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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 22:02 GMT
Sir Alex Ferguson - master manager

By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

Sir Alex Ferguson
Manchester United owe Sir Alex Ferguson an incredible amount
Sir Alex Ferguson took charge of a Manchester United team for a remarkable 1,000th time on Tuesday for the visit of Lyon in the Champions League.

During the last 18 years Ferguson has won eight Premier League titles, five FA Cups, the Champions League and the European Cup Winners' Cup.

It's an incredible record, success after success after success, a fairytale.

The trophy tally tells you everything you need to know about Ferguson - he's a winner and you can see that in every team he puts on the pitch.

He loves the game of football and the job he does, he loves being right in the middle of it.

What's been so impressive is he has had a number of different sides and every time there has been a challenge, United have risen to it.

He had a really exciting team in the early 1990s that were fast and fluent and then he brought five or six kids in and did it that way, before he guided them to the European Cup.

Every time you think United look down and out Alex seems to gets the best out of his players and they come back with renewed vigour.

Success is the easy part; continued success is the hard part.

Sir Alex Ferguson
You don't hear many of his ex-players bad-mouthing him

To keep on rebuilding and challenging, that's hard. At the start of the season you have to have so much hunger.

He is never complacent. You might see a bad United side that loses, but they are never complacent.

Manchester United owe him an incredible amount.

When you talk about United being a global brand and how big they are - well, you only become so big if you are doing it on the pitch and United wouldn't be valued at 800m if it wasn't for Alex.

When he took over United 18 years ago they were a big club, but they hadn't won the championship in years.

When he took over, United were a team that on their day could beat anyone, but they didn't have enough of those days, but he has turned them into a consistent team, a team that makes the opposition fearful.

His record in Scotland with Aberdeen was remarkable in breaking the domination of the Old Firm. But to come to England and dominate in the same way is phenomenal.

He deserves all the accolades and plaudits he's obviously going to get - his record speaks for itself.

Whenever I've come across him what strikes me most is his enthusiasm.

And that's never diminished. You need that when you go in the dressing room, because players can sense in 30 seconds if you've had enough.

Whenever you think this is the end of United's domination they come back better and stronger

Managers also have to ultimately judge characters. Some need a friendly arm round the shoulder, others need a good kick up the backside.

That's the main job of the manager to realise who needs what and Ferguson is a master of that.

You don't hear many of his ex-players bad-mouthing him and that's a man who has been at the top for a long time and has had to make some tough and hard decisions.

I'm sure Alex won't reflect too much on his achievement, he will be looking at what the rest of the season holds in store for United.

He has his big players back now, but it's not going to be easy to overhaul Arsenal and Chelsea.

It's a long season and you never win anything in November, but United will have to go on a great run, though it's happened before.

Whenever you think this is the end of United's domination they come back better and stronger.

The emergence of Chelsea means it's just not about overhauling Arsenal, United will have to get past both of them.

It's going to be difficult, but you wouldn't bet against him.

Report: BBC Sport's Sally Nugent

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