“I reassured Alex Ferguson he wouldn’t be sacked if we lost to Nottingham Forest in 1990”: Former Manchester United chief Martin Edwards talks exclusively to FourFourTwo

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When Sir Alex Ferguson’s long glorious reign at Manchester United is discussed, people often point to one pivotal match, at Nottingham Forest in 1990.

Ferguson had been appointed as Red Devils boss in 1986, leading the club to an encouraging second place in the league in his first full season in charge.

But the club then missed out on deals for Peter Beardsley, John Barnes and Paul Gascoigne, and slumped to 11th in the table by the end of the 1988-89 season, scoring only 45 goals in 38 games.

Ferguson then spent big money to recruit Gary Pallister (£2.3m, a British record for a defender), Neil Webb (£1.5m), Danny Wallace (£1.2m), Paul Ince (£1m) and Mike Phelan (£750,000), but Manchester United sat 15th in January 1990 – two points above the relegation zone, depleted by injuries and eight games without a win.

When they travelled to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round, there was talk that Ferguson could be sacked if they lost.

But the club’s chairman at the time, Martin Edwards, has told FourFourTwo that, even if Manchester United had suffered defeat at the City Ground, Ferguson’s job was secure.

Mark Robins

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“I spoke to him in the week leading up to the Forest game, and said that if we did lose, it wasn’t going to result in the sack," Edwards said. “I wanted to give him that comfort before the game.

“Coming second flattered us in 1988 – the team needed strengthening and probably his management helped us get to that position, but we weren’t good enough to win the title.

“We were patient, particularly during 1989-90, because we’d bought five players and had to give them time to gel.

“He’d revamped the whole scouting system and we could see the work going on with the youth team, so we felt it was worth supporting.”

Mark Robins’ goal famously gave Manchester United victory at Nottingham Forest, and Ferguson went on to clinch the FA Cup that May – his first trophy at Manchester United.

“We had faith that success would arrive, but I’m glad it arrived when it did because we were coming under pressure from fans and everyone else,” said Edwards.

Ferguson would go on to win 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues during 27 years as manager of the club.

More Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson stories

"It touched my heart" – Ex-Manchester United hero Park Ji-Sung on the ‘completely different’ side to Sir Alex Ferguson

Rory McIlroy hits out at 'toxic culture' at beloved Manchester United

"Sir Alex came in so angry": Super-agent reveals 'train crash' meeting with former Manchester United manager

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1