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Sir Alex Ferguson retires: Manchester United manager’s record-breaking legacy

 
 
 
 
 
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Sir Alex Ferguson has today confirmed he will step down as Manchester United manager at the end of the season after 26 years in charge of the English Premier League Champions.

The announcement brings down the curtain on an unmatched domestic managerial career that has seen United become the dominant force in English soccer.

During his time at Old Trafford, the 71-year-old Glaswegian has won 38 trophies for the club - and picked up four world records along the way.

His haul includes two Champions League crowns, 13 league titles, five FA Cups and four League Cups.

Succeeding Ron Atkinson as United manager in 1986, following a hugely successful stint as Aberdeen boss in his native Scotland, his appointment marked the start of a tenure that would eventually see him set a record for the longest serving English Premier League football manager (22 successive seasons since the league began in 1992).

He enjoyed his first success with the club in 1990, when a single goal from defender Lee Martin saw the Reds win the FA Cup in a replay against Crystal Palace at Wembley.

This was followed up with a 2-1 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final victory over Barcelona on a rainy night in Rotterdam in 1991.

However it was the league title that the club and its fans still craved, with United not having tasted the ultimate domestic glory since 1967.

Ferguson would go on to end the 26-year-wait the following year, seeing off the challenge of Aston Villa to win the first ever Premier League.

It was to prove the opening strike of United’s eventual dominance of the newly-formed championship, with the Fergie-lead Reds going on to win the title on 14 occasions, in turn setting a record for most FA Premier League titles won by a manager.

While he has often voiced his disappointment at not enjoying more success in the Champions League beyond than the two titles he led United to in 1999 and 2008 - the first won in thrilling, last-gasp style against Bayern Munich, (above), the second in a tense penalty shoot-out against English rivals Chelsea in 2008, (below) - Ferguson’s record in Europe is nevertheless impressive, with him currently holding the record for most Champions League games managed (190).

He has also overseen the careers of some of the greatest players to have graced the modern game.

A strong believer in introducing youth players into the first team squad, one of the first players to progress through the ranks during Ferguson’s stewardship was Ryan Giggs. The Welsh star was handed his United debut by Fergie in 1990 and has gone on to set four records of his own (Only player to have appeared in every season of the football Premier League, Only player to have scored in every season of the football Premier League, Most appearances in the football Premier League and Most Premier League winner's medals).

Similarly, David Beckham, who holds the record for Highest annual earnings for a footballer, was also ushered through the youth system to the senior squad by Ferguson, kick-starting a career that would see him play for United for ten years until leaving the club for Real Madrid in 2003.

Ferguson was also a master of the transfer market, with a knack for making key signings that were often instrumental in steering his side to silverware. Key acquisitions include the mercurial and often controversial French striker Eric Cantona who spearheaded United’s first Premier League title in 1992, Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who captained the Reds during their 1999 Champions League Final victory and Dutch ace Robin Van Persie, who’s goals this season proved to be decisive in what looks set to be Fergie’s final Premier League title triumph.

Arguably his most astute signing, however, came with the acquisition of Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon for £12.24 million in 2002, a player who proved to be an instrumental factor in United’s three on-the-spin Premier League title wins between 2007 and 2009.

When Ronaldo was eventually sold to Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2009, it was for an incredible fee of £80million, a figure which still stands as the record for Most expensive football player single transfer.

While many United fans will greet today’s news with a great degree of sadness, they’ll at least be relieved to hear still that the record holder for Most wins of English football top league Manager of the Month award (27), looks likely to remain an influential figure within the corridors of Old Trafford, with confirmation that Ferguson will take up the roles of director and ambassador for the club upon his retirement.

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