History of Manchester United F.C. (1986–2013)

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The torso and head of a grey-haired white man. He is wearing spectacles and a black coat.
Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United from 1986 to 2013

The History of Manchester United F.C. (1986–2013) covers the period following the appointment of Alex Ferguson in November 1986, to the day of his retirement, in May 2013. Ferguson joined the club from Aberdeen on the same day that Ron Atkinson was dismissed,[1] and guided the club to a 12th-place finish in the league.[2] Despite a second-place finish in 1987–88, the club was back in 11th place the following season.[3] Reportedly on the verge of being dismissed, victory over Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final replay (after a 3–3 draw) saved Ferguson's career.[4][5] The following season, Manchester United claimed its first Cup Winners' Cup title and competed in the 1991 UEFA Super Cup, beating European Cup holders Red Star Belgrade 1–0 in the final at Old Trafford. A second consecutive League Cup final appearance followed in 1992, in which the team beat Nottingham Forest 1–0 at Wembley.[6] In 1993, the club won its first league title since 1967, and a year later, for the first time since 1957, it won a second consecutive title – alongside the FA Cup – to complete the first "Double" in the club's history.[6]

Manchester United's 1998–99 season was the most successful in English club football history as they became the first team to win the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League – "The Treble" – in the same season.[7] Losing 1–0 going into injury time in the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored late goals to claim a dramatic victory over Bayern Munich, in what is considered one of the greatest comebacks of all time.[8] The club also won the Intercontinental Cup after beating Palmeiras 1–0 in Tokyo.[9] Ferguson was subsequently knighted for his services to football.[10]

In 2000, Manchester United competed in the inaugural FIFA Club World Championship in Brazil,[11] and won the league again in the 1999–2000 and 2000–01 seasons. The team finished as runners-up in 2001–02, before regaining the title in 2002–03. They won the 2003–04 FA Cup, beating Millwall 3–0 in the final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.[12] In the 2005–06 season Manchester United failed to qualify for the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in over a decade, but recovered to secure a second-place league finish and victory over Wigan Athletic in the 2006 Football League Cup Final. The club regained the Premier League in the 2006–07 and 2007–08 seasons, and completed the European double by beating Chelsea 6–5 on penalties in the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. Ryan Giggs made a record 759th appearance for the club in this game, overtaking previous record holder Bobby Charlton.[13] In December 2008, the club won the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup and followed this with the 2008–09 Football League Cup, and its third successive Premier League title.[14][15] That summer, Cristiano Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid for a world record £80 million.[16] In 2010, Manchester United defeated Aston Villa 2–1 at Wembley to retain the League Cup, its first successful defence of a knockout cup competition.[17]

Arrival of Alex Ferguson: 1986–1992[edit]

Alex Ferguson joined Manchester United from Aberdeen F.C. on 6 November 1986, the same day that previous manager Ron Atkinson was dismissed, and immediately set about rebuilding the club's youth system.[1][18] In Ferguson's first game in charge, the team lost 2–0 to Oxford United; his first victory came on 22 November 1986, a 1–0 defeat of Queen's Park Rangers at Old Trafford. Over the next few weeks, results continued to improve, and on Boxing Day 1986, the team beat Liverpool 1–0 at Anfield – the club's only away league win of the season, and the only home defeat of the season for their hosts. United's improvement continued throughout the season, despite no new signings being made, and they finished 11th in a First Division where Everton finished champions and Liverpool runners-up, representing the Merseyside dominance of English football which had lasted across two decades with Liverpool and over the last four seasons with Everton.

That summer, Ferguson made his first signings: defender Viv Anderson from Arsenal, and striker Brian McClair from Celtic. Ferguson also made bids to sign Stuart Pearce from Nottingham Forest and Peter Beardsley from Newcastle United, but both offers were rejected.[1] The following season, Manchester United finished runners-up in the league, nine points behind champions Liverpool, giving supporters cause to be optimistic for next season. These hopes were strengthened by the return of Mark Hughes two years after his departure to FC Barcelona; his £1.8million fee that took him back to Old Trafford was United's record signing. United also signed Scotland goalkeeper Jim Leighton from Aberdeen and 17-year-old winger Lee Sharpe from Torquay United, but were pipped to midfielder Paul Gascoigne by Tottenham Hotspur in the first £2million signing by a British club.[1]

After suffering a number of injuries to first team players in the 1988–89 season, Ferguson introduced some of his youth team players such as Lee Sharpe into the team. A six-match winning run beginning in January saw the club in third place in February, but it finished the season in 11th. The champions this time were Arsenal, who had re-emerged as a leading force in the English game since the appointment of former United player George Graham as manager, while Liverpool finished runners-up in the league but won the FA Cup, and Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest finished third and won the League Cup after a few seasons of mediocrity. Ferguson responded that summer by strengthening his squad with expensive signings in the shape of midfielders Neil Webb and Mike Phelan, followed by a club record £2.3million signing of defender Gary Pallister and lower fees for winger Danny Wallace and midfielder Paul Ince in the early stages of the 1989–90 season. The continuing changes in the United squad had just seen the sale of two players who had been the centerpiece of the Atkinson era - Paul McGrath and Norman Whiteside. While McGrath would continue playing top-flight football into the late 1990s, Whiteside would play for just two more years before continuing injury problems finally forced him to hang up his boots at the age of just 26.

In September 1989, the club received a takeover bid by Michael Knighton; Chairman Martin Edwards agreed to sell the club to Knighton for £20 million, but the deal fell through when his financial backers pulled out.[19] It was rumoured that Ferguson was on the verge of being sacked, but victory over Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final replay (after a 3–3 draw) saved his career.[4][5] However, the club finished 13th, their lowest league placing since returning to the top-flight in 1975; just five points separated them from the relegation zone. Liverpool were league champions that season for an English record 18th time, although this would prove to be their last league title to date. Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur completed the top three.

The FA Cup success qualified the team to compete in the 1990–91 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup; Manchester United reached the final, in which the club beat Barcelona 2–1 in Rotterdam, becoming the first English club to win a European trophy since the Heysel disaster had forced English clubs into a five-year ban from European competition. Despite this success, the team finished 6th in the First Division and their defence of the FA Cup ended in the fifth round, with a 2–1 loss against Norwich City. The club reached the 1990–91 Football League Cup final, but lost to Sheffield Wednesday. Their league form improved, but inconsistent performances prevented them from mounting a title challenge and they finished sixth in a table headed by Arsenal, who lost just once all season.

In June 1991, Manchester United floated on the London Stock Exchange, with a valuation of £18 million, raising £6.7 million.[20]

New to the United squad for the 1991–92 season were goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and defender Paul Parker, but the big news of the season was the breakthrough of teenage winger Ryan Giggs, who had made his debut the previous season and was a regular player from September 1991. Strong performances from Schmeichel, Parker, Giggs and established players like Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Mark Hughes, Brian McClair and the veteran Bryan Robson helped United take an early lead in the title race, and by Christmas the title race was looking increasingly like a two-horse race between Manchester United and a resurgent Leeds United, with pre-season favourites Arsenal and Liverpool failing to impress. United ended 1991 with just one league defeat of the season to their name, but then lost 4–1 at home to unfashionable Queen's Park Rangers on New Year's Day, and over the next three months goals dried up and United dropped points against the likes of Coventry City, Wimbledon, Notts County and Luton Town - teams they had been widely expected to beat. United were constantly linked with the signature of 21-year-old Southampton striker Alan Shearer, but the player refused to consider a transfer from the South Coast club until the end of the season, and so United went into the final stages of the title race with a tough battle on their hands, although a few disappointing results for Leeds United meant that the race was still wide open with just two weeks of the season remaining.

With three games to go, United were one point behind league leaders Leeds United, but the West Yorkshire club had the club played a game more. United then travelled to a West Ham United side heading for relegation and knew that a victory would put the title race in their hands and the end of the 25-year wait potentially just four days away. But United lost 1–0. On 26 April 1992, the team lost 2–0 to Liverpool at Anfield and Leeds secured the league title. However, the team had won the League Cup two weeks earlier, defeating Nottingham Forest 1–0 in the final. At the end of the season, 18-year-old Welsh winger Ryan Giggs was voted Young Player of the Year.

The Double: 1992–1995[edit]

A smiling man with dark hair wearing a white, green and blue tracksuit top over a blue shirt. He is holding a washbag under his right arm.
Bryan Robson was the captain of Manchester United for 12 years, longer than any other player.[21]

After a shortage of goals in the second half of the 1991–92 season cost United the league title, Alex Ferguson was intent on signing a new striker. His key target was the Southampton striker Alan Shearer, but he lost out to a newly promoted Blackburn Rovers side now managed by Kenny Dalglish, who had managed Liverpool to three league titles and was now backed by the millions of steel baron Jack Walker in the quest to bring similar success to the resurgent Lancashire club. Ferguson then switched his attention to Dion Dublin, the 23-year-old striker who had excelled in the lower divisions with Cambridge United. A week before the new FA Premier League season began, Dublin completed a £1million move to Old Trafford to become United's only close season signing.

United's Premier League career began with a disappointing 2–1 defeat at unfancied Sheffield United, and days later they lost 3–0 at home to an Everton side who over the last few seasons had gradually drifted out of the league's top reaches. The first victory of the league season came at the fourth attempt when a late goal by Dion Dublin gave them a 1–0 win at Southampton, but Dublin then broke his leg in the next game against Crystal Palace and was sidelined for sixth months. and some decent results including wins over Leeds United and Nottingham Forest followed, but by late October United had endured a run of five successive draws and the all too familiar goal shortage was attributed to this once again. Defeats against Wimbledon and Ron Atkinson's Aston Villa saw United occupy 10th place in the league by 7 November 1992, with one of the lowest goal tallies in the division. Over the next couple of weeks, United were linked with moves for some of the most highly regarded strikers in the English league, including Brian Deane and David Hirst, but on 26 November 1992 United made a £1.1million move for French striker Eric Cantona, who had helped Leeds United win the previous season's league title. The arrival of Cantona helped transform United's fortunes, and by the turn of 1993 they were looking like title contenders again. Despite challenges from Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and surprise contenders Norwich City, United went on a storming run during the final weeks of the season to win the title by a 10-point margin and end their 26-year wait. United were actually confirmed as champions without kicking a ball, when on 2 May 1993 their last remaining contenders Aston Villa surprisingly lost 1–0 at home to unfancied Oldham Athletic, who had given United a serious challenge in the FA Cup semi-finals three seasons earlier and would do so again the following season.

United broke the English transfer fee record over the summer of 1993 by paying relegated Nottingham Forest £3.75million for Irish midfielder Roy Keane.

United started the following season with Wembley glory, beating Arsenal on penalties in the FA Charity Shield after a 1–1 draw. Manchester United led the 1993–94 Premier League at the end of August, a lead they maintained all season. By the end of October, they were 11 points ahead and their lead peaked at 16 points in the new year. Despite a second round exit from the European Cup, they were on a strong run in the League Cup and after beating Sheffield United in the FA Cup third round on 9 January 1994, United now had their sights set on a unique domestic treble. The club then endured sadness later that month with the death of Sir Matt Busby.

In March 1994, United dropped points against Arsenal and bottom-of-the-table Swindon Town, in which Eric Cantona was sent off in both games and subsequently received a five-match suspension. They then lost the League Cup final to Aston Villa and in April were beaten by Blackburn Rovers and Wimbledon, which meant that they were now ahead of Blackburn Rovers only on goal difference. They very nearly went out of the FA Cup in the semi-final at Wembley, before Mark Hughes scored a late equalizer to force a Maine Road replay, which United won 4–1. An upturn in results soon followed, and United clinched their title on 1 May 1994 when they won 2–1 at Ipswich Town.

Eric Cantona finished the season with 25 goals in all competitions and was subsequently voted PFA Player of the Year. Other players to impress during this campaign included Mark Hughes, Paul Ince, Ryan Giggs and Lee Sharpe. It was the last season at Old Trafford for club captain Bryan Robson after 13 years and more than 400 appearances; he had accepted an offer to manage Middlesbrough. Also on their way out of the club that summer were Les Sealey (the goalkeeping hero of the 1990 FA Cup final replay who had later returned as Peter Schmeichel's understudy), Mike Phelan and long-serving utility player Clayton Blackmore.

In the FA Cup final on 14 May, it was goalless at half time but two penalties by Eric Cantona and subsequent goals from Mark Hughes and Brian McClair gave United a comprehensive 4–0 win over Chelsea and saw them match Tottenham's record of eight FA Cup triumphs. Ferguson felt that his current squad were good enough to challenge on all fronts in the season which followed the double, and made only one close season signing, paying Blackburn Rovers £1.2 million for defender David May, seeing the 24-year-old as a potential eventual successor to the ageing Steve Bruce.

The 1994–95 season saw United rarely out of the headlines, but not always with positive headlines. On 25 January 1995, Eric Cantona kicked Matthew Simmons, a Crystal Palace hooligan who had taunted him with anti-French racist abuse after being sent off in a January fixture at Selhurst Park. Cantona was immediately suspended by the club for the rest of the season, a ban which the Football Association extended until the end of September that year, and he also received a 14-day prison sentence at his trial two months later, although this was swiftly reduced to a community service order on appeal.

United were also without players like Paul Parker, Ryan Giggs and Andrei Kanchelskis for long periods of time due to injury. 1994–95 also saw the debuts of promising young players Paul Scholes and Phil Neville. Scholes was particularly impressive, scoring five goals in 17 games. Having made a handful of appearances between them in the previous two seasons, Gary Neville, David Beckham and Nicky Butt all made more regular appearances for United during 1994–95.

United broke the English transfer record again by paying £7 million (£6 million in cash plus £1 million-rated winger Keith Gillespie) for Newcastle United's free-scoring striker Andy Cole. He had been signed just two weeks before the Cantona incident as an eventual replacement for 31-year-old Mark Hughes, but with Cantona suspended it was Hughes who ended up being Cole's partner for the rest of the season. Cole did not take long to get amongst the goals, bagging five goals in a Premier League record 9–0 trouncing of Ipswich Town at Old Trafford in 1995. The season had already brought some impressive results, including a "double" over fellow title challengers Blackburn Rovers and a 5–0 home win over City in the Manchester derby, and even after Cantona's suspension there were some more impressive victories over the likes of Wimbledon, Arsenal and Leicester City, but United also dropped crucial points against the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, which left their title hopes looking slim by mid-April. However, a run of four victories and a couple of blunders by Blackburn kept the title race going right to the wire.

United almost made it three league titles in a row, but just couldn't get the better of a West Ham side who held them to a 1–1 draw in East London on the final day of the season. The FA Cup also slipped out of United's grasp when they lost 1–0 to unfancied Everton in the final at Wembley. This left United without a major trophy for the first time since 1989.

Second Double: 1995–1998[edit]

Steve Bruce

Before the 1995–96 season began, Manchester United announced the sale of three players – Paul Ince, who joined Internazionale, Mark Hughes, who joined Chelsea and Andrei Kanchelskis, who joined Everton. Instead of signing players to replace them, Ferguson put his faith in young members of the squad like David Beckham, Gary Neville, Philip Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt. This was seen as a big gamble, not least because the likes of Newcastle, Liverpool and Arsenal had spent heavily in the close season. Alan Hansen famously proclaimed: "you'll never win anything with kids" on Match Of The Day on 19 August 1995, after United lost 3–1 at Aston Villa, who had by now sacked Ron Atkinson and were hopeful of challenging for honours again with a reshaped squad under Brian Little.[22][23] The club defied its critics with subsequent excellent performances and just one more defeat before mid-December, although a 3–1 defeat at Leeds United on Christmas Eve left them 10 points behind leaders Newcastle after a five-match winless run. Aside a New Year's Day defeat at Tottenham Hotspur and a goalless draw at home to Aston Villa, United regained their winning touch after Christmas and reached the top of the Premier League in mid-March, just after an Eric Cantona goal had given them a 1–0 win at Newcastle. Cantona was instrumental in subsequent victories, and despite a 3–1 defeat at Southampton in mid-April, United remained firmly in control at the top and sealed the title on the last day of the season with a 3–0 win at Bryan Robson's Middlesbrough. A week later, Manchester United beat Liverpool 1–0 in the FA Cup final to become the first ever English club to win the league/FA Cup double twice. Eric Cantona, who scored 19 goals in 1995–96 (including the FA Cup final winner), was voted FWA Footballer of the Year by football journalists and was made team captain following the departure of Steve Bruce to Birmingham City.

United once again tried to sign Alan Shearer over the summer of 1996, but they were beaten to his signature by Newcastle United for a then world record fee of £15million. For a while that autumn, it looked as though Newcastle had bought the title, as they ended United's unbeaten start to the league season on 20 October 1996 with a 5–0 defeat on Tyneside, triggering a three-match losing run in the league for Alex Ferguson's men, who also suffered the club's first-ever home defeat in European competitions when they lost 1–0 at home to Fenerbahce in the group stages of the Champions League.

Manchester United won their fourth league title in five seasons in 1996–97, helped by 19 goals from newly signed Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Hopes of winning the club's first ever Champions League title were dashed, however, as the team were defeated in the semi-finals by the eventual winners of the competition, Borussia Dortmund. At the end of the season Eric Cantona announced his shock retirement from football just a few days before his 31st birthday. He was replaced by England international Teddy Sheringham, a £3.5 million signing from Tottenham.

The 1997–98 season saw Manchester United overhauled by Arsenal in the Premier League to finish empty-handed for only the second time in the 1990s. They had led the league for much of the season, despite the absence of new captain Roy Keane from late September due to a serious knee injury, and managed some excellent results on the way, including heavy defeats of Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday and away victories over Liverpool and Newcastle. They entered March still 11 points ahead at the top of the league, but Arsenal took advantage of games in hand and gained the upper hand on 14 March 1998 with a 1–0 win at Old Trafford. United did manage some decent results in the run-in, but draws at home to Liverpool and Newcastle left Arsenal uncatchable.

Shortly after this disappointment Alex Ferguson broke the club's transfer record twice by signing Dutch defender Jaap Stam from PSV, Trinidadian striker Dwight Yorke from Aston Villa. Swedish winger Jesper Blomqvist from Parma also joined the club during the off-season. The summer of 1998 saw the departure of the club's two longest-serving players: Brian McClair ended his 11-year association with United by returning to his first club Motherwell, while Gary Pallister returned to Middlesbrough after nine years at Old Trafford.

The Treble: 1998–1999[edit]

Treble trophies

The 1998–99 season was the most successful in the history of Manchester United. United won the Premier League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League, becoming the first English club to achieve the feat of winning the domestic league and cup as well as the European Cup in the same season.[24] After a 3–2 home defeat against Middlesbrough in the league on 19 December 1998, United went undefeated for the rest of the season for a run of 33 matches in all competitions.[25]

United gained a reputation for not conceding defeat even in what seemed the most hopeless of circumstances, winning and drawing several matches with late goals after falling behind early on. Some of their more notable come-backs were the FA Cup Fourth Round tie at home to Liverpool, which Liverpool led from the third to the 85th minute, both legs of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals against Juventus and the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, won in the final minutes of extra time by a Ryan Giggs goal after a saved penalty by Peter Schmeichel in the last of his eight seasons at the club forced extra time. However, the most dramatic comeback came in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, when Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored a goal each in stoppage time to give United a 2–1 win in stoppage time - a sixth minute goal from Bayern's Mario Basler looked to have won the trophy for the Germans, who still had the lead with 90 minutes showing on the clock.

United lost five times in the entire season; three times in the league, as well as in the Charity Shield at the start of the season, and their League Cup quarter-final, in which they were defeated by eventual winners, Tottenham Hotspur. They defeated every other Premier League team at least once and were undefeated in the Champions League – Barcelona was the only team that United played in Europe without beating them at least once.

Post-Treble: 1999–2005[edit]

Wayne Rooney

At the expense of their presence in the 1999–2000 FA Cup, Manchester United competed in the inaugural FIFA Club World Championship, but failed to make it past the group stage. However, the team won 16 of their remaining 20 Premier League games to win the title with an 18-point margin over runners-up Arsenal, losing just three games all season. A new threat was emerging from David O'Leary's promising young Leeds United side, who finished third in the league that season and had finished fourth a year earlier, but financial problems later overtook the club and they gradually slipped out of contention for the leading honours, being relegated in 2004 and still yet to return to the Premiership a decade later.

The following season, Manchester United won a third successive league title, Alex Ferguson becoming first manager to achieve this feat. This was once again achieved by a wide margin, and United chalked up arguably their best performance of the season in late February when they defeated Arsenal 6–1 at Old Trafford. At the end of the season, Teddy Sheringham collected both the PFA Player of the Year award and the FWA Player of the Year award, before returning to Tottenham Hotspur; he was succeeded by club record signing Ruud van Nistelrooy, a record swiftly broken by the £28.1 million signing of Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón. Van Nistelrooy would be a huge success for United, scoring 150 goals over the next five seasons, but Veron was less successful, and was sold to Chelsea two years later.

2001–02 was a trophyless season; Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League by Bayer Leverkusen, the FA Cup by Middlesbrough, and finished third in the Premier League. They did manage some highly memorable performances, including comprehensive victories over the likes of Ipswich Town and Tottenham Hotspur in the autumn and Derby County and Southampton before Christmas, but a run of six defeats between 16 September and 8 December left them ninth in the league with almost half of the season gone. Despite a nine-match winning run sending them to the top of the table, they were in a very tight title race involving four other clubs and their title hopes were finally ended in the penultimate game of the season, where they lost 1–0 at home to an Arsenal side who clinched their second title in five seasons.

The season was also marked by the decision of Sir Alex Ferguson to make a U-turn and stay on as manager, after he had stated that he would retire at the end of the season after 16 years at the club.[26] The 2002 close season saw the club break the national transfer record with the £29 million signing of Leeds United and England centre-half Rio Ferdinand.[27] He helped Manchester United to another Premier League title in 2002–03, the club's eighth title in 11 seasons, after some disappointing results in the first season saw them unbeaten after the turn of the new year.[28] The league success was one of the more remarkable because the team were 8 points behind leaders Arsenal at the beginning of March, when they also lost the League Cup final to Liverpool.[29] Soon afterwards, David Beckham was sold to Real Madrid for £25 million, following arguments with Ferguson.

Before the start of the season, a highly rated 18-year old Portuguese winger called Cristiano Ronaldo arrived from Sporting CP for £12.24 million. In the 2003–04 season, Manchester United won the FA Cup for the 11th time in their history, but after Rio Ferdinand received an eight-month suspension for failing to attend a drugs test, the club finished third in the Premier League, which was won by an unbeaten Arsenal, while second place went to a Chelsea side who had spent well over £100million on players since their takeover by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich the previous summer. Just after the start of the 2004–05 campaign, the club signed highly regarded teenage striker Wayne Rooney from Everton for £25.6 million. In the 2004 Final, United defeated Millwall 3–0. The club reached the FA Cup final again the following season, but were beaten by Arsenal in a penalty shoot-out, the first time that the FA Cup Final had been decided on penalties. Chelsea finished this season as Premier League champions; Manchester United finished third.

Glazer ownership: 2005–2013[edit]

In May 2005, the Glazer family acquired a majority shareholding in Manchester United in a takeover valuing the club at £800 million, and a month later delisted it from the London Stock Exchange.[30] In protest, a group of fans formed a splinter club, F.C. United of Manchester.[31]

Ryan Giggs is the most decorated player in English football history.[32]

The following season's European campaign saw the club finish bottom of its group in the UEFA Champions League, failing to qualify for the UEFA Cup, the first time the club had not reached the knock-out stages of the tournament since it was created in 1992.[33] In November, Roy Keane left the club in acrimonious fashion after criticising his fellow players so severely in an MUTV interview that chief executive David Gill ordered it not to be broadcast.[34] The subsequent January transfer window saw the arrival of defenders Nemanja Vidić and Patrice Evra, who helped the club to its second League Cup, defeating Wigan Athletic 4–0 in the final at the Millennium Stadium.[35] However, Manchester United finished second in the Premier League, eight points behind Chelsea, who retained their title and were now seen as the leading force in English football.

In the 2006–07 season, Manchester United suffered a shock fourth round exit from the Carling Cup at the hands of Southend United.[36] The club's Champions League campaign was more successful; in the second leg of their quarter-final, the team defeated Roma 7–1 (8–3 on aggregate), the club's largest margin of victory in a European game since they beat the Irish team Waterford United 7–1 in the first round of the 1968 European Cup.[37] However, the club lost to AC Milan in the semi-finals. On 22 April 2007, Cristiano Ronaldo won both PFA Players' Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year and joined Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidić, Patrice Evra, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs in the PFA Team of the Year; eight members from the same team is a record. On 6 May, Manchester United won the Premier League for the 9th time in 15 years; Ryan Giggs broke Alan Hansen's record for the most league titles won, with his ninth winner's medal.

The following season, the club was knocked out of the FA Cup in a Sixth Round clash against Portsmouth, a match in which Rio Ferdinand acted as goalkeeper following injury to Van der Sar and Kuszczak being sent-off. In the Champions League, Manchester United defeated Barcelona in the semi-final to set up the first all-English final, in Moscow. Following a 1–1 draw in normal time, the club defeated Chelsea 6–5 on penalties, winning the club's third European Cup. Ryan Giggs made a record 759th appearance for the club, breaking Bobby Charlton's record and scored Manchester United's seventh penalty. The club also won the Premier League on the final day of the season, defeating Wigan Athletic 2–0, to win the European double.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez

In December 2008, the club beat LDU Quito in the final of the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, becoming the first English team to win the competition. That season, Manchester United broke the both the English and European league records for the most time played without conceding a goal and on 1 March, in the 2009 League Cup Final, the club beat Tottenham 4–1 on penalties. On 16 May, United secured their 11th Premier League title – and 18th league title overall (equalling the record held by Liverpool) – following a 0–0 draw at home to Arsenal. This was the second time the club had won three consecutive Premier League titles, but Manchester United was beaten 2–0 by Barcelona in the final in Rome on 27 May.

In the following summer transfer window, Cristiano Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid for a world record £80 million and Carlos Tevez joined local rivals Manchester City, after his loan spell came to an end.[38] On 28 February 2010, Manchester United defeated Aston Villa 2–1 at Wembley to retain the League Cup, the first time the club had successfully defended a knockout cup competition.[17] However, they were knocked out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals by Bayern Munich on away goals,[39] and were runners-up in the Premier League, finishing one point behind Chelsea.[40] During the summer, they signed an almost unknown Javier Hernandez from Guadalajara. On 8 August 2010, Manchester United defeated Chelsea 3–1 to win the FA Community Shield. The 2010–11 campaign was a successful one, with Manchester United overhauling early leaders Chelsea and securing a record 19th league title with a 1–1 away draw against Blackburn on 14 May 2011. They faced Barcelona again in the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final, but were defeated again 3–1. However, they were beaten in the semi-finals of the FA Cup by their cross city rivals, who were now the wealthiest club in England and competing seriously with the English league's leading lights for the first time since the 1970s.

In the 2011–12 season, Manchester United were knocked out of the League Cup by Football League Championship side Crystal Palace in the fifth round.[41] Just over a week later, they were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League in the group stages after a shock defeat by FC Basel, sending them to the UEFA Europa League for the first time.[42] In January, Manchester United were also knocked out of the FA Cup in the fourth round by Liverpool. They lost their league title in dramatic fashion on the last day, to Manchester City. With 90 minutes showing, United's victory at Sunderland looked to have given them the title by a three-point margin as City trailed 2–1 to a QPR side managed by former United player Mark Hughes. However, two stoppage time goals saw City snatch the title on goal difference. Seven months earlier, City had crushed United 6–1 at Old Trafford in one of the club's heaviest home defeats in its history.[43]

In the 2012–13 season, Manchester United were knocked out of the League Cup by Chelsea in the Fifth Round. They were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the last 16 stage by Real Madrid 2–3 on aggregate. United were knocked out in the Sixth Round of the FA Cup by Chelsea. But overall the 2012–13 campaign was a successful one for United as they ran away with a record 20th league title, sealing it with a home win against Aston Villa on 22 April 2013. The key factor in United's success was top scorer Robin Van Persie, a £25million close season signing from Arsenal. The Dutch forward was instrumental throughout the season and he fittingly scored all of United's goals as they won their title-clinching game 3–0.

Alex Ferguson's retirement and the arrival of David Moyes: 2013[edit]

In May 2013, just before the end of the Premier League season, Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United after 27 years, with David Moyes of Everton being announced as his successor the next day. Ferguson remains as a director and ambassador for the club.[44] On 19 May 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson managed Manchester United for the last time in a 5–5 draw at West Bromwich Albion, who had competed alongside them in the early stages of the title race before fading to finish eighth.

David Moyes went on to win the Community Shield in 2013, but after their worst season in the Premier League since its creation in 1992, as low as seventh, Moyes was sacked and Ryan Giggs was appointed as Interim Player-Manager with the speculation that Louis van Gaal is to succeed Ryan Giggs as the next Manchester United boss.

During the Glazer's ownership, United have won 15 major trophies, including five Premier League titles, three Football League Cups, five FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League, and one FIFA Club World Cup.


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  • Barnes, Justyn; Bostock, Adam; Butler, Cliff; Ferguson, Jim; Meek, David; Mitten, Andy; Pilger, Sam; Taylor, Frank OBE; Tyrrell, Tom (2001) [1998]. The Official Manchester United Illustrated Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). London: Manchester United Books. ISBN 0-233-99964-7. 
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