In the history of professional sports, there are many what-ifs. What if the Portland Trail Blazers selected Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft? What if Babe Ruth was never sold to the New York Yankees in 1919? What if the Bo Jackson injury never happened? The list goes on.
Sir Alex Ferguson is one of the most accomplished and most respected managers in soccer. His list of accomplishments from his playing days to his career as a manager speaks for itself. The managerial journey from Aberdeen F.C. to Manchester United is well-documented.
As far as a historical “What if?” goes, in Ferguson’s case there already is one. Prior to the 2001-2002 season, Ferguson announced that he would retire at the end of the season, after having been in charge for 16 years. However, he would soon reverse his decision and stay at the helm for another decade or so. In this scenario, what if Sir Alex Ferguson had not changed his mind? What if Ferguson’s tenure at Old Trafford ended after 16 years? What if?
Scotland National Team
Before arriving at Old Trafford, Ferguson had a brief run as the manager of the Scottish National Soccer Team. During Scotland’s qualifying campaign for the 1986 World Cup, Ferguson was the assistant to manager Jock Stein.
On September 10, 1985, Scotland would take on Wales in their final match of the qualifying phase. The Scots could not afford to lose the match, as a loss would have resulted in failure to qualify. Scotland trailed 1-0 most of the game, however, they would equalize on a penalty with less than ten minutes remaining. The game would end in a draw and Scotland would advance to the playoff phase of qualification against Australia.
In a tragic moment before the game could finish, Stein collapsed after suffering a heart attack. He would die shortly after the game. Ferguson would soon take over as manager and Scotland defeated Australia to book their ticket to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Unfortunately, Scotland’s run in the World Cup ended prematurely as the Scots finished at the bottom of their group with just one point, failing to get past the group stage. Ferguson immediately stepped down as manager, thus ending his run as interim manager for the team.
In November of 1986, Ferguson was appointed manager of Manchester United. Prior to his arrival at Old Trafford, Ferguson would turn down managerial offers from Rangers F.C., Tottenham, and Arsenal. Here’s another “What if?” scenario: What if Ferguson had accepted the offer of any of those clubs? What if?
What if Sir Alex Ferguson remained with the Scottish National Team?
That brings up another “What if?” scenario: What if Scotland made it out of the group stage and made it as far as the quarterfinals in the 1986 World Cup? That certainly would have been great for the national team and the country as a whole. In addition, it certainly would have been great for Ferguson, though it would not guarantee anything. Despite a great run, no one knows whether or not Ferguson would have stayed on managing Scotland.
Had he stayed with Scotland, would he still have managed Manchester United?
One theory would say yes, another would say no. Ferguson himself could express his own thoughts on how his career would have gone, but it’s just that: a theory. There is no telling how Ferguson’s future would have looked had he remained as the manager of the Scottish National Team. His future surely would have depended on how his spell as Scotland’s permanent manager would have gone. Success would certainly have opened doors for him and a career with Manchester United would have still been possible in that situation.
His journey from the National Team to Old Trafford contains several “What if?” scenarios. Because of that, the world will never know how the story would have unfolded had he stayed in Scotland.
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