Alternate Football History – Fergie takes an early exit

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What if Sir Alex Ferguson had left Manchester United in 2002?

Sir Alex Ferguson, in his time at Manchester United, created several top tier squads and won numerous trophies. In 2001, the United manager announced he would be retiring at the end of the upcoming 2001-02 season, much to the surprise of the football world. It was claimed that Ferguson had come to blows with the Old Trafford hierarchy over a lack of transfer movement that summer.

However, in the February of 2002, Ferguson decided that he needed to carry on his work at the club and informed the board of his wish to continue, with the decision being announced to the New York Stock Exchange in June of the same year. The question had been raised as to what would have happened had Ferguson left United in 2002, where he would have gone and who his successor at Old Trafford would have been?

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As for Ferguson, it was alleged at the time that Inter Milan and Barcelona were interested in his services. Inter Milan had a manager at the time Ferguson would have joined in 2002 so let’s analyse how his tenure at the Nou Camp might have played out. He would have inherited an extremely talented side, with world class players such as Patrick Kluivert and Marc Overmars leading the attack.

The more interesting prospect would have been his handling of a generation of players that was arguably better than his so called ‘Class of ‘92’, with players such as Xavi, Carlos Puyol and Andres Iniesta being at his disposal. This squad had all the makings of a Champions League conquering side, and they would do so under Frank Rijkaard in 2006.

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Barcelona felt it necessary to appoint to choose an experienced European manager and chose Louis Van Gaal, a future Manchester United manager as well, to lead them forward. This move lasted only 6 months with Van Gaal being removed from his post in January of 2002, so the omens are not good for how Ferguson would have done, with Van Gaal.

As for Manchester United, the case is far more interesting, with the variables being far more numerous. It has been alleged that then England manager Sven Goran Eriksson had already signed a deal to take over at Old Trafford after the 2002 World Cup, which was denied completely by the club and the FA.

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This move would have been a landmark shift for the club with Eriksson being their first ever non-British manager. He had a pedigree at Europe’s top table with Lazio, Sampdoria, and Benfica, which would have stood him in good stead with United.

As for his time, it is likely he would have had to deal with the big characters in the United dressing room, such as the obvious Roy Keane and others that had held influence under Ferguson and could look to assert themselves under Eriksson.

Likely, Sven Goran Eriksson may not have lasted very long at Old Trafford if the shadow that shrouded David Moyes also plagued the Swede. In the transfer market, he was involved in some extremely high-profile transfers at Lazio and Sampdoria, such as buying Hernan Crespo, David Platt, and Christian Vieri. He would have inherited a squad in need of rejuvenation, something Ferguson did with great success, and that process could have been fatal if mishandled by Eriksson.

What do you think of this hypothetical football history?

Let us know what you think would happen in the comment section and let us know how you think Ferguson and Manchester United would do without each other.


Featured Image Source: Duncan Hull

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Attribution: By Duncan Hull (Flickr: Sir Alex Ferguson Stand) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Image found via WikimediaCommons and may be removed upon request