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In profile: Sir Alex Ferguson

Possessing a determination and will to win like no other, Sir Alex Ferguson tore up the old order in Scotland before steering Manchester United to their peak.

Sir Alex Ferguson first won the UEFA Champions League in 1999
Sir Alex Ferguson first won the UEFA Champions League in 1999 ©Getty Images

The evidence
• Lifted the 1982/83 European Cup Winners' Cup – plus three championships and four Scottish Cups – with Aberdeen.

• Led Manchester United to 1999 and 2008 UEFA Champions League glory, as well as 13 English titles, five FA Cups and the 1990/91 European Cup Winners' Cup.

• United manager from 1986 to 2013, winning a record 114 European Cup and UEFA Champions League matches.

The expert testimony
"When you think that he's rebuilt probably four or five squads to be successful and what he did at Aberdeen as well – the success he had in Scotland was terrific before he even came to Manchester United. Because of that record he's got to go down as the best."
Bryan Robson, former United midfielder

1999: United's late glory

"I remember him having a go at me at half-time and I had the sort of attitude that was 'Right, I'll show him.' And I played well in the second half, so then he quickly knew how I would respond to him losing his temper. That followed me for the next 20 years, so it was a big mistake early on."
Ryan Giggs, former United winger

"Anybody who's been in his company and had the pleasure of working for him, you are struck by his passion, drive and desire to win football matches and trophies. That's just part of his DNA."
Mark Hughes, former United forward

"As a coach, he is unusual. It's not as if he guides the training sessions because he delegates a lot and has an excellent staff. But he understands football like few do."
Carlo Ancelotti, Bayern München coach

"Alex said he took my Juve as his prototype for its technical quality, tactics and, above all, will to win. He loves red wine from Tuscany so every Christmas I give him bottles of Masseto, Sassicaia and Chianti. He always reciprocates with McClelland's whisky."
Marcello Lippi, former Juventus and Italy coach

Sir Alex led Aberdeen to the 1983 European Cup Winners' Cup
Sir Alex led Aberdeen to the 1983 European Cup Winners' Cup©Bob Thomas/Getty Images

The back story
An apprentice toolmaker, the Glaswegian was initially an amateur player but he gained in stature as a striker, moving from Queen's Park to St Johnstone and then on to Dunfermline, where he scored 66 goals in league 89 games from 1964–67. A transfer to Rangers followed, where he spent two years. Retiring after stints at Falkirk and Ayr, he coached East Stirling and Saint Mirren, and briefly ran a pub before taking charge of Aberdeen in 1978 and upsetting the Old Firm order in Scotland.

The method
Though rooted in a very British 4-4-1-1 style, Sir Alex's success and longevity owed much to his ability to adapt to the times. European football in particular excited Sir Alex once he had knocked Liverpool off their domestic perch, his sides specialising in denying opponents even half-chances while finishing ruthlessly at the other end. His mastery also included an ability to know when to change personnel, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville among the few who were never moved on.

The take-home quotes
"You can't go into football and not sacrifice. Ask any manager's wife exactly what sacrifice means, because [coaches] are working all the time; they are at games, they are training and coaching."

"I've never played for a draw in my life."

"If I was to listen to the number of times I've thrown tea cups then we've gone through some crockery in this place. It's completely exaggerated, but I don't like people arguing back with me."

"For a player – and for any human being – there is nothing better than hearing 'well done'. Those are the two best words ever invented in sports. You don't need to use superlatives."

Sir Alex's United utterly dominated English football
Sir Alex's United utterly dominated English football©AFP/Getty Images

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