Monday 18 March 2019

Alex Ferguson quit Manchester United before the treble in 1999

Alex Ferguson celebrates the 1999 Champions League win
Alex Ferguson celebrates the 1999 Champions League win

Evan Bartlett

Alex Ferguson resigned from Manchester United the summer before the club won its famous treble in 1999 - but then changed his mind, and the course of the club's history forever.

United had finished second in the league in the 1997/98 season, a point behind double winners Arsenal, and the club’s hierarchy were not impressed.

Martin Edwards, the club’s chief executive, and Sir Roland Smith, its chairman, called Ferguson back from holiday in France and gave him a piece of their minds.

“We hadn't won anything and to be honest we were dissatisfied,” Edwards told the Daily Mail.

“We wondered if Alex had taken his eye off the ball a little and if his celebrity status and interest in horses had maybe not helped.

“So we told him our feelings and Roland thought we should follow it up with a letter. He received it and came pretty much straight back in to see me.

“He was furious, saying: ‘If that's what you think of me then get stuffed… I am resigning’. And off he went.”

How different the course of the club’s history – and that of the Premier League – could have been.

Ferguson later rang Edwards to tell him he had changed his mind.

While Edwards maintains he would not have tried to persuade the manager to stay – he was pleased that he did.

Less than 12 months later, United became the first – and only – English side to win the league, domestic cup and Champions League treble.

As Edwards added: "Thank goodness he didn't go!"

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