Wayne Rooney obviously isn't a keen student of footballing history. If he was, he'd realise that crossing swords with Sir Alex Ferguson, the modern game's most successful manager, generally results in only one winner. ShortList's resident Old Trafford season ticket holder, Jim "I was there when we were rubbish" Butler, investigates...
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The flying Russian had just enjoyed his best season for United when he was sold to Everton in 1995. Unfortunately, a mysterious falling out with Fergie – one that has never been adequately explained – was enough to convince the United manager that the skilful winger was a disruptive influence. Although only 26 when sold, Kanchelskis’ career was effectively over as his largely peripatetic career thereafter - shortlived spells at Everton, Fiorentina Glasgow Rangers, erm Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia - demonstrated.
The summer of 1995 saw a seismic shift at Old Trafford. As well as the departure of Kanchelskis, fan darling Mark Hughes was also moved on. However, it was Paul Ince’s transfer to Inter Milan that caused the most uproar. We later learned Ince had started referring to himself as ‘The Guv’nor’, and given that Fergie had Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt et al waiting in the wings, Ince’s exit was inevitable. Although he had a modicum of success in Italy, he was never the same player upon his return to England. Another masterstroke from the real Guv’nor from Govan.
Fergie’s uncanny knack of knowing when to move a player on is unrivalled – Norman Whiteside, Gordon Strachan and Paul McGrath were all early, and, mostly, expertly judged, casualties. However, even Fergie admits removing Jaap Stam was a mistake. The towering centre half dared to cross the United boss in his 2001 autobiography and was swiftly sold to Lazio. It took five years to replace him properly with the arrival of the equally formidable Nemanja Vidic.
By 2003, Beckham’s departure from Old Trafford was widely expected. His relationship with Fergie had all but broken down as the United boss baulked at Beckham’s celebrity lifestyle, and the United number seven openly courted a move to Real Madrid. That move was a qualified success, but United hardly missed him. His replacement? A twinkle toed Portuguese prodigy by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo.
For years the relationship between Fergie and his on-field enforcer Roy Keane was like that of father and son. Unfortunately, the passing of time, a succession of debilitating injuries and Keane’s increasingly corrosive influence in the dressing room, meant that sentiment didn’t come into it when the United boss sold his former talisman to Celtic at the end of 2005. Keane retired six months later, although it could be argued he’s never been properly replaced in the United midfield.
Winner: A score draw
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Just because van Nistelrooy was United’s most clinical goalscorer since the days of Denis Law – as a remarkable return of 150 goals in just 219 games attests – it didn’t matter a jot to Ferguson. Like so many before him once the Dutch centre forward started to appear disinterested he was quickly shown the door. With the likes of Louis Saha, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo (with whom van Nistelrooy famously clashed) taking up the goalscoring slack United won the title the season after van Nistelrooy’s exit.
Final score: Fergie 4 - Players 1