Legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson
We have recently put together all-time XI's for the managerial reigns of Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock, Harry Redknapp and Bobby Robson. Today we look at the man widely regarded as the greatest manager of all-time, Sir Alex Ferguson, and try to put together an all-time Fergie XI, which is no mean feat given the length and illustriousness of the Scotsman's career.
We should probably put it out there now that any East Stirlingshire or St Mirren fans may be about to be disappointed... Joking aside, Sir Alex managed some very good players before heading south of the border, particularly with Aberdeen, and players such as Willie Miller can consider themselves unfortunate to have missed out.
The fact remains though, that in his 27 years at Old Trafford, Fergie managed some of the greatest players of multiple eras, enjoying continued success and as a result, some truly world class players miss out on this XI. Here is our all-time Sir Alex XI:
Three United greats: Ryan Giggs, Peter Schmeichel and Eric Cantona
It's a simple choice of Peter Schmeichel or Edwin van der Sar between the sticks, and it's a fairly easy decision to go with the great Dane. Van der Sar was brilliant, but Schmiechel was one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation and arguably the best to have played in the Premier League. He spent seven seasons at Old Trafford, winning five Premier League titles and a Champions League.
Gary Neville may not have been the most technically gifted player Sir Alex ever managed, but he was a one-club man who spent 19 years with his boyhood club, showing exceptional consistency and professionalism during that time. Capped 85 times by England, Neville played 602 games for United, winning eight Premier League titles, two Champions League's and much, much more.
The best centre-back Sir Alex Ferguson ever managed and a shoe-in in this XI, the real question is who partners Rio Ferdinand, but we shall come to that. It ended up costing Manchester United £34 million to bring him to Old Trafford, but that turned out to be a bargain. A Rolls-Royce defender who was comfortable bringing the ball out from the back as well as being tough in the tackle and having an excellent reading of the game, Rio played 455 games for the Red Devils.
Manchester United centre-back turned Reading FC boss Jaap Stam
Nemanja Vidic, Gary Pallister and Steve Bruce can all consider themselves unlucky here, but Jaap Stam deserves to partner Rio Ferdinand at the heart of Fergie's all-time team. The imposing Dutchman was quick, powerful and good on the ball. The only regret for Ferguson and United regarding Stam was that he only stayed three years. He won the Premier League in every season at Old Trafford as well as winning the Champions League.
When refusing to name his own all-time XI, Sir Alex Ferguson said there would only be one certainty to get in the team, and that was Denis Irwin. The Irishman joined United from Oldham for just £625,000, and spent the next 12 years putting in performances of outstanding consistency. The free-kick specialist won 19 trophies at Old Trafford, and was described by Fergie as the best pound-for-pound signing he ever made.
On the right wing is the man Sir Alex called the most gifted player he ever managed. Brought to Old Trafford from Sporting CP as a tricky, skinny teenage winger, he left as a prolific and virtually unstoppable Ballon d'Or winner, and has since had even greater success at Real Madrid. One of the greatest footballers of all-time, there's no way you could leave Cristiano Ronaldo out of this team - sorry Becks.
Paul Scholes was an integral player for Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson
Paul Scholes is the best central midfield player Sir Alex Ferguson ever managed. Fergie once claimed he only managed four world class players; Scholes, Giggs, Cantona and Ronaldo, and all four make this XI. Scholes controlled games for almost two decades at Old Trafford, with his incredible footballing intelligence, vision and range of passing.
The second really difficult selection dilemma in this side is the one between Roy Keane and Bryan Robson. We've given it to Keane, but no doubt many would disagree. The Irishman was Fergie's greatest captain, and it is often seemingly forgotten that he was also a terrific player. His performance against Juventus in the 1999 Champions League semi-final summed up what he brought to United. A born winner.
The most decorated footballer in the history of the British game, Ryan Giggs gave 24 years of magnificent service to Manchester United. Starting out as a quick and tricky winger, Giggs prolonged his career by adapting into an intelligent central midfield player. He won a whopping 13 Premier League titles and has by far the most assists in Premier League history. Giggs played 963 games for United.
'King Eric' celebrating a goal at Old Trafford
When discussing the difficulties of putting together an XI such as this, Sir Alex Ferguson himself reeled off a long list of forwards he had managed, before querying, "How do you pick out of that? Cantona and somebody else maybe?". The Frenchman spent five seasons at Manchester United, but brought a touch of magic to so many games, earning himself cult status at Old Trafford. Nicknamed 'King Eric', Cantona won four Premier League titles in five seasons under Fergie, coming third to Roberto Baggio and Dennis Bergkamp in the 1993 Ballon d'Or.
Sir Alex Ferguson had a whole raft of brilliant centre-forwards at Manchester United, from Andy Cole to Ruud van Nistelrooy, and picking one of that bunch is always likely to cause disagreement. Ultimately though, it's hard not to give it to Wayne Rooney. He may be out of sorts now, but he has overtaken Bobby Charlton as both Manchester United's and England's all-time top scorer, and that is some achievement. At his best he was quick, strong, aggressive, tenacious and clinical. He has scored a total of 253 goals in 559 for the club, twice being named Player of the Year.
Who was Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest ever player?
Have something to tell us about this article?