The Ferguson legacy

Apart from the trophies, it is the longevity of the last of the old-school managers

When Alex Ferguson was appointed manager of Manchester United in November 1986, he was taking over a club in decline. The glory years of the Busby Babes were a distant memory and United hadn't won the first division title in 20 years. Three years into his term and Ferguson was no closer to leading the side to the league title. In fact, United just about avoided relegation in 1988-89. It is widely regarded that at that point, Ferguson was only a loss or two away from getting sacked. The turnaround wasn't too far ahead. Ferguson's shrewd signings and promotions from his youth squad finally paid off as United won the league title in 1992-93, in the Scot's sixth year in charge. Ferguson would eventually go on to win 38 trophies, including 13 league titles, two Champions Leagues trophies and five FA cups during his time at United.

As much as the well-stocked trophy cabinet, it is also the longevity that will be a part of the Ferguson legacy. The 71-year-old is perhaps the last of the old-school managers, who build teams in their image, oversee generational shifts in the game and the way it is run, rebuilding after each cycle of success. Not many can lay claim to such achievements, and certainly not with one club. During Ferguson's 27 years at United, 24 managers have come and gone at Real Madrid, 17 at Bayern Munich, 15 at AC Milan and 13 at Barcelona.

Last year, Roberto di Matteo, months after leading Chelsea to their first Champions League title, was shown the door. Jupp Heynckes might win the treble with Bayern, but will still be replaced at the end of this season. In the current economic climate of mounting debt, big expenditure and demanding owners, it is difficult to imagine a young Ferguson getting the same kind of leeway. If there will not be the likes of him again, then that is as much a testament to Ferguson's uniqueness as an indictment of the direction the game has taken since.

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