HOW SIR ALEX WAS APPOINTED 30 YEARS AGO


Thirty years ago today (Sunday), Manchester United confirmed the name of the club's new manager - Alex Ferguson, the firebrand boss who had won the European Cup Winners' Cup and every major trophy in Scotland with Aberdeen. Here's the story of how Martin Edwards, then the Reds' chairman, engineered arguably the most pivotal appointment in the history of British football...

In the autumn of 1986, Manchester United were languishing in the top flight’s relegation zone - a year after being apparent shoo-ins for the league title. With the club’s demands of excellence scarcely realised since Sir Matt Busby’s abdication, the board of directors recognised the time for change had again arrived.

THE END OF RON'S REIGN

In five years at the helm, manager Ron Atkinson had won two FA Cups and had never finished below fourth in the league, but it was Big Ron’s inability to top second spot which proved his undoing.

"Manchester United is a club with exceptionally high standards," stated then-chairman Martin Edwards, now the Reds’ honourary life president, in an interview in 2011.

"Ron had been with us five seasons and had done reasonably well, but it started to go wrong the season before we decided to make the change. After the game at Southampton I think we were 21st in the league, so we had a meeting on the plane on the way back to Manchester and we all decided it was the right thing to do at the time.

“It was very difficult to tell Ron, because he hadn’t been a failure and he was very enthusiastic, and it’s never an easy job telling a manager that you want him to leave. That bit was difficult, but making the actual decision for the right reasons wasn’t difficult.”

The previous campaign had started with 10 straight league wins, but had sputtered out long before the Reds juddered over the line in fourth place. Understandably, the early months of the 1986/87 season had been soundtracked by incremental discontent on the terraces, while Atkinson was repeatedly subjected to questions about his future in the media.

NAMES IN THE FRAME

The list of potential replacements had been drawn up long before the axe fell. The Guardian’s Frank Keating named the contenders as Brian Clough, Howard Kendall, Don Howe and even Bryan Robson in a player-manager capacity. Others had Terry Venables as the favourite. For the board, however, one figure had long since been elevated above the rest.

“There might have been a few names mentioned – probably just whoever was popular at the time – but none of them was seriously considered,” recalled Edwards. “It was a unanimous decision from the board to go for Alex Ferguson. He was absolutely the preferred choice of all of us.

“We’d first met him when we signed Gordon Strachan from Aberdeen. Gordon had already signed a contract with Cologne and we really wanted to extricate him from that deal, so that’s when Alex came in. He was batting on Manchester United’s side, probably because he wanted him to come to United but also because the move would get Aberdeen more money if he did. So he was very helpful to us and that’s when I first got to know him.

“We knew how well he’d done in overtaking Glasgow Rangers and Celtic and he’d won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983 against the mighty Real Madrid, so his pedigree was there. When we actually met him and realised what a firebrand he was and saw the way he conducted himself, that really just confirmed how impressive he was.”

MAKING THE MOVE

With the target agreed, United’s kingmakers nevertheless had to tread carefully. There was no guarantee that Ferguson would either want or be allowed to leave Pittodrie, especially in the midst of such spectacular and sustained feather-ruffling of Glasgow’s Old Firm.

“We didn’t want to end up with egg on our face,” admitted Edwards. “We decided we’d better find out if Alex was willing to join us, so one of our directors, Mike Edelson, rang Aberdeen’s switchboard and put on a Scottish accent, used an assumed name [that of Alan Gordon, Gordon Strachan’s accountant] and asked to be put through to Alex Ferguson. Alex came on the phone, Mike told him I would like a word with him and he put me through.

"We arranged to see Alex that evening – Bonfire Night - up in Scotland and it was the usual cloak and dagger thing: myself, Mike, Bobby [Charlton] and Maurice [Watkins] met him at a petrol station, he drove us round to his sister-in-law’s house and we all met him. It just confirmed that he was the one that we wanted."

DONALD TRIES A TRUMP CARD

Edwards continued: "What we really wanted to know from Alex was if his chairman at Aberdeen, Dick Donald, would allow him to leave. Alex made it quite plain that he wanted to join us, and he also said that he had an agreement with his chairman that he could leave if United came in. Alex had actually said that he wanted something in his contract that he could join a big team, and Dick Donald had said: ‘You’re only leaving if Manchester United come in’. That wasn’t difficult really. So I rang Dick Donald the next day and he agreed to see me."

Donald made a last-ditch bid to keep his man, with the staggering gesture of offering Sir Alex ownership of Aberdeen FC but to no avail. Compensation was quickly agreed and permission was granted for talks to begin. They didn’t take long. As Sir Alex later admitted in his autobiography, Managing My Life: "To a great extent I was a captive candidate, and happy to be so."

REDS IN NEED OF REPAIR

Two days after his appointment as United manager, Sir Alex watched on as his new charges were dealt a chastening 2-0 defeat at Oxford United; a result which laid bare the poor fitness levels of the squad he had been bequeathed. Further unsettled by confirmation that a drinking culture had been established within the club, the Scot assembled his players in the gym at The Cliff.

"I made it plain that I meant to put an end to Manchester United’s reputation of being almost as much of a social club as a football club," he wrote in his book. "I told them that they would have to change their ways because I certainly wasn’t going to change mine."

Further concerns were raised about the physical strength of the existing squad, and a short-sightedness which had gradually decayed the club's youth and scouting systems. By the time Queens Park Rangers arrived at Old Trafford for Sir Alex's home bow, he used his first column in United Review,the official match programme, to spell out the enormity of his task, while also conveying a stony determination to realise it.

MISSION STATEMENT

"Taking over a club of Manchester United's magnitude is an awesome task," was Sir Alex's opening gambit in the programme. The sobering clarity continued: "I am not really interested in what has happened here in the past. I don't mean any disrespect to the great achievements of Manchester United over the years. It's simply that there is now only one way to go, and that is forward. The aim at this club must clearly be to win the championship. That is the only real way to lay the ghosts of the past.

"There always has to be a starting point, and I see the league championship as the basis for Manchester United's future. Success has a snowball effect as I found at Aberdeen… it’s not something that can be built overnight, and it could take a few months before I can create a true relationship with the players. But that is what I shall work towards and I am going to love every minute of it here."



*Taken from Manutd.com

400th Career Goals: Landmark Goals For Zlatan Ibrahimovic


Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced an historic performance as he netted both his 400th club career goal and the Premier League’s 25,000th strike in the first half at Swansea City.

The 35-year-old Swede has featured for eight different clubs and played in six countries over the course of his club career, including spells at both Milan clubs, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.

By netting twice in the 3-1 success away to the Swans, Ibrahimovic raised his Manchester United goal tally to eight for the season.

The striker’s most clinical spell came in his four years in France, when he scored 156 times for Paris Saint-Germain in 180 appearances. That ensured the striker left the French capital with a goal record of one every 1.15 games which was among the world’s best strike-rates.

Two spells in Italy saw him net 66 times during his three-year spell at Inter Milan between 2006-2009 before scoring 56 goals in 85 games during a two-year stint at rivals AC Milan.

The Ligue 1, La Liga, Serie A and Champions League winner also broke a Premier League milestone with his first goal in South Wales, scoring the Premier League's 25,000th goal. The very first came against the Reds, from Sheffield United's Brian Deane, in 1992.

*Taken from Manutd.com

Ryan Giggs leaves Manchester United


Ryan Giggs is to leave Manchester United, the club he has been with since the age of 14, to pursue his desire to be a manager.

Giggs, 42, has played more times for the club than anyone else in history and is its most decorated player, having won every major honour in club football.

Ryan Giggs said: "After 29 seasons at Manchester United as a player and assistant manager, I know winning is in the DNA of this club - giving youth a chance, and playing attacking and exciting football. It’s healthy to have high expectations, it’s right to expect to win. Manchester United expects, deserves, nothing less.

"This is why it is a huge decision for me to step away from the club that has been my life since the age of 14. It has not been a decision that I have made lightly. I'll take away so many special memories as well as a lifetime of experiences that will, I hope, serve me well in the future.

"However, the time feels right and, although I have no immediate plans to step into management, it is where I want to be.

"I’ve been extremely fortunate in having two great managerial mentors; first in Sir Alex, who I’ve spent the majority of my life working with and learning from and who I believe will remain as football’s greatest-ever manager and in more recent times, Louis van Gaal, whose CV speaks for itself. The knowledge I have gleaned from them has been invaluable.

"I want to reiterate my thanks to the backroom staff and support teams at Manchester United I’ve worked with over the years. The results on the pitch are a reflection of the hard work off it. I would not have achieved the success I have without the dedication, sacrifice and commitment of these people in creating the best environment for the team to succeed.

"I want to congratulate José Mourinho on his appointment as manager of the world’s biggest club. There are only a handful of proven winners at the very highest level and José is unquestionably one of them. I know the fans will welcome him.

"My final thank you is to the fans. I cannot begin to tell you how much I will miss walking out at Old Trafford in front of you. It’s extremely difficult to say goodbye after 29 years. I have loved every minute both as a player and assistant manager. The support you have always shown me has been phenomenal; thank you.

"It’s time for a new chapter and a new challenge. I’m excited about the future - I’ve had the best apprenticeship into management anyone could ever ask for."

Executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward said: "Ryan’s place in the history of Manchester United is assured. He has been a constant presence at the club since 1987 and, during his playing days, regularly delighted crowds; first with his dazzling wing play and later with his intelligence and ability to dictate a game.

"He has tackled his coaching and management responsibilities with similar rigour and diligence. The experiences and discipline he developed at United will undoubtedly be a big help as he continues to learn his trade. He has all the attributes to be a terrific manager in the future. Everyone at the club wishes him well in his new career. He will be missed but will always be welcome at Manchester United."

*Taken from Manutd.com

Zlatan Ibrahimović: Manchester United sign Zlatan Ibrahimović


Manchester United is delighted to announce the signing of Swedish international striker Zlatan Ibrahimović.
 
 Ibrahimović, 34, made 180 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain, scoring 156 goals. He has won championships in four different leagues since beginning his professional career with Malmo in 1999. Zlatan represented his country 116 times, scoring 62 goals, before announcing his retirement from international football last month.
 
 Zlatan Ibrahimović said:
 
 "I am absolutely delighted to be joining Manchester United and am looking forward to playing in the Premier League. It goes without saying that I cannot wait to work with Jose Mourinho once again. He is a fantastic manager and I am ready for this new and exciting challenge. I have thoroughly enjoyed my career so far and have some great memories. I am now ready to create more special memories in England."
 
 Jose Mourinho said:
 
 "Zlatan needs no introduction. The statistics speak for themselves. Ibra is one of the best strikers in the world and a player who always gives 100 per cent. He has won the most important league championships in the world of football, now he has the opportunity to play in the best league in the world and I know he will grasp this opportunity and will work hard to help the team win titles. I am certain that his talent will delight fans at Old Trafford next season and that his experience will be invaluable in helping to develop the younger players in the squad."

*Taken from Manutd.com

Jose Mourinho: Appointed Manchester United Manager


• Portuguese coach has won 22 trophies since 2003

José Mourinho will take over as manager of Manchester United from the 2016/17 season, signing a three-year contract with an option to stay at the club until at least 2020.

José, 53, has managed at the top level of European football for over a decade and in that time has won league titles and cups in four countries (Portugal, England, Italy and Spain), as well as winning the UEFA Champions League twice – in 2004 with FC Porto and in 2010 with Inter Milan.

Announcing the appointment, Ed Woodward said: "José is quite simply the best manager in the game today. He has won trophies and inspired players in countries across Europe and, of course, he knows the Premier League very well, having won three titles here.

"I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome him to Manchester United. His track record of success is ideal to take the club forward."

José Mourinho said: "To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game. It is a club known and admired throughout the world. There is a mystique and a romance about it which no other club can match.

"I have always felt an affinity with Old Trafford; it has hosted some important memories for me in my career and I have always enjoyed a rapport with the United fans. I’m looking forward to being their manager and enjoying their magnificent support in the coming years."

*Taken from Manutd.com

2015/2016 UEFA Champions League: CSKA Moscow 1-1 Manchester United


Manchester United came from a goal down in Russia to earn a vital point against CSKA Moscow after dominating proceedings at Arena Khimki.

It was an eventful night for Reds striker Anthony Martial who conceded a penalty at one end and netted a superb header at the other. Seydou Doumbia had put the Russian side ahead on 15 minutes, blasting home from close-range after Roman Eremenko’s spot-kick had been well saved by David De Gea. But Martial atoned for his handball not long after the hour-mark with a brilliantly directed header, in off the post, to help United claim an important point in Group B.

Louis van Gaal, perhaps with one eye on Sunday’s Manchester derby, made two changes to the team that eased past Everton at the weekend. Antonio Valencia, United’s match-winner against CSKA Moscow six years ago, came in at right-back to replace Matteo Darmian, while Jesse Lingard, who performed admirably in the second half on Merseyside, made his Champions League debut in place of Juan Mata. There was a familiar face in the opposition line-up with former Reds winger Zoran Tosic on the right flank for CSKA who came into the game unbeaten at home for six months.

With every team in Group B on three points you expected a tight opening to the match, played in near-freezing conditions, and that it was, although United had plenty of possession. It was therefore something of a surprise to see CSKA take the lead on 15 minutes, despite De Gea’s best efforts. Having initially saved Mario Fernandes’ shot, it turned out the referee had already blown up for a penalty after Fernandes’ flick was handled by Martial. Eremenko stepped up to take the spot-kick and despite De Gea pushing the ball onto the post, Doumbia was the fastest player to follow up as he swept home the rebound.

Things almost got worse for the Reds on half-hour mark when the pacey Ahmed Musa turned and took aim from 30 yards, but De Gea leapt high to tip the dipping shot over the bar.

More possession followed for the Reds before the break, but a 25-yard shot from Wayne Rooney, which dropped wide, was the only real effort of any note.

HALF-TIME STATISTICS
Possession: CSKA 32% United 68%
Shots: CSKA 5 United 3
Shot on target: CSKA 3 United 1
Corners: CSKA 2 United 0

Marouane Fellaini entered the fray at the restart with Bastian Schweinsteiger making way. The pattern of the second half mirrored that of the first with plenty of possession for the Reds, but very little to show for it.

Rooney got a glimpse of goal on the hour when he met Ander Herrera's cross from the right with his head, but CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was on hand to claim.

The best opening of the match thus far arrived three minutes later when Herrera put Lingard through, but the youngster didn’t connect properly and could only steer the ball into the goalkeeper’s arms.

A United goal looked imminent and it duly arrived on 65 minutes. Valencia powered down the right and sent in a cross which was met by a fine header from Martial which rolled in off the post.

The Reds had a chance to win the match with four minutes left when substitute Memphis Depay’s curling cross was met by Martial, who pulled it back for Fellaini, but Akinfeev just managed to push the ball clear before the Belgian pounced.

That proved to be the last opportunity for United, who will now look forward to meeting CSKA again at Old Trafford on 3 November.

FULL-TIME STATISTICS
Possession: CSKA 28% United 72%
Shots: CSKA 7 United 7
Shots on target: CSKA 4 United 3
Corners: CSKA 3 United 1

THE TEAMS

CSKA Moscow: Akinfeev, Fernandes, Ignashevich, Vasili Berezutski (Aleksei Berezutski 41), Schennikov, Wernbloom, Zoran Tosic, Dzagoev (Cauņa 87), Eremenko (Panchenko 83), Musa, Doumbia.
Subs not used: Chepchugov, Nababkin, Milanov, Golovin.

United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Rojo (Blind 64), Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger (Fellaini 46), Lingard (Memphis 79), Herrera, Martial, Rooney.
Subs not used: Romero, Darmian, Carrick, Mata.
Booked: Martial, Herrera, Fellaini

MANAGER AND PLAYER REACTION

"I don’t think we played too fast in ball possession, it was too slow in the first half. We improved that in the second half and scored a fantastic goal. We could have won but 'could have' doesn't count in football." - Louis van Gaal

"Martial didn’t let his head go down because that [conceding a penalty] can happen to anyone. Anthony scored a great goal and after that we pushed on but we could not score the second goal which was a shame.” - Morgan Schneiderlin

*Taken from manutd.com

2015/2016 BPL 09: Everton 0-3 Manchester United


Scorers: Schneiderlin 18', Herrera 22' , Rooney 62' | 17 October 2015 | Goodison Park | Att: TBC

Manchester United got back to winning ways and earned a first victory at Goodison Park since 2011 thanks to goals from Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney.

It was the perfect way for the Reds to return to Barclays Premier League action following the international break and a chastening 3-0 defeat at Arsenal last time out. The result also maintained pressure on the leaders, Manchester City, who secured a comfortable 5-1 win over Bournemouth at the Etihad Stadium.

Saturday's match was tinged with emotion with the news that Howard Kendall, the former Everton player and manager, had died at the age of 69 and the players wore black armbands as a mark of respect. A minute’s applause also preceded kick-off at Goodison Park, where Louis van Gaal made four changes to his starting XI by recalling Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Schneiderlin and Herrera.

A slow start in the previous game at Arsenal allowed the Gunners to score three times in the first 20 minutes and the manager demanded a much-improved opening on Merseyside. He got his wish, too, when Chris Smalling chested Rojo’s shot towards Schneiderlin for the Frenchman to bag his first competitive United goal with a cool finish on 18 minutes. Herrera doubled the lead four minutes later when the Spaniard stormed into the area to head Rojo’s fine cross past former Reds goalkeeper Tim Howard.

Jones briefly left the action on 30 minutes to stem the flow of blood pouring from his nose, which was the result of an increasingly physical first half that also saw David De Gea and Anthony Martial temporarily go down with knocks. Although Everton pressed for a goal before the break, the closest they came was a powerful effort from Ross Barkley that was clawed away by De Gea on 45 minutes.

HALF-TIME STATISTICS
Possession: Everton 44% United 56%
Shots: Everton 5 United 6
Shots on target: Everton 0 United 4
Corners: Everton 3 United 1

The second half began with Jesse Lingard replacing Juan Mata to make his first appearance since his first-team debut on the opening day of 2014/15, when he suffered a serious knee injury, and the 22-year-old Academy graduate was quickly needed in defence as Everton piled on the pressure, going close to scoring when Romelu Lukaku’s shot was brilliantly saved by the left boot of De Gea.

United stood firm and scored again after the hour-mark when Phil Jagielka’s wayward pass fell to Schneiderlin on the halfway line, from where he fed Herrera on the right. The Spaniard slipped a neat ball forward to Rooney and the ex-Everton striker executed a fine finish past Howard. Wayne is now second in the Premier League goal charts and level with Andy Cole with 187 to his name, although he still has some way to go before catching Alan Shearer's record of 260.

Barkley, the promising England international who was arguably Everton’s best player, hit a rasping free-kick onto the roof of De Gea’s goal on 80 minutes before Marouane Fellaini replaced Herrera to receive a respectful ovation from the home fans who used to cheer his name. The Belgian's presence in midfield allowed United to consolidate an excellent win, another clean sheet and three more Premier League points.

FULL-TIME STATISTICS
Possession: Everton 47% United 53%
Shots: Everton 11 United 10
Shots on target: Everton 3 United 7
Corners: Everton 5 United 4

THE TEAMS

Everton: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Galloway, Barry, McCarthy, Lennon (Deulofeu 73'), Barkley, Naismith (Kone 46'), Lukaku.
Subs not used: Joel, Mirallas, Osman, Mori, Browning.

Booked: Coleman, Lukaku

United: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Jones, Rojo, Schweinsteiger (Carrick 74'), Schneiderlin, Mata (Lingard 46'), Herrera (Fellaini 81'), Rooney, Martial.
Subs not used: Johnstone, Blind, Pereira, Memphis.

Booked: Schweinsteiger, Rojo

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