So the story goes, Sir Alex Ferguson was one match away from getting the sack as United boss back in 1990. After being brought in during November to replace Ron Atkinson, who had lead United just one place above the relegation zone, Ferguson didn’t make the start he would have hoped for, losing 2-0 to Oxford United. The ride was far from smooth for Sir Alex, although by the end of the season, he guided United to a more respectable 11th, thirty points behind league winners Everton, which was still some way short of the fans’ expectations.
The following season, United clawed their way up the table to 2nd, finishing eight points behind the winners, Liverpool. Fergie had brought in McClair, Anderson and Bruce, and was looking considerably stronger as a manager in England. We racked up an impressive 81 points, which would have won us the title the season before, and Fergie was tipped as the man who’d reinstate the glory years of Sir Matt Busby.
However, the following season we slumped back down to 11th and the doubts started to creep back in. Whilst hardworking, the football was dull, and Fergie was struggling behind the scenes to bin the ever prevalent drinking culture at United. Fans’ favourites Whiteside and McGrath were sold on, with Strachan soon to follow. Fergie was a disciplinarian and, just like with the more recent examples of David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy, wasn’t afraid to get rid of any player he felt would hamper United’s progress. Pallister and Ince had been bought, but the clearout of players had a detrimental effect on the team.
By the January of the 1989-1990 season we were struggling, too close to the drop zone and the “Fergie Out” chants began. We were due to play Forest in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup on January 7th, after failing to win a game since November. This was deemed a ‘must win’ game if Fergie was going to keep his job. Mark Robins scored the only goal of the game with United winning 1-0 and progressing to the next round. We made it through to the final, after being forced in to a replay against Oldham in the semis, and faced Palace. They took an early lead, which Robson cancelled out before half time. Mark Hughes’ goal gave us the lead just past the hour mark with Ferguson coming painfully close to securing something from what had otherwise been a disappointing domestic season, finishing 13th. However, a young Ian Wright came on with twenty minutes to play, changing the game almost instantaneously, scoring two minutes after his introduction. His goal took the game to extra time, wherein he scored two minutes after the restart. United fought on and were rewarded with Mark Hughes’ second of the game on 113 minutes. Another replay. A single goal settled it five days later, Martin giving United the 1-0 win they needed to win the Cup, Fergie’s first piece of silverware with United.
The following season, Ferguson brought United up the table to 6th, which was a marked improvement, but still leaving us behind Liverpool, Leeds and City in the league. The European Cup Winners Cup and European Super Cup were added to our cabinet though, giving United fans something to cheer about at least.
United had a great run in the league the following season, topping the table in April. However, United won just one of the final five games, losing three and drawing the other. Leeds took advantage of our poor form and pipped us to the title. The vultures began to circle again, thinking that Fergie was incapable of bringing the title to Old Trafford. However, Ferguson just needed one more year, when in the 1992-1993 season he won the Premiership.
The rest, as they say, is history, with Ferguson going on to win a further eight league titles, the European Cup, and four FA Cups. The most successful season of course ended in 1999, with United winning an unprecedented Treble. No other manager in English football had ever achieved such a feat.
The inspiration for this article came upon hearing that Newcastle had sacked Sam Allardyce, after just twenty one league games in charge. I’ve been calling the geordies mugs for weeks now, hearing them call for his sacking, and wanting to instate Shearer in his place. Just like Fergie had proved himself in Scotland, Allardyce has done the same, if to a lesser extent, with the work he did at Bolton. I’m not by any means saying any Premiership manager would now be afforded the time Ferguson was when he came to United in the 80s, but surely Allardyce deserves more than a few months in charge to prove himself?
In Ferguson’s first twenty one games in charge, he had just nine wins to his name, compared to the seven of Sam Allardyce. Fergie battled for years before he was able to prove himself as worthy of his status at the club, and whilst I recognise Allardyce would never have warranted as much time as Ferguson got to show what he could do, it’s an absolute joke to boot him out so soon.
However, I won’t complain, because come 5.15 on Saturday, we will be playing this managerless Newcastle outfit. Wesley Brown will be rethinking his decision to leave us for Newcastle, whose fans have far too much say, and unfortunately for the club, say the wrong things. And whilst we’re on the topic of Newcastle, I’d just love it if we beat them!
How much time should Premiership managers be afforded these days?