Sir Alex Ferguson says that his retirement announcement in 2001 was ‘the biggest mistake’ of his career

Indranil Bhattacharya / 14 May 2016

Sir Alex Ferguson announced 2001-02 would be his last as a manager at Manchester United, after 15 years at Old Trafford. Later less than six months he decided to remain. Sir Alex Ferguson called it “the biggest mistake of my career”.

Fergie had already served 15 years as Manchester United manager and won a list of trophies. But the news of his retirement caused massive disruption at Old Trafford.

“The biggest mistake I made was announcing it at the start of the season,” said United’s legendary boss.

“I think a lot of them had put their tools away. They thought, ‘Oh, the manager’s leaving’, but when I changed my mind on January, I started thinking about United again and how we could get back on top.” The chief executive Peter Kenyon, by then, had been overwhelmed by agents representing some of the world’s top managers, who wanted greatly the opportunity of succeeding Ferguson.

After the 2002 World Cup finals, Sven Goran Eriksson claimed that he secretly has signed a contract for United’s manager post.

But the club had problems with recruiting, as potential United transfer targets did not know who would be in charge.

The results suffered and the Red Devils finished third in the Premier League table, 10 points behind champions Arsenal. They were knocked out in the fourth round of the FA Cup and League Cup in the third. Winning the Champions League became their top challenge, but United knocked out in the semi-finals.

Fergie made his U-turn and took United to a new era of success. Sir Alexander Chapman “Alex” Ferguson stayed another 11 years at the club and won another six Premier League titles, three League Cups, the FA Cup, and the Champions League.

Fergie also said: “It’s important to listen to your staff”.

“In 2005, that period we didn’t win anything, just before that I had an attempted retirement and that affected everyone.”

“It was a mistake and my wife and my three sons changed my attitude towards it and I started to think again.”

“After that is when Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo came to the club and we had to regenerate everyone.”

“The youth side of it, the scouts, we’d gone to sleep.”

“Strangely enough, the period from there on has been glorious, it’s been fantastic with the numbers of league titles we won. The moments you don’t win anything register very strongly.”