Sir Alex Ferguson's five dates with destiny

On Sir Alex Ferguson's 75th birthday, picks out five key matches from a trophy-laden career including a final success with Aberdeen and European triumphs at Manchester United.

Alex Ferguson (left) with his assistant Archie Knox after Aberdeen won the 1983 European Cup Winners' Cup
Alex Ferguson (left) with his assistant Archie Knox after Aberdeen won the 1983 European Cup Winners' Cup ©Getty Images

As Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates his 75th birthday, picks out the dates that defined the manager's contribution to the game.

11 May 1983, Aberdeen 2-1 Real Madrid
European Cup Winners' Cup final, Nya Ullevi Stadium, Gothenburg
"Don't tell anybody, but believe me, what a chance we have got," Sir Alex had told his assistant Archie Knox before the game. Beating Bayern München in the quarter-finals was fairly incredible, but this final success in soggy Gothenberg was something else entirely.

Sir Alex took over at Old Trafford in 1986
Sir Alex took over at Old Trafford in 1986©Getty Images

Juanito's penalty cancelled out Eric Black's seventh-minute opener, but the Dons stole the day in extra time, John Hewitt heading in Mark McGhee's cross after 112 minutes. Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stéfano summed it up: "Aberdeen have what money can't buy; a soul, a team spirit built in a family tradition."

6 November 1986, Appointed Manchester United manager
Arsenal, Tottenham and Rangers had all sounded Sir Alex out during his time at Aberdeen, but it took a call from Old Trafford for the Scot – then 44 – to leave Pittodrie. He was chosen to replace Ron Atkinson, but it took a strong argument from club legend Sir Bobby Charlton to persuade United's directors to select him ahead of Terry Venables.

Manchester United celebrate winning the 1993 Premier League title
Manchester United celebrate winning the 1993 Premier League title©Getty Images

"I asked my fellow directors if they had seen Ferguson on the touchline when Aberdeen scored their victory in Gothenburg," recalled Sir Bobby. "I said he had lived passionately every moment of the game, charging on to the pitch, filling his players with self belief." Sold.

2 May 1993, Aston Villa 0-1 Oldham
Premier League fixture
Sir Alex's early years at United were not easy, fans venting their frustration at a perceived lack of success in December 1989. However, United held firm, and were rewarded in the long run. First, the Reds beat Crystal Palace FC to win the FA Cup in 1990, then a side built to his specifications finally won their first English title since 1967, though Sir Alex was out on the golf course when he found out. He recalled: "A man I didn't know came over the hill with a huge smile on his face and said: 'Excuse me Mr Ferguson, you are the champions. Oldham have won at Villa.'"

Sir Alex after United's stunning 1999 triumph
Sir Alex after United's stunning 1999 triumph©Getty Images

26 May 1999 Manchester United 2-1 Bayern München
UEFA Champions League final, Camp Nou
"Football – bloody hell." Sir Alex's response to camera after his side turned final defeat into victory with added time goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær remain part of footballing folklore. It was the first time United had won the top prize in club football under Sir Alex and completed a tremendous treble, following league and FA Cup successes.

"I was just starting to adjust to losing the game," Sir Alex said later. "I had reminded myself to keep my dignity and accept that it wasn't going to be our year. What then happened simply stunned me." He was not the only one.

Sir Alex guided Untied to another European triumph in 2008
Sir Alex guided Untied to another European triumph in 2008©Getty Images

21 May 2008 Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (aet, United win 6-5 on penalties)
UEFA Champions League final, Luzhniki Stadium
Fifty years on from the Munich air crash, and 40 years since United were first crowned European champions, Edwin van der Sar blocked Nicolas Anelka's spot kick to clinch a third European Champion Clubs' Cup for United and the second of Sir Alex's reign, John Terry having slipped to miss an earlier effort for Chelsea that would have handed them victory.

"I said we wouldn't let the memory of the Busby Babes down," Sir Alex said. "Fate played its hand today. We had a cause which is important and people with causes become very difficult people to fight against."