• Top Tens

Fergie's top ten moments at the home of football

Ben Blackmore May 10, 2013
Eric Cantona punctured a tedious FA Cup final with the winning goal against Liverpool in 1996 © PA Photos

The FA Cup final between Manchester City and Wigan is live on ESPN this weekend. Click here for details on how to subscribe

FA Cup final weekend is upon us, which means the country grinds to a halt, barbeques are dusted off, fridges are cleared to make room for refreshments, and all eyes zone in on Wembley for Manchester City against Wigan.

However, this is not a typical week. This is the week Sir Alex Ferguson retired after 26 trophy-laden years at Manchester United. Many of his greatest achievements came at the home of football, so here we chart his ten best Wembley moments.

Man Utd 1-0 Crystal Palace - 1990 (FA Cup final)

Where it all began for Fergie. The first trophy of his (at that time) shaky Manchester United reign, and it may just have saved his job. We will never know if United had planned to sack the Scot had he lost the 1990 FA Cup final but, despite subsequent claims from both Ferguson and the club hierarchy that his future was assured, there can be no doubting he was on extremely rocky ground.

A young fella named Ian Wright did his best to destroy the Ferguson dynasty before it had even got started, equalising for Palace to force extra-time in the initial Wembley meeting, before scoring again to make it 3-2. United needed a 113th-minute leveller from Mark Hughes to force the replay, which they won thanks to the unlikely figure of Lee Martin.

The timing of Fergie's first triumph was significant. English clubs had just been allowed back into Europe, so he was able to build on his maiden trophy by claiming the Cup Winners' Cup the next season.

Man Utd 2-0 Newcastle - 1999 (FA Cup final)

The second part of the famous Treble season, and comfortably the easiest. Newcastle were nothing more than props in the Manchester United stage show, as the Red Devils cruised to FA Cup glory four days before their monumental efforts against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

United had avoided serious obstacles in their run to the final, most notably scoring in the 88th and 90th minutes to overturn Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford.

In the final, they were ahead after 11 minutes as Teddy Sheringham strode onto Andy Cole's pass to drill low for the first, before a delightful layoff from Sheringham set up Paul Scholes for the second in the 53rd minute. Interestingly, Sheringham had only entered the fray as a ninth-minute substitute after an injury to Roy Keane. He would later make another impact off the bench in the Champions League final, having a hand in both goals in a dramatic 2-1 win to complete the Treble.

Man Utd 1-0 Liverpool - 1996 (FA Cup final)

If ever a Cup final summed up the differing fortunes between United and Liverpool during Ferguson's 26 years in charge, it was surely at Wembley in 1996. Having been through something of a barren spell in the trophy department, Liverpool nonetheless decided to arrive in the capital wearing cream-coloured Armani suits. The "Spice Boys" tag would eventually force manager Roy Evans out of his job.

United were the nation's top team and the thought of any player under the rule of Ferguson wearing such a suit was unthinkable. Instead, his squad were more focused on stopping Liverpool's chief threat Robbie Fowler, who had scored four goals in two games against them that season.

Fowler barely featured on the day, and nor did any attacking player on either side as the game went down as one of the dullest in FA Cup final history. However, with five minutes left the ball fell to Eric Cantona, who steered a volley goalwards that every Liverpool defender appeared desperate to evade. The League and Cup Double was secured.

Man Utd 4-0 Chelsea - 1994 (FA Cup final)

The club's first League and Cup Double, although like most Manchester United fairytales, it almost never happened. Had Oldham held firm rather than conceding a last-gasp equaliser to Mark Hughes in the FA Cup semi-finals, United would have been forced to settle for a mere league championship that year.

As it was, Hughes' magnificent volley forced a replay, and United scored four in that encounter before repeating the feat against Chelsea in the final. The Blues were actually the better side in the first 45 minutes at Wembley - hitting the bar - but three goals in nine second-half minutes swept it from their grasp. Eric Cantona bagged two from the spot, Hughes embarrassed Frank Sinclair, and Brian McClair rounded off the scoring.

Man Utd 1-0 Nottingham Forest - 1992 (League Cup final)

A League Cup success this time, but this Wembley win was notable for the fact Ferguson overcame one of the game's greatest characters. Brian Clough had already won a league title, two European Cups and four League Cups with Forest, so it was a case of the master against the pupil as he took on the ambitious Ferguson.

In the end, it was the pupil who emerged victorious, earning his third major trophy as United manager (we're not counting the Super Cup as a major trophy). Ferguson's first league championship was still a year away, but the names of Schmeichel, Irwin, Pallister, Bruce, Kanchelskis, Ince, Hughes and Giggs were already there.

It was Brian McClair who notched the winner, in the 14th minute, helping to ease the pain of United's loss to Sheffield Wednesday in the previous year's final.

Man Utd 3-2 Man City - 2011 (Community Shield)

The Community Shield as a trophy is rarely held in high regard by a club of United's stature, but Ferguson's achievement on this day was inspiring a second-half comeback against his increasingly 'noisy neighbours'. United's previous Wembley collision with City had resulted in a semi-final defeat as the blue side of Manchester went on to win the 2011 FA Cup.

United were the reigning league champions, so the traditional season curtain-raiser for the 2011-12 campaign was hotly anticipated after a summer of spending by City. By half-time, it was they who led 2-0 thanks to Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko.

However, what was clear was that United were the better team on the day, fashioning 21 shots at goal to City's eight, and Chris Smalling's 52nd-minute reply sparked the comeback. Tom Cleverley's half-time introduction behind the strikers had been the catalyst, and United produced some irresistible stuff as Nani equalised on the hour before netting the winner in injury-time.

It appeared a major psychological blow had been struck by Ferguson's men, but City would have the last laugh that year when Sergio Aguero snatched the title from United's grasp with the last kick of the entire season.

Man Utd 4-0 Newcastle - 1996 (Charity Shield)

Nani scored a brace in United's Community Shield comeback against Man City © Getty Images

The context to the 1996 Charity Shield clash with Newcastle was best summed up by Kevin Keegan's infamous rant the previous season when, after finding himself upset at Ferguson's suggestion that teams were trying harder against United than Newcastle, Keegan memorably roared: "I would love it if we beat them [to the title], love it".

As it happened, Newcastle blew a 12-point lead to hand United the title, so reacted by signing top England marksman Alan Shearer for £15 million during the summer. It was hoped Shearer - who went on to become the club's all-time record goalscorer - would be the piece to complete the jigsaw, but Newcastle were given a rude awakening at Wembley when United smashed four.

Eric Cantona, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and Roy Keane all found the net, and even though Newcastle got revenge with a 5-0 win later in the season, United won the title again - this time by seven points.

Man Utd 0-0 (4-1 on pens) Tottenham - 2009 (League Cup final)

Another Wembley win, and this was Fergie's 21st major trophy as United major (not including Super Cups, Intercontinental Cups and FIFA Club World Cups). The game itself was notable for two reasons; firstly, the nightmare afternoon Aaron Lennon gave Patrice Evra down Spurs' right flank, and secondly, the fact United No. 1 Ben Foster became the first keeper in over half a decade to win the man-of-the-match award in a League Cup final.

In the end it came down to penalties after a 0-0 draw in normal time. Ryan Giggs, Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Anderson all scored for United, Jamie O'Hara and David Bentley both missed for Spurs.

Man Utd 2-1 Aston Villa - 2010 (League Cup final)

The last of Ferguson's League Cup collection, victory over Aston Villa made United the first team since Nottingham Forest 20 years previous to retain the trophy. This one, though, came in extremely controversial circumstances.

Villa led in the fifth minute when Gabriel Agbonlahor was brought down inside the area by Nemanja Vidic, allowing James Milner to convert from the spot. However, what was missed or 'overlooked' by ref Phil Dowd was the fact Vidic was last man, and that he had denied Agbonlahor a goalscoring opportunity. It was as clear a red card as you'll see, yet Vidic wasn't even cautioned.

With full compliment still on the pitch, United hit back within seven minutes through Michael Owen before another England forward - Wayne Rooney - headed home the winner. Rooney was in the midst of arguably his best season at United and was a worthy match-winner, but Villa boss Martin O'Neill was left to rue what might have been had the official done his job correctly.

Man Utd 1-1 (5-4 on pens) Arsenal - 1993 (Charity Shield)

A relatively unheralded Charity Shield triumph for Ferguson, but it was his first outright success (he had previously shared the Shield with Liverpool) and another indication that United were becoming a force.

The match was notable for two other factors: 1. Squad numbers were worn on players' shirts for the first time in a Charity Shield match and 2. Roy Keane made his United debut - marking the start of a glorious career for the soon-to-be club captain.

Ian Wright was again a thorn in the side of Ferguson as he levelled after Mark Hughes' early strike for United, but when it went to penalties Wright missed his spot-kick. The Gunners sent up goalkeeper David Seaman as the first taker when it came to sudden-death, and his effort was saved as United took home the silverware.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ben Blackmore Close
Ben Blackmore is deputy editor of ESPN.co.uk