Football FanCast columnist Tristan Mann feels there is a legitimate claim for Sir Alex Ferguson to be deemed
the greatest manager of all time.
On Saturday Manchester United were crowned Premier League champions for the
third consecutive year. Their 0-0 draw with Arsenal ensured the title was
secured with one game to spare, seeing off stiff competition from Liverpool.
This accomplishment was not only United's 18th English league title,
drawing them level with their Anfield rivals; it was also Sir Alex Ferguson's
24th trophy in his 23 year career with the Red Devils.
This monumental achievement for Ferguson further cements his place in the
pantheon of great United managers, but is there also a legitimate claim now for
him to be deemed the greatest manager of all time?
This season has the potential to be one of United's best, despite hopes of
an unprecedented quintuple being dashed after a penalty shoot-out defeat to
Everton in the semi-final of the FA Cup. United have already won the Community
Shield, Club World Cup, Carling Cup and Premier League, and play Barcelona in
the Champions League final in two weeks time. Success against the Spanish
champions would mean United will have retained the European Cup, the only time
this would have happened since Arrigo Sacchi's great AC Milan side did it in
1989 and 1990.
Even if this feat is not matched, Ferguson will still go down in history as
one of the greatest managers of all time, if not the greatest. He has turned
Manchester United from a faltering mid-table club to the most successful team
of the last two decades.
While some would claim he does not have the tactical brain of a Rafael
Benitez, or the talent spotting ability of an Arsene Wenger, his man-management
skills are second to none. Would Cristiano Ronaldo still be at the club if
anyone else had been in charge last summer? Indeed, would he have even
fulfilled the immense potential he had when United first bought him if it had
not been for Ferguson?
As well as this, the ease at which Ferguson has adapted to the changing
nature of the game is testament to his drive for success. He has undoubtedly
become the master of squad rotation this season, often fielding two almost
completely different sides from game to game. While it is a great advantage to
have the capacity to rotate your squad to such an extent, Benitez is a fine
example of the pitfalls of which this entails. United are the same formidable
opponents whatever team Ferguson sends out.
And while some would argue that his success is purely down to the money that
has been at his disposal, perhaps Luiz Felipe Scolari and Avram Grant are proof
that money cannot necessarily buy you success. Ferguson has undoubtedly
benefited from a supportive and ultimately patient board, perhaps something
Chelsea, and now United's neighbours at Eastlands should take note of.
But for Sir Alex Ferguson to truly go
down in history as the greatest manager of all time, the result of the
Champions League on May 27 will be a major, if not the deciding, factor.