Pieces from the WSC Archive
8 May ~ Alex Ferguson took over as manager of Manchester United from Ron Atkinson in November 1986, the same year the first issue of WSC was published. Over the last 26 years he has, as you would expect, featured heavily in the magazine and on this website, attracting admiration, derision and frustration from fans of all clubs. In 2006, on Ferguson's 20th anniversary as manager of United, Ashley Shaw looked back at where it all began and how, if it wasn't for Crystal Palace and Mark Robins, everything could have been so different.
During his time at Old Trafford the rarity with which opposition teams got penalties became a running joke. However, as Paul Benjamin examined in WSC 203, it was more the way Ferguson's teams played than their intimidation of referees that made this happen. He had a long-running verbal war with Rafa Benítez while the latter was at Liverpool and was used by Barney Ronay, alongside Arsène Wenger and Gérard Houllier, as an example of an average player who became an excellent manager.
Part of that managerial talent was the ability to spot players that worked in his system; John O'Shea may not be the most talented but his versatility allowed Ferguson to be tactically flexible. He didn't always get it right, though, particularly with goalkeepers – Mark Bosnich never settled at Old Trafford while Matthew Barker argued that Massimo Taibi was better than his time in England suggested.
The Scot was also the subject of plenty of books; This Is The One by Daniel Taylor was an enjoyable read, according to Ashley Shaw, but Michael Crick was disappointed by the background role Ferguson's political views took in his own autobiography, Managing My Life.
Whatever your views on him as a person or manager, Alex Ferguson's shadow will fall over British football for a long time to come.