“Graeme would admit that himself.”
Alex Ferguson famously said that his goal as Manchester United manager was to ‘knock Liverpool off their perch’ as the dominant team in England.
The Scot achieved that across the 1990s and 2000s when Man United won 13 Premier League titles and eventually surpassed Liverpool’s record of 18 league crowns.
In Alex Ferguson’s final season as manager in 2012/13, the Red Devils won their 20th league title. Liverpool’s 30-year wait to be champions ended in 2020, and they are currently the top team in English football.
Yet, Ferguson was successful in his mission to dislodge Liverpool. He feels he was aided by his rival’s mistakes in the early 1990s.
Alex Ferguson on Liverpool’s mistakes.
According to the former Man United manager, Liverpool began to make errors in the transfer market following their title win in 1990. These mistakes were compounded when Graeme Sounness replaced Kenny Dalglish as Reds manager in 1991.
Ferguson found the sale of Steve Staunton to Aston Villa particularly hard to comprehend. He cites this as an example of Souness trying to change too much too soon, which ultimately made it easier for Man United to supplant them at the top of the table.
“Towards the end of Kenny’s first spell in charge, you could sense a shift,” Ferguson writes in his autobiography.
“The team had grown old and Liverpool were starting to make unusual purchases: Jimmy Carter, David Speedie.
“These were untypical Liverpool signings. Graeme Souness made the right move but too quickly, breaking up an ageing team too fast.
“One mistake was to discard one of the best young players, Steve Staunton. Graeme would admit that himself. There was no need to let Staunton go.
“Graeme Souness is a good guy but he’s impetuous. He can’t get there quickly enough. And his impetuosity cost him in that period.”
Alex Ferguson: Liverpool were the benchmark.
Ferguson also stated that Liverpool were the standard-bearers for Man United, and his previous team Aberdeen, in the 1980s.
“The Souness–Dalglish Liverpool teams were the benchmark for English football in the 1980s, when I made my first foray into management south of the border.
“Those Liverpool sides were formidable. I had suffered against them with Aberdeen and brought those memories with me to Manchester.”
Alex Ferguson leaves Man United ahead of Liverpool.
Yet, by the time Ferguson retired as Man United manager in 2013, the club were so far ahead of Liverpool he reckoned that they would need to sign up to nine players to catch the Red Devils.
“I was coming out of the Grand National meeting with Cathy in April 2013 and two Liverpool fans came up alongside to say, ‘Hey Fergie, we’ll hammer you next season.’ They were good lads,” Ferguson writes.
‘Well, you’ll need to buy nine players,’ I said. They looked crestfallen. ‘Nine?’
“One said: ‘Wait till I tell the boys in the pub that.’ I think he must have been an Everton fan. ‘I don’t think we need nine,’ said the other as he traipsed away. I nearly shouted, ‘Well, seven, then.’ Everyone was laughing.”
Yet, Liverpool mounted a title challenge the following season, while Man United finished seventh under David Moyes.
Since Ferguson retired, Liverpool have made some progress towards regaining their position as the dominant team in England.