ON THIS DAY: Iconic Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that he planned to quit Old Trafford nearly two decades ago and the Red Devils actually got close to finding his replacement
Sir Alex Ferguson shook Man United and the entire Premier League on this day 21 years ago, with the shock announcement that he was set to quit Old Trafford.
The Scottish schemer had been Red Devils boss for 16 years and managed to create a dynasty with the north west club having led them to seven Premier League titles, the Champions League, four FA Cups, as well as a multitude of other trophies. Fresh off the back of another domestic title though, he announced his decision to leave at the end of the 2001/02 campaign via the club’s official television channels.
Amid speculation over his future, Ferguson said: “I will be leaving Manchester United at the end of the season and that is it. Then I will have to decide what I want to do. There are some offers and options, so I will make a decisions over the next few months. ”
The announcement left all at Old Trafford from players down to supporters hugely concerned but Ferguson had his reasons for wanting to leave the club. It was suggested that he was unhappy over being told he needed to sell players to finance United’s upcoming summer business. Defender Jaap Stam was eventually sold to Italian giants Lazio – a decision that still wrangles with the iconic Scot to this day.
Meanwhile, there was also a huge overhaul among the backroom staff as assistant manager Steve McClaren departed to take the reins at Middlesbrough. Those changes left Ferguson’s relationship with his employers on very unsteady ground and it appeared that he would definitely be moving on with a number of replacements being sounded out.
Former England boss Fabio Capello was among the names to have been considered, the Italian since confirming that he was in line to take the reins. “It was really close – that is the truth,” he told FourFourTwo. “I can not deny that I would have loved to train Manchester United.
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“After winning Serie A with Roma in 2001, I spoke to representatives who came to visit me in Rome, but we could not mean anything because Sir Alex decided not to retire in the end! He phoned me a few days later to apologize, because his wife was trying to convince him to leave, but it was a friendly conversation and I told him that nothing was wrong. ”
Meanwhile, fellow former Three Lions coach Sven Goran Eriksson also revealed that he even got as far as signing the paperwork to replace Ferguson at the helm. Writing in his autobiography, he confirmed: “A contract was signed – I was United’s new manager.”
In the end of course, the Scot elected to remain at Old Trafford having backtracked on his decision to retire and eventually signed a new three-year contract in February 2002. He has since admitted that his initial announcement to quit the club was one of the biggest faux-pas of his hugely successful career.
“The biggest mistake I made was announcing it at the start of the season,” he said. “I think a lot of them had put their tools away. They thought, ‘Oh, the manager’s leaving’, but when I changed my mind in January, I started thinking about United again and how we could get back on top. ”
It is certainly hard to argue that Ferguson’s decision was never so slightly misguided. United went trophyless throughout the 2001/02 campaign as they finished third in the Premier League and were knocked out of both domestic cups in the early stages.
The Red Devils certainly roared back in vain after he finally committed his future to the club. They went on to claim another six Premier League crowns, another FA Cup and three League Cups, as well as another Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup and continued shaking both the Premier League and European landscape until Ferguson’s final retirement in 2013.