In profile: Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure at Manchester United

Sports Mole looks back over Sir Alex Ferguson's time in charge of Manchester United.
WARNING! This article contains strong language and/or content that some readers may prefer to avoid.

When a 44-year-old Alex Ferguson was appointed the manager of Manchester United in 1986 he made a bold (and many thought insane) statement that he would knock Liverpool "off their fucking perch".

United had not won a league title since 1967, while their rivals down the M62 had dominated not only at home, but also abroad.

Fastforward to the present day and a lead of 15-7 in favour of Liverpool where English league titles are concerned has swung 20-18 to United - not that it was all plain sailing for the club under Ferguson's guidance, particularly early on.

There was no trophy until 1990, with a number of supporters having urged the board to sack Ferguson long before that. One fan at a match in 1989 even unveiled a banner which read: "3 YEARS OF EXCUSES AND IT'S STILL CRAP ... TA RA FERGIE".

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson with the European Cup Winners Cup trophy© PA Photos

However, whether you believe it or not, legend has it that a certain Mark Robins goal during an FA Cup tie away at Nottingham Forest saved his job. It certainly bought him some time and later that year United went on to win the famous old trophy thanks to a goal from Lee Martin in a replay against Crystal Palace at Wembley.

From that evening onwards, success came thick and fast. The Cup Winners' Cup was won on a rainy night in Rotterdam in 1991, while a year later the League Cup was collected. It was the league title that the club still craved, though they wouldn't have to wait much longer.

Having lost it to an Eric Cantona-inspired Leeds United in 1992, Ferguson opted to weaken his rivals from across the Pennines by signing the fiery Frenchman in the November of that year. It proved to be one of the best signings during his stint in charge as United ended their 26-year wait to be crowned champions of England in 1993.

Alex Ferguson with the Premier League trophy in 1993© PA Photos

Next up was a league and FA Cup double in 1994, before arguably the biggest summer in Ferguson's time at Old Trafford occurred in 1995. The doubters surfaced again as he sanctioned the sales of experienced pros Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Andrei Kanchelskis. But Ferguson had some aces up his sleeve.

The likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers were promoted to the senior setup, although they were humbled 3-1 by Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, prompting Alan Hansen to trot out the famous "You don't win anything with kids" line.

The former Liverpool defender was made to eat his words the next May though, as 'Fergie's Fledglings' - captained by Cantona - won their second double in two years.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson proudly displays the FA Cup and Premier League trophies© PA Photos

Another league title followed in 1997, but by then there was a new manager on the block and someone that would prove to be a real rival to Ferguson. Arsene Wenger took over Arsenal in 1996 and it was clear early on that the French boss was ready to lead a revival at Highbury. He did just that in 1998 when he guided the Gunners to a double of their own. It would be the start of many battles between the two managers.

Ferguson responded to Arsenal's success by adding Dwight Yorke to his squad and the creative striker formed a formidable striking partnership with Andy Cole as United swept aside all that stood before them throughout the 1998-1999 season. They went on to win a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble - a triumph that had never been done before, or been equalled since. It also claimed the attention of the Queen, who made Ferguson a Knight of the Realm.

Sir Alex won further titles in 2000, 2001 and 2003, but just a year later, there was another new kid on the block. A couple of years after Ferguson had shelved plans to retire, Jose Mourinho arrived at Chelsea and declared himself to be 'The Special One'. While many weren't impressed, he backed up that statement by winning the Premier League two years on the trot with a side that ran riot.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson celebrates with the European Cup© PA Photos

Just as he had done with Wenger though, back came Ferguson, armed with his youthful duo of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. The pair started to fulfil their potential as the title was regained in 2007 and they went one better the next year by not only retaining it, but also winning the Champions League on penalties against Avram Grant's Chelsea in Moscow.

Another title followed in 2009 and a League Cup, but a third European Cup eluded Ferguson as Barcelona defeated his side 2-0 in Rome. It was also Ronaldo's last match in a United shirt - he was off to Real Madrid in an £80m deal.

The Red Devils struggled without their Portuguese talisman and Chelsea, under the stewardship of Carlo Ancelotti, took the title back to Stamford Bridge.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and Cristiano Ronaldo laugh during a news conference© PA Photos

It was only temporary though, as Rooney found his goalscoring boots to fire United to the top of the table again in 2011. Once again Barcelona stopped Ferguson from winning a third Champions League, this time in London at Wembley.

The following season United were eight points clear of neighbours Manchester City with five matches to go, which sparked rumours that Ferguson would call time on his career once a 20th league title had been sealed. Sergio Aguero had other ideas though as the "noisy neighbours" won their first league title since 1968 in dramatic fashion.

Those events sparked Ferguson into action and he splashed out £24m in 2012 to take Robin van Persie from his old foe Wenger at Arsenal. It was no surprise as the Dutch striker hit the ground running and his goals were seen as a large reason as to why United have wrestled the trophy from City's clutches.

United striker Robin Van Persie celebrates with Sir Alex Ferguson after scoring a penalty against Stoke on April 14, 2013© PA Photos

With the 20th title now finally in place and his 13th in England, Ferguson could finally call time on his 27-year spell at the helm.

United's Wayne Rooney celebrates a goal against Reading on March 16, 2013
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