichel, Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister.

FIRST LEAGUE TITLE FOR 26 YEARS - 1993

Ferguson became untouchable at Old Trafford when he brought the club their first league title since 1967.

And he did so in style, landing the inaugural Premiership by 10 points from Aston Villa.

Central defender Bruce, unsung hero for so long, rose to the fore with his team trailing 1-0 to Sheffield Wednesday.

He scored an equaliser and then a second seven minutes into injury time to virtually win the league, sparking scenes of manic celebration as Ferguson and assistant Brian Kidd ran on to the pitch.

AT WAR WITH THE GUNNERS - 1990-present

MAN UTD V ARSENAL INCIDENTS
Ruud van Nistelrooy and Martin Keown (right)
1990: Arsenal docked points after brawl
1998: Marc Overmars sets up Arsenal title at Old Trafford
1999: Ryan Giggs' wonder goal keeps Man Utd on for treble
2001: Man Utd thump Arsenal 6-1 en route to championship
2002: Sylvain Wiltord clinches title for Gunners in Manchester
2003: Both sides criticised after stormy 0-0
2004: Ferguson is reportedly pelted with food

Less of an episode and more of a long-running saga, one of the most consistent features of Ferguson's reign has been an unflagging and often bitter rivalry with Arsenal.

Trouble flared up first in 1990, when the Londoners were docked 50,000 and two points for their part in a brawl at Old Trafford.

And tempers boiled over again when Arsene Wenger took charge at Highbury in 1996, sparking a catalogue of "mind games" with Ferguson.

Both managers have had their victories over the years, none tasting sweeter to Ferguson than the 1999 FA Cup semi-final win - inspired by Giggs' sensational solo goal - that kept alive his dream of winning the treble.

But the pressure is now on Ferguson and Wenger to cool the rivalry a tad before it spirals out of control.

MAKE MINE A TREBLE - 1999

With a domestic double already under his belt, Ferguson looked set for the biggest disappointment of his career when United went 1-0 down to Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

But a drab encounter finally sparked to life in injury time.

First, Teddy Sheringham slotted home from six yards and then David Beckham swung in a corner, which Sheringham flicked on for substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to score.

That strike capped an incredible comeback, won the treble and put the seal on what will surely always be the defining moment of Ferguson's illustrious career.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Report: BBC Sport's Sally Nugent


Interview : Former Man Utd star George Best




SEE ALSO
Ferguson celebrates 1,000th game
23 Nov 04 |  Man Utd



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