In a shocking turn of events, Sir Alex Ferguson resigned as Manchester United manager just days before the start of the 1998/99 season. This was a time when the club had just lost out on the league title by a single point to Arsenal, after winning four of the previous five seasons. The inside story, as revealed by The Times, was that the United board at the time, comprising then-chairman Martin Edwards and Sir Roland Smith, chairman of the club’s PLC board, expressed their doubts over Ferguson’s focus.
The board was worried about Ferguson’s passion for horse racing and his “celebrity status.” They told him, “We are worried about your focus.” Ferguson was perplexed with the line of questioning and directly questioned whether they were trying to force him out of the club. He was assured it was nothing of the sort.
Transfers were also a hotly debated topic within the club’s hierarchy, with Ferguson pushing for the signing of Dwight Yorke despite doubts from assistant Brian Kidd and other members of the United board. Following the meeting, Edwards wrote a letter for Ferguson upon his return to pre-season training outlining all the concerns the board had.
Within hours of receiving the letter, Ferguson stormed into the office raging and declaring he was going to resign. Edwards replied, “Well, if that’s the way you feel, Alex, we’ll have to accept it,” confident of calling the former Aberdeen manager’s bluff. Fortunately for United, the bluff worked, and Ferguson withdrew his application later in the day.
Gordon Strachan described Ferguson as being “driven by anger,” and following the butting of heads at the start of the season, Ferguson was full of it. And it paid dividends as United won an unprecedented Treble that year – a feat yet to be replicated in English football.
United also went on to win the next three Premier League titles, another feat which is yet to be replicated by a club or manager other than Ferguson’s United. Ferguson’s passion for the game and his ability to motivate his players were key factors in his success.
Ferguson’s resignation came as a shock to many fans and pundits alike. However, it was not the first time he had threatened to quit. In 1989, he had offered his resignation after a poor start to the season. The board had refused to accept it, and Ferguson went on to lead United to their first league title in 26 years.
Ferguson’s legacy at Manchester United is unparalleled. He won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, and two UEFA Champions League titles during his 26-year tenure at Old Trafford. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest managers in football history.
In conclusion, Sir Alex Ferguson’s resignation just before the start of the 1998/99 season was a shock to many fans and pundits alike. The board’s concerns over his focus and passion for horse racing were unfounded as he went on to lead United to an unprecedented Treble that year. His legacy at Manchester United is unparalleled, and he will always be remembered as one of the greatest managers in football history.