Man Utd set to unveil Fergie statue, but is he the greatest ever?

It will be 26 years on Friday since the redoubtable Sir Alex Ferguson first took charge of the sleeping giants of Manchester United after leaving Aberdeen.

Since then, the Red Devils have tormented opponents all over Europe and when Ferguson has a statue, designed by Philip Jackson, unveiled in his honour at Old Trafford on Friday afternoon, he will be entitled to reflect on more than two decades of triumph.

There have been 12 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups and two UEFA Champions League victories among the Scot's major prizes, amassed during his reign.

And when one bears in mind the raft of silverware he collected at Pittodrie, capped by the European Cup-Winners Cup success over Real Madrid in the 1983 final, it is hardly surprising that many consider Ferguson to be the greatest manager who has ever lived.

Certainly, the list of United luminaries, past and present, who are expected to attend the statue ceremony, including Sir Bobby Charlton, Peter Schmeichel, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Bryan Robson, testifies to the enduring legacy of this stakhanovite fellow, on his route from Govan to the Granite City and thereon to Manchester.

But is he the best? Or might there be a case for bestowing that accolade on Jock Stein, whose Celtic personnel swept all before them in Europe in 1967, as well as collecting nine consecutive titles with a team who emerged from within a 25-mile radius?

Or Bill Shankly, who transformed Liverpool from Second Division journeymen into a club which garnered three First Division titles, two FA Cups and the UEFA Cup?

In England, others may argue the case for Brian Clough, Bobby Robson, Bob Paisley or Sir Alf Ramsey, the latter of whom unforgettably led England to the 1966 World Cup.

Europe, too, has produced some masterful managers in the mould of Marcello Lippi, Giovanni Trappatoni, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Vicente Del Bosque, Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal.

Yet Ferguson has worked wonders for so long, unearthed so many gifted youngsters, and tenaciously rebuilt and moulded the United squad in his own image, it seems fitting that his statue will be placed in a prominent position, near the entrance to the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand - formerly the North Stand, which was renamed in his honour last year.

The 70-year-old, for his part, will probably be more focused on improving on United's recent back-to-back defeats to Norwich and Galatasaray, ahead of Saturday's meeting with QPR.

The latter were the opponents when he took his first, slightly faltering steps on the glory trail in England, back in November, 1986. Few could have imagined at that stage the impact the gruff Glaswegian would bring down from Aberdeen with him.

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