With Sir Alex Ferguson set to retire at the end of this season the debates can begin as to where his place in history will be. I believe he is the greatest manager in sports history. He truly has no contemporary rivals at this point and he has been leading Manchester United in the modern era of football where most managers are lucky to enjoy five years at a club let alone over a quarter of a century leading a successful team.
I would say that the problem with comparing Sir Alex to other managers in sporting history is that football is such a different sport to some of the other sports out there that usually get the nod. There are so many chances at success in football which could lead the argument to it being either easier or harder to achieve greatness. Most comparisons are made with the greats in American sports like Vince Lombardi, Red Auerbach, Casey Stengel, Joe Torre, Phil Jackson, Mike Krzyzewski, Bear Bryant, Joe Paterno, or John Wooden. These are the greats that get thrown around in conversations, and yet none of them have won as much as Sir Alex. The closest any of these American greats comes to Sir Alex is Phil Jackson’s 11 championships. In England there are always the past greats of the game like Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly, or Brian Clough, but again, none showed the longevity and ability to continue reshaping a team and winning.
Sir Alex has amassed 38 trophies in his time at Manchester United and has another ten trophies from his time at Aberdeen in Scotland for a total of 48 major trophies. This includes 13 Premier League titles spanning 27 seasons at United. If you add the Scottish First Division trophy from his time at St. Mirren his tally is up to 49 trophies.
When he first moved from Aberdeen to Manchester United he was taking over a club that was mediocre at best. They hadn’t won the league in almost 20 years at that point and wouldn’t go on to win the league until the inaugural season of the Premier League in 1992-93, seven years after his appointment at the club.
What he has done at Manchester United is something that few managers would be able to do today. Manchester United were mired in mediocrity for the better part of two decades and he has turned them back into the giants of English football that they once were. Not to mention that he has shown the ability to re-invent his squad every few seasons and continue winning.
I don’t think any other manager in sporting history has been able to put together the amount of wins and trophies as Sir Alex Ferguson. He is the greatest manager because he has been able to win trophy after trophy. Yes, English/European football does have a lot of tournaments and chances to win trophies, but it still takes a certain mentality to go out and win all these different tournaments and continue winning.
Even when Manchester United has not been winning, Sir Alex has still been able to keep them near the top. In the Premier League era United has not finished lower than third place and has qualified for the Champions League in all of his seasons in the Premier League.
When Sir Alex Ferguson finishes his time at Manchester United he will have been in charge of 1500 matches at the club and will have a winning percentage close to 60%. The teams’ goal difference in his time is over +1400 with his teams scoring over 2700 goals. I heard one stat that said during his time in the EPL Manchester United has averaged just over two points per game, which is an amazing stat.
I know that it is almost impossible to truly compare who the greatest manager in sports history is, but it definitely makes for some interesting debates. I will say that he is by far the greatest manager in the modern of era of football and few would argue that he’s not the greatest manager in English football history. No matter what your opinion is on the man or his career, he will certainly be remembered as a legend in the world of football and should be added to the annals of world sports history.