1. Winning the 1990 FA Cup
Things were not going well when Ferguson assumed the reins at United. After a humiliating 5-1 defeat to arch rivals Manchester City, a banner reading “Three years of excuses and it’s still c**p” was hung
by angry supporters at Old Trafford. As incredible as it may seem today, Ferguson was facing the sack after a run of seven winless games when United were drawn away to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. Manchester United would go on to win the game, and then lift the cup at Wembley in 1990. This gave Sir Alex his first of his 38 trophies with United, and put an end to what he called his “darkest days” in football.
2. Winning the “treble” in 1999
Arch rivals Liverpool had won a double in 1986, and Ferguson’s own United teams had pulled it off in both 1994 and 1996, but combining this domestic feat with club football’s ultimate honour, the European Cup, had never been done by an English club. United held off a dogged challenge from Arsenal to win back their League crown, and then defeated Newcastle in the FA Cup final to wrap up a third double. But United still had one more game to play. They beat German powerhouse Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, and pulled off the only ever treble for an English club.
3. Signing Eric Cantona
The list of great players that Ferguson has brought to Old Trafford goes on and on. But it was the signing of Cantona that United supporters hold most dear. Brought in from arch rivals Leeds United in 1992 for 1.2 million, the charismatic Frenchman would inspire the club and become one of its most iconic figures. Donning the hallowed number 7, formerly worn by George Best, Cantona led the renaissance of Manchester United as he led them to their first title in 26 years.
4. Beating Chelsea in the Champions League final
After 20 years at Old Trafford Ferguson’s domestic record was without equal. But many harboured doubts about his ability to get the most out of his team in Europe. Premier League clubs had been doing very well in the Champions League, culminating with an all English final between United and Chelsea in 2008. Chelsea had been a particular thorn in the Scotsman’s side, and when Ronaldo missed his penalty, it looked like the night would belong to the Blues. But John Terry missed the penalty that would have taken the trophy to London, and when Van Der Sar saved from Anelka, Ferguson claimed his second European Cup.
5. Winning United’s 19th League title
Sir Alex won the Premier League an astonishing 13 times during his reign at Old Trafford, but the title that means most to United supporters was the one he picked up in 2012. That was United’s 19th League crown, giving them one more than their nemesis Liverpool. The two biggest clubs in English football had a bitter rivalry that went back generations. United had been dominant in recent years, but Liverpool could always point at their superior trophy haul. Not any more.
As David Moyes takes the reins at United he will always feel the presence of the man who preceded him. There is a statue of Sir Alex outside Old Trafford, one of the ground's stands is named after him, and trophy cabinet holds 38 pieces of silverware that he won. Big shoes to fill.