Charlton hails Ferguson’s 25-year spell at Man United
LONDON - The Associated Press
Sir Alex Ferguson is set to celebrate his 25th anniversary as the United coach. AP photo
If Manchester United had not been persuaded by Bobby Charlton to hire Alex Ferguson as manager a quarter-century ago, the European football landscape would have been very different.
“We are all really lucky at Manchester United - really lucky - we have had 25 years of absolute paradise,” Charlton told The Associated Press. “Every season we are expecting to win something, and we usually do. And it’s because of the manager - nobody else.” As a player, Charlton led United to an earlier era of success in the 1950s and ‘60s. His crucial recommendation to the board led to Ferguson replacing Ron Atkinson on Nov. 6, 1986 - with United 19 years removed from its last league title.
Since then, the Scot has turned United into a European power and transformed it into the world’s wealthiest club, winning 12 league titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, the Champions League in 1999 and 2008, and the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup.
But it took almost four years to win his first trophy - the 1990 FA Cup. By last May, he was celebrating United’s record 19th English league title.
Ferguson accomplished it all with a constantly changing squad that saw players such as Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney come through the changing room.
“There are individual players, and great individual players,” Charlton said, “but there are none that have made the decisions that (Ferguson) has made.” “He is a first class manager, the best manager, probably the best manager that’s been in the history of the game,” Charlton added, before briefly pausing. “I would say more than that. In sport, in any sport, nobody has done more than he has done. The success we have had has just been phenomenal.” A player in Scotland from 1957-74, Ferguson began his managerial career with East Stirlingshire in 1974, moved to St. Mirren later that year and was hired by Aberdeen in 1978. Ferguson led Aberdeen to the 1980 Scottish league title, its first since 1955, and Charlton took notice when Ferguson’s squad, a minnow by continental standards, beat Real Madrid 2-1 in the 1983 European Cup Winners’ Cup final.
“Alex then was in the place he always wanted to be,” Charlton recalled.
It was Ferguson’s delirious run down the Gothenburg touchline that lives in Charlton’s memory.
“When I first saw him I thought he lives (football),” the 74-year-old former striker said. “And he did.”