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Manchester United tasted unparalleled success during the 27-year reign of Sir Alex Ferguson, to the point that his achievements may never be surpassed in football.
One of the central pillars to Ferguson’s dominance of English football and, on two occasions Europe too, was assembling teams filled with a winning mentality.
Not only that, they also had the talent to back up their ambitions and deliver the trophies to add to Ferguson’s burgeoning collection.
The impressiveness in how the Scot would oversee one cycle end at Old Trafford, only to have the next generation of stars lined up and ready to succeed them, never should go under-appreciated.
Sir Alex Ferguson was not afraid to boot out even his best players at Old Trafford
If a player headed for the exit under his guidance, it was usually because they were surplus to requirements.
Man United were one of the biggest clubs in the world and they tended to snatch the most talented footballers away from other clubs in Europe, rather than be subject of a raid on their own crop.
While there were some exceptions to the rule, Ferguson often wielded the axe on several of his most distinguishable stars in order to make room for new arrivals.
Mirror Sport looks at the seven players who received the boot from the legendary boss…
Sir Alex Ferguson nurtured Cristiano Ronaldo after signing him from Sporting Lisbon in 2003
The one that got away, but not lightly.
Having played a crucial role in United’s Champions League triumph in 2008, scoring in the final against Chelsea, Ronaldo was hot property.
In truth, the Portuguese winger had already captured the attention of Europe’s elite such as Barcelona and Real Madrid after scoring 42 goals in his standout season in England in 2007-08.
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Ferguson had plucked a virtually unknown 17-year-old Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon after a glowing recommendation from assistant Carlos Quieroz and nurtured him into one of the finest players in the world.
But player power proved too strong as United were powerless to resist a world record £80m bid from Real Madrid in 2009. After scoring 450 goals in LaLiga, Red Devils fans were left wondering just how many he could have scored in a red shirt had he stayed.
David Beckham fell victim of Sir Alex Ferguon's hairdryer treatment after being hit by a flying boot
(Image: Popperfoto via Getty Images)
Which player do you wish Manchester United hadn't sold over the years Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge? Have your say in the comments section.
From swinging crosses to flying boots and stitches.
A beautiful football story of Beckham at Manchester United ended on a sour note when the former England captain fell out with Ferguson.
The Scot was unhappy with how Beckham’s glamorous lifestyle away from the pitch was affecting his performances on it.
The right midfielder had become a global style icon following his marriage to Victoria, a singer from The Spice Girls, and he was no longer simply a fine footballer with arguably the world’s most accurate set-piece delivery.
In the dressing room at half-time of their match against Arsenal in 2003, Ferguson kicked a boot in anger and it cut the footballer near his eye. Beckham, who later called it a “freak incident”, was seen stitched up as he lined up for United in their next league match.
In the era of signing ‘Galacticos’, Real Madrid came calling for Beckham in 2003 with a £25m offer amid reports of a breakdown in relations and United pushed through the sale, with Ronaldo arriving.
It just goes to show, once and for all, that if you cross Ferguson you’re out — even if you’re David Beckham.
Jaap Stam's book excerpts angered Sir Alex Ferguson
Stam was one of the best centre-backs in the world during his three-year spell at Old Trafford between 1998 and 2001, but even he couldn’t escape the wrath of his boss.
He had played a key role in United’s Treble-winning season in 1998-99 alongside Ronny Johnsen at the heart of the Red Devils’ backline.
However, he was sold to Lazio just two years after United's historic night in Barcelona after Ferguson was annoyed to read extracts from Stam’s book, Head-to-Head claiming he had tapped up the Dutch international.
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Stam revealed he found out about his move to Rome at a petrol station: “I was driving home from training when my agent phoned, telling me I'd been sold. I was like, 'What?!' He said, 'Yeah, they'll contact you in a minute.’
"Moments later, Ferguson called me and asked where I was. We lived in the same area, and he told me to wait for him so that we could have a chat.
"I pulled into a petrol station near a shopping centre and he met me there. When he arrived, he got in my car and told me that the club had accepted an offer from Lazio. Within 24 hours, I'd gone to Rome and joined Lazio."
Ferguson later admitted he made “one of the biggest mistakes of my career” in allowing Stam to depart before his retirement in 2007.
Juan Sebastian Veron
Juan Sebastien Veron spent two seasons at Manchester United before leaving in 2003
(Image: Gary M. Prior/ALLSPORT)
Veron arrived with a hefty price tag and billed as one of the best players in Europe. What followed of his time in Manchester was a stark contrast.
The Argentine had forged a reputation in Serie A with Sampdoria, Parma and then Lazio for being an elegant passer of the ball.
Ferguson paid a club-record fee of £28.1m to sign the central midfielder in 2001 but after an encouraging start to life in England, injuries and a significant drop in performance played a part in his demise.
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The legendary manager once referred to Veron as a “f***ing good player but according to the player, who retired in 2017, Ferguson’s demands were “too much” and he looked for another club.
He was sold to Premier League rivals Chelsea as part of Roman Abramovich’s revolution in the summer of 2003 for approximately half the fee they paid two years ago.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Ruud van Nistelrooy fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson before heading to Real Madrid in 2006
In hindsight, it was a massive gamble for United to lay down £19m for a striker amid concerns over his recovery from a knee injury. But it paid off handsomely.
Van Nistelrooy was poised to head to Old Trafford in the summer of 2000 before medical tests revealed issues over his knee injury. PSV refused them the opportunity to do further tests and the next day, he ruptured his ACL.
The deal was cancelled, leaving United seeking alternatives. However, Ferguson was determined to get his man and revived the deal a year later.
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Van Nistelrooy did more than enough to repay his transfer fee and the faith shown in him, bagging 150 goals in 219 appearances for the club.
Despite being the club's top scorer during the 2005-06 season, Van Nistelrooy fell out of favour with Ferguson and was famously left out of their League Cup final win over Wigan, with reports of the Dutchman undermining the team’s morale.
He demanded a transfer and left for Real Madrid in a deal worth £12m in 2006, spending four years in Spain before heading to Hamburg and finally Malaga.
He hung up his boots in 2012 and admits he regrets the way he forced his way out of United after falling out with Ferguson.