It’s been a long time since Sir Alex made the trip down from Aberdeen to take over from Big Ron Atkinson at Old Trafford. In the past 24 years the United boss has had seven assistants, several of whom have departed Old Trafford in search of pastures new. Here’s a look at how Fergie’s former second-in-commands have fared over the years.
Archie Knox- 1986-1991-Knox came to Old Trafford with Fergie from Aberdeen in 1986 and helped to lay the foundations which culminated in an FA cup victory in 1990. Knox left soon after that in 1991 deciding he wanted to move back to Scotland where he became Walter Smith’s assistant at Rangers. While at Ibrox he helped the club to six titles in seven years before following Smith down to Everton. Following Smith’s sacking Knox became involved with the Scotland team under Craig Brown for three years. Spells at Milwall, Coventry and Livingston- as assistant- as well as a short stint as Scotland under-21 boss followed. Knox eventually found himself in the unenviable position of being Sammy Lee’s number two at Bolton, after being let got, Knox joined Paul Ince at Blackburn in another ill-fated coaching set-up. Is now re-united with his former Scotland boss Brown at Motherwell, why he chose to leave Old Trafford is anyone’s guess.
Brian Kidd- 1991 -1998 – Kiddo was an extremely well-liked figure with players and fans alike- who can forget his over-the-top celebrations following Steve Bruce’s winner against Sheffield Wednesday- when he was promoted from the youth set-up. As a player Kidd had scored on his nineteenth birthday for United in the European Cup final against Benfica, so despite going on to play for Man City he was a popular choice as Fergie’s number two. After ending United’s 26 year wait for the title, then delivering two doubles and a further league title, Kidd unexpectedly left during the 98-99 season to manage Blackburn. His time at Ewood Park was not a happy one as the club were relegated and he was sacked by Jack Walker the following season. Despite this failure Kidd remained in much demand as a coach and he had spells at Leeds and a brief stint under Sven with England- he left due to health reasons. He was back in the Premier League as Neil Warnock’s number two- another unenviable role- before eventually ending up as Paul Hart’s coach at Pompey. Kidd is now assistant to Mancini at City but thankfully doesn’t insist on wearing the ‘fashionable’ blue and white scarf.
Steve McClaren- 1998-2001- Before his ill-fated stint as England boss, and even before he ended Middlesbrough’s trophy drought McClaren was Fergie’s assistant during the a hugely successful short spell. Joining from Derby mid-way through the 98-99 season, McClaren helped United to their most triumphant season ever, instantly gaining a reputation as one of the world’s top coaches. McClaren then stuck around to help oversee United complete a hat-trick of title wins before moving to the Riverside. After winning the league cup and getting thrashed in the UEFA final, McClaren was awarded the national job-after being Sven’s assistant- where he actually succeeded in making Erikson’s time in charge look highly successful. Currently on a career rehabilitation program in Holland with FC Twente. After guiding the team to second in place in the Dutch top-flight last season he is now trying to stop himself from talking with a Dutch accent in interviews as his team occupy 2nd spot behind PSV.
Jimmy Ryan- 1998 & 2001-02- Ryan’s two tenures as Fergie’s assistant were brief and fairly unmemorable. Promoted from the youth team when McClaren left- Ryan had previously been number two following the departure of Kidd. Ryan was the only man to take charge of a United Premier League game other than Fergie when Sir Alex had a family bereavement to attend in 1998. That one game in charge- a 3-2 loss to Middlesbrough at Old Trafford is probably all Ryan’s times as number two will be remembered for. Now coaching the Youth Academy at United- with far more success.
Walter Smith- 2003-2004- One of Sir Alex’s buddies from Scotland, former Rangers and Everton manager Smith joined with the club out of the title race but looking good in Europe and the FA cup. Unfortunately one of Smith’s first games as assistant saw Jose Mourinho’s Porto grab a draw at Old Trafford to send United crashing out of Europe. Despite this set-back United did go on to lift the FA cup beating Millwall at Wembley. Smith then left to take charge of the Scotland team-failing to qualify for the 2006 World cup- before returning to Rangers. In his first season back he helped guide his team to their first European final in 36 years in the UEFA cup, where they were beaten on penalties by Zenith St. Petersburg. Last season Smith saw his side win the domestic double and they are currently top of the SPL.
Carlos Queiroz- 2002-03 & 2004-08 – The perma-tanned Portuguese national boss has had two spells as Fergie’s assistant. After being in charge of the South African national side, and guiding them to the World Cup in 2002 he caught the eye of Sir Alex. His first spell came in 2002 when he helped United to regain the title from Arsenal. He left in the summer of 2003 to take charge of Real Madrid but struggled at the Bernabeu. Claude Makelele had been sold under his nose and despite having a team full of Galacticos he failed to win any major honours and was sacked after one season. His return to Old Trafford started shakily as United failed to win any honours other than a solitary League Cup in the first two years. The 2006-07 season saw the emergence of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo as United regained the Premier League crown. With the success of the 2008 double winning season, Queiroz’s star was again on the rise and this time he left United to take charge of the Portugese national side. The World Cup qualifying campaign started off badly for Portugal and they only eventually qualified via a play-off. This summer will be the chance to see just how good a coach Queiroz really is in his own right.
Mike Phelan is now in charge of giving the interviews on Match of the Day- and some would argue little more than that- it remains to be seen whether he’ll enjoy a successful career once he leaves Old Trafford. He may do well to take a look at some of Sir Alex’s other coaches before deciding to take on a manager’s job, as many have found moving from under Fergie’s shadow is not always a happy time.
Read more of Justin Mottershead work at his blog ‘Name is on the Trophy’