Manchester United fans cheered when they saw renowned former manager Sir Alex Ferguson arriving at Carrington on the same day crisis negotiations with Cristiano Ronaldo began.
Sir Alex Ferguson departed from Manchester United almost a decade ago, yet the sight of him driving through the gates of the club’s training complex still makes headlines.
Ferguson’s famous tenure at Old Trafford ended in 2013, but given the club’s downward spiral since then, his influence hangs ominously big. Erik ten Hag is the fifth permanent manager tasked with recreating his historic accomplishments in the dugout, but he already has an issue to address.
The Dutchman met with wantaway striker Cristiano Ronaldo and his agent Jorge Mendes at Carrington on Tuesday. And, just five minutes after Ronaldo arrived, his old coach, Sir Alex, did the same.
Officials at the club are confident that Ferguson’s visit to the training field was purely coincidental, rather than a desperate attempt to encourage Ronaldo to stay for next season. But it wouldn’t be the first time the Scot has had an impact on the Red Devils since he put down his hairdryer… Mirror Football looks back at some of the most notable interventions.
Choosing ‘The Chosen One’
Ferguson allowed himself and the club plenty of time to identify a replacement after deciding that the 2012/13 season would be his final as manager. Filling his shoes was always going to be a difficult challenge, especially after winning yet another Premier League title in his final season.
Ferguson chose then-Everton manager David Moyes and encouraged supporters to rally behind him in an infamous address on the Old Trafford pitch. Unfortunately, his colleague lasted less than a year of his six-year deal and was fired when a top-four finish was considered mathematically unattainable.
Upon his appointment, a banner inside the stadium read ‘The Chosen One.’ Unfortunately for Moyes and the man who handpicked him, his dying convulsions were accented by a banner that read ‘The Wrong One.’
Fergie isn’t convinced: “I don’t think we made a mistake at all.” I believe we chose an excellent football player. He was at Everton for 11 years and did an excellent job. We chose the proper man. Sadly, it did not work for David.”
The selection of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer always felt like an attempt to return to Ferguson’s glory days. Even the Norwegian would struggle to go a month without mentioning that night at Camp Nou.
Solskjaer took over as manager after the reigns of Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho had left United divided and defensive. With the word ‘DNA’ being tossed around on a weekly basis, ‘The Babyfaced Assassin’ was supposed to play the correct way.
Ferguson took on part-time, ad hoc consultant works shortly after being designated temporary leader, which came as no surprise. He is reported to have played a vital role in bringing the poacher back to the club as manager and to have maintained regular communication with him throughout his first few months in charge.
More than just a Phelan
Ferguson, in addition to promoting Solskjaer to become one of his successors, was instrumental in bringing back his former assistant. Solskjaer had judged Mike Phelan ‘unreachable’ until Ferguson tugged on some ropes.
“I was attempting to contact Mick Phelan because I knew I needed Mick with me,” he explained. “He was reportedly coaching at a college up in Burnley, and I couldn’t reach him,” I called him repeatedly from the moment I received the call.
“I called the gaffer [Sir Alex] first and said, ‘I’ve been offered this, what do you think?'” ‘You’ll be alright,’ he said. Mick was exactly what I needed. I finally got a hold of him, and he agreed. He had approximately 150 missed calls. The gaffer also called him and said, “You need to speak with Ole.”
A firm Super League position
Fans were not surprised to learn that Manchester United was one of the ‘original members’ of the unsuccessful European Super League ideas. Their animosity toward the Glazers, the club’s owners, dated back to Fergie’s final days in control.
When the Americans named United as one of the driving factors behind the planned breakaway, it only fueled their suspicions. Ferguson poked his head above the parapet even before the delicate sandcastle fell under the weight of fan discontent and Florentino Perez’s mismanagement.
“Talk of a Super League represents a departure from 70 years of European club football.” “It was like ascending Mount Everest for a small provincial club in Scotland, both as a player for Dunfermline in the 1960s and as a manager at Aberdeen, winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup for a small provincial club in Scotland,” he remarked.
“We participated in four Champions League finals during my time at United, and they were always the most special of nights.”
It’s hard to believe that Ronaldo was the returning savior, ready to take up his old team by the bootstraps and restore them to prior glory less than a year ago. His signing, like Solskjaer’s, always felt like a shortcut back to the days when Fergie and Ronaldo were sweeping Europe.
The 37-year-old regards his former manager as a father figure, so when reports claimed he could join Manchester City, he would always listen to his old coach. According to reports, the two had a brief phone conversation during which Ronaldo’s head was quickly turned.
“A lot of people pitched in, and I helped because I knew Cristiano really wanted to be here.” “That was significant,” he explained. “It worked quite well.”
The dying days of Solskjaer
Fergie was instrumental in bringing Solskjaer on board, and his continued presence would play a tiny role in his demise. Footage of him challenging the decision to sit Ronaldo in a private meeting with MMA star Khabib Nurmagomedov instantly went viral.
He was later observed at Carrington following their 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool – albeit, like with the crisis conversations with Ronaldo, his presence there was supposedly coincidental.
When Solskjaer was eventually fired, it was wrongly assumed Ferguson would be involved in the recruitment process, with Carlo Ancelotti said to be his favorite option. That didn’t happen, with Ten Hag eventually receiving the nod after impressing the real selection committee.