Bobby Charlton denies Alex Ferguson faced sack

Simon Stone,Pa
Thursday 16 December 2010 16:40
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Ferguson will become United's longest serving manager on Sunday
Ferguson will become United's longest serving manager on Sunday

Sir Bobby Charlton is adamant Sir Alex Ferguson would not have been sacked if he had lost that fateful FA Cup tie at Nottingham Forest.

It has gone down in history that if Manchester United had fallen in their 1990 third-round clash with Brian Clough's side at the City Ground, Ferguson would have been out of a job.

There would have been no 11 Premier League titles or two European Cups, or any of the other mountain of trophies Ferguson has amassed in the intervening two decades.

As it turned out, the media storm was calmed by a Mark Robins header that propelled United on a course towards Wembley, where they needed two games to overcome Crystal Palace before lifting the first silverware of the Ferguson era.

And, as the Glaswegian gets ready to overtake Sir Matt Busby as the longest-serving United manager of all time on Sunday, Charlton insists United were on a path to glory, no matter what the outcome of that one match in Nottingham was.

"The media were the ones who were pushing," recalled Charlton, who has remained an influential figure at Old Trafford throughout Ferguson's 24-year reign.

"If Alex Ferguson got sacked it would have been a really good story for them.

"In fairness, their philosophy was based on what they had before. If a manager was unsuccessful, you sack him.

"But behind the scenes, Alex was already really successful. There was not a thought about the future of Alex Ferguson at this club."

Although he acknowledges he was one of Ferguson's main defenders in the boardroom, Charlton insists there was no impassioned speech on the Scot's behalf.

"I didn't have to say anything. They all knew," he said.

"You have a feeling at a football club whether things are right or wrong.

"There was no nastiness about Alex when he lost a match. It was just a feeling of 'it will happen'.

"You just felt success was coming, so you couldn't criticise him.

"Half the problems that people get into is the fact that they get rid of managers too soon. We would not make that mistake."

Crucially, the man Ferguson was trying to emulate felt exactly the same way.

Then in his 80s, Busby's influence was huge. His words and reassurance counted for a huge amount.

"Matt was still around," said Charlton.

"Sometimes you would have a little chat about things but he was in no doubt either.

"He didn't have a worry at all. He knew we had the right man."

It is one of Ferguson's great joys that Busby was still alive and at Old Trafford to celebrate at the party that followed a day after that 26-year wait for the title had been brought to an end.

The elation on Busby's face when United took the field for the carnival night against Blackburn after Aston Villa had failed to overcome Oldham gave away his feelings.

After building a club around his own European odyssey, the tragedy of Munich and glory against Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final, Busby knew United had a worthy successor.

"That night was magic," recalled Charlton.

"The old man was so happy. He loved Alex as well. He couldn't help it.

"Alex had this personality. He made things happen. Every part of the club was buzzing.

"There is no way that, even had we lost at Nottingham Forest, anything would have happened. No way at all.

"Everyone knew where we were going and what was going to happen."

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