Alex Ferguson is celebratating 25 years in charge
WE'RE saluting Alex Ferguson this week as he celebrates 25 years in charge of Manchester United.
 
Target - betting - Many of the game's great and good have congratulated the Red Devils boss on his outstanding achievement, including Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish.
Here, SunSport's TOM BARCLAY puts together what he thinks is Fergie's greatest XI from all the players he's managed during his tenure, plus a seven-man bench.
There are some controversial omissions as the likes of Steve Bruce and Andy Cole miss out, but that only goes to show the level of player Fergie has managed in his time.
And don't worry, we won't mention the likes of Jordi Cruyff, Eric Djemba-Djemba or Massimo Taibi either!



GREAT DANE ... Peter Schmeichel
GOALKEEPER: Peter Schmeichel (1991-1999)
SCHMEICHEL is the greatest goalkeeper to grace the game in many people's eyes.
The Dane was snapped up from Brondby for £530,000 – a deal Alex Ferguson later described as "the bargain of the century".
Schmeichel played a massive role in the turning United into perennial title contenders and went out with the biggest bang possible by sealing the historic treble in '99.
Signed from: Brondby for £530,000
Appearances: 398 Goals: 1
Trophies: Five Premier League titles, three FA Cups, League Cup, Champions League, Super Cup


RED DEVIL ... Gary Neville
RIGHT-BACK: Gary Neville (1992-2011)
UNITED are still trying to plug the hole since Neville's retirement, underlining what a stalwart he was for the club.
The most solid full-back to grace the Premier League, Neville was as committed as they come and forged an effective relationship down the right with David Beckham.
Injuries hampered his last four seasons, impacting his international career hugely, but he's landed on his feet since hanging up his boots by moving into the world of media punditry.
Graduated from the academy
Appearances: 602 Goals: 7
Trophies: Eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, Champions League, Intercontinental Cup, FIFA Club Wold Cup


RECORD-BREAKER ... Rio Ferdinand
CENTRE-BACK: Rio Ferdinand (2002-present)
FERDINAND may no longer be first choice at Old Trafford, but for the last nine years he's been arguably the finest centre-back in English football.
He became the most expensive defender in the world when he signed for Leeds from West Ham for £18million in 2000, only to go and blow that fee out of the water when signing for United for £30m two years later.
Combining a grace on the ball with a unwavering physical approach, not to mention his raw pace, Ferdinand has been a key member of a side that has picked up five league titles and a Champions League trophy since the Millennium.
Signed from: Leeds for £30m
Appearances: 369 Goals: 7
Trophies: Five Premier League titles, two League Cups, Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup


SUPER SERB ... Nemanja Vidic
CENTRE-BACK: Nemanja Vidic (2006-present)
PLUCKED from relative obscurity in 2006, Vidic has been a revelation since moving to the Premier League.
The Serb's physicality has worked wonders alongside Rio Ferdinand's elegant style of play and the rock-steady combination has played a huge role in United's success in the last six years.
Considering Ferdinand was brought in for £30million four years before Vidic, a £7m price tag is one of the bargains of the century.
Signed from: Spartak Moscow for £7m
Appearances: 235 Goals: 18
Trophies: Four Premier League titles, three League Cups, Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup


MR DEPENDABLE ... Denis Irwin
LEFT-BACK: Denis Irwin (1990-2002)
IRWIN was United's very own Mr Dependable, both in defence and from the penalty spot.
Racking up 33 goals during his 11 and a half seasons at Old Trafford, the Irishman offered an assuredness down United's left-hand side despite being right-footed.
His greatest achievement, like many United players of the time, has to be the Treble-winning season in '99 and, on a personal note, he was named in the Premier League's Team of the Decade in 2003.
Signed from: Oldham for £625,000
Appearances: 529 Goals: 33
Trophies: Seven Premier League titles, three FA Cups, League Cup, Champions League, Cup Winners' Cup, Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup


PHENOMENON ... Cristiano Ronaldo
RIGHT-WING: Cristiano Ronaldo (2003-2009)
DAVID BECKHAM may be the more popular choice, but does he really measure up to the genius of Ronaldo?
The man from Madeira pitched up at Old Trafford as a cocky, skinny 18-year-old and left a world beater.
He single-handedly transformed what we come to expect of a modern-day winger, weighing in with an astonishing 91 goals in his last three seasons at United. A phenomenon.
Signed from: Sporting Lisbon for £12.24m
Appearances: 292 Goals: 118
Trophies: Three Premier League titles, FA Cup, two League Cups, Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup


SCHOLES SCORES GOALS ... Paul Scholes



CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Paul Scholes (1994-2011)
THE sheer fact that Alex Ferguson has deployed Wayne Rooney in midfield recently highlights the chasm left by Scholes' retirement.
One of the most decorated players in English football history, Scholes pulled the strings in United's midfield for 17 seasons, weighing in with 150 goals including some spectacular strikes that will be cherished for years to come.
When it came to England, though, perhaps he was ahead of his time, as you feel his tiki-taka style of play was never fully utilised by his various managers on the international stage.
Graduated from the academy
Appearances: 676 Goals: 150
Trophies: 10 Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, two Champions League titles, Intercontinental Cup, FIFA Club World Cup


ENFORCER ... Roy Keane
CENTRAL MIDFIELD AND CAPTAIN: Roy Keane (1993-2005)
HAS there been a tougher competitor in the history of the Premier League than Keane?
Snatched from under Blackburn's noses when Alex Ferguson signed him from Nottingham Forest, the outspoken Irishman was the driving force behind United's success.
His most awe-inspiring moment came in the '99 Champions League semi-final against Juventus when, knowing he would miss the final after being booked, he galvanised his side with a warrior display to send his team-mates through to face Bayern Munich and make history.
Signed from: Nottingham Forest for £3.75m
Appearances: 480 Goals: 51
Trophies: Seven Premier League titles, four FA Cups, Champions League, Intercontinental Cup


UNSTOPPABLE ... Ryan Giggs
LEFT-WING: Ryan Giggs (1990-present)
GIGGS is on 885 United appearances at present, what's the betting he'll make 1000?
The Welshman's longevity at the highest level is unprecedented in the Premier League and his equalising goal against Benfica in the Champions League this season shows he's still got it.
He's had to adapt his game over the years, but as his Player of the Year award in 2009 demonstrated, he just seems to be getting better with age.
Graduated from the academy
Appearances: 885 Goals: 161
Trophies: 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions League, Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, FIFA Club World Cup


THE ONE AND ONLY ... Eric Cantona
STRIKER: Eric Cantona (1992-1997)
CANTONA only spent five seasons at United but such was his impact on English football, he simply has to make Ferguson's greatest XI.
Pinched from Leeds for £1.2million, Cantona became an instant hit with the Old Trafford faithful, leading the team to the first ever Premier League and United's first league title since 1967.
The lasting image of Cantona was his brilliant (bordering on arrogant), collar-up celebration after scoring a wondergoal against Sunderland – you wonder if he regrets calling it a day aged 30.
Signed from: Leeds for £1.2m
Appearances: 185 Goals: 82
Trophies: Four Premier League titles, two FA Cups


ROO ARE YA ... Wayne Rooney
STRIKER: Wayne Rooney (2003-present)
TO say England's best player has justified his £25.6million transfer fee is an understatement – in the age of Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll inflated price tags, Rooney is an absolute snip.
His best season came in 2009-10 where he hit the net 34 times, but such is his ability and footballing brain, Alex Ferguson has felt comfortable in deploying the Scouser in central midfield recently.
That may well be Rooney's position in years to come but for now you can't help but think just how good a striker he could be if he had someone like Wesley Sneijder supplying the passes.
Signed from: Everton for £25.6m
Appearances: 335 Goals: 158
Trophies: Four Premier League titles, two League Cups, Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup


FLYING DUTCHMAN ... Edwin van der Sar
SUB GOALKEEPER: Edwin van der Sar (2005-2011)
THE biggest compliment you can pay Van der Sar is that he makes you think twice about Peter Schmeichel's inclusion in Alex Ferguson greatest XI.
The flying Dutchman was surprisingly overlooked by Fergie after Schmeichel's retirement but the Scot eventually got it right, picking Van der Sar up from Fulham in 2005.
His calmness and vast experience played a vital role in the Champions League success of 2008, not to mention his penalty save from Nicolas Anelka's decisive spot-kick in the final against Chelsea.
Signed from: Fulham for £2m
Appearances: 266 Goals: 0
Trophies: Four Premier League titles, League Cup, Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup


STAMPING HIS AUTHORITY ... Jaap Stam
SUB CENTRE-BACK: Jaap Stam (1998-2001)
STAM'S impressive stint at United was surprisingly cut short after only three years when Alex Ferguson decided to sell him to Lazio.
The move was shrouded in controversy amid claims Fergie was unhappy with comments made in his autobiography, although the Scot later stated the reason for Stam's departure was Lazio's offer was too good to refuse.
Nonetheless, the one-time most expensive Dutch player in history enjoyed a hugely successful time at Old Trafford, winning the Champions League best defender two years on the trot.
Signed from: PSV for £10.6m
Appearances: 120 Goals: 1
Trophies: Three Premier League titles, FA Cup, Champions League, Intercontinental Cup


PAT'S THE WAY ... Patrice Evra
SUB FULL-BACK: Patrice Evra (2006-present)
EVRA suffered a baptism of fire being hauled off at half-time on his debut during the Manchester derby – but he's certainly kicked on since.
Ousting former Red Devils favourite Gabriel Heinze from the starting line-up, Evra has been an ever-present in Alex Ferguson's team-sheet for the last six seasons.
Despite playing with a host of different left-wingers in front of him, Evra's pace, timing and tackling make him one of Fergie's most reliable, consistent performers.
Signed from: Monaco for £5.5m
Appearances: 258 Goals: 3
Trophies: Four Premier League titles, three League Cups, Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup


GOLDEN BALLS ... David Beckham
SUB WINGER: David Beckham (1993-2003)
BECKS may still be going strong at 36, but his glory years were undoubtedly spent at United.
He emerged from teenage obscurity to global mega stardom under the watchful gaze of Alex Ferguson, and some suggest the latter had a part to play with his exit to Real Madrid in 2003.
In pure footballing terms, Beckham was the master of set-pieces and crossing, but his tenacity and commitment can never be called into question as his numerous comebacks demonstrate.
Graduated from the academy
Appearances: 399 Goals: 87
Trophies: Six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, Champions League, Intercontinental Cup


CAPTAIN MARVEL ... Bryan Robson
SUB CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Bryan Robson (1981-1994)
ROBSON is the one player to make this line-up that Ferguson can't take credit for.
Fergie inherited Captain Marvel when he took over and the England skipper became a key player in the trophyless years leading up to the FA Cup success in 1990 that sparked the era of United dominance.
The signings of Paul Ince and Eric Cantona saw Robson eventually phased out, but after 437 appearances, he's regarded by many as one of the greatest players to play for United.
Signed from: West Brom for £1.5m
Appearances: 437 Goals: 99
Trophies: Two Premier League titles, four FA Cups, League Cup, Cup Winners' Cup, Super Cup


ON THE MARK ... Mark Hughes
SUB STRIKER: Mark Hughes (1988-1995 (second stint at the club))
A few may scoff at the absence of Andy Cole or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but Hughes was one of the catalysts that ignited Alex Ferguson's era of dominance.
The Welshman was actually at the club before Ferguson arrived, but left to sign for Barcelona before re-signing for a then club record £1.8m in 1988.
Hughes had the knack of scoring vital goals at the right time, and often wonderstrikes at that, although whether the Old Trafford faithful can forgive for his spell in charge of rivals Manchester City is another matter.
Signed from: Barcelona for £1.8m (second stint at the club)
Appearances: 453 Goals: 163
Trophies: Two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, League Cup, Cup Winners' Cup, Super Cup


RUUD BOY ... Ruud van Nistelrooy
SUB STRIKER: Ruud van Nistelrooy (2001-2006)
VAN NISTELROOY was so good that Alex Ferguson was prepared to postpone the deal to sign him for a year after the Dutchman ruptured his cruciate knee ligaments.
It was a stroke of genius from the Scot, as Van Nistelrooy smashed in 150 goals in just five seasons, overtaking Denis Law's club record for goals in Europe in the process.
The goal machine eventually departed for Real Madrid in another bizarre Old Trafford exodus, where he continued to bang them in at the Bernabeu.
Signed from: PSV for £19m
Appearances: 219 Goals: 150
Trophies: Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup