Sir Alex Ferguson prediction before infamous 2012 title decider proved wrong within a year

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, just 12 months after his team were beaten to the Premier League title by a Sergio Aguero-inspired Manchester City

Ferguson’s Man Utd came desperately close to the title in 2012 (Image: Getty Images)ByTom Victor

  • 08:30, 13 May 2022
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As Manchester United saw the 2011-12 Premier League title slip away from them at the last moment, Martin O'Neill's prediction about Sir Alex Ferguson's longevity would also disappear from view.

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O'Neill was in the opposing dugout in May 2012 as Ferguson's United beat his Sunderland side 1-0 at the Stadium of Light. However, after the final whistle blew with Fergie's men atop the 'as things stand' table, Roberto Mancini and Manchester City stole the title at the last.

Before the game, the former Celtic manager had backed the United boss to keep going well into his 90s – a state of affairs which would mean Ferguson was still going to this day. Instead, though, the two-time Champions League winner felt the need to add just one more league title before walking away.

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“He may still be ­manager when he’s 98!” O'Neill said before the game, adding that he didn't believe a failure to win the league title would prompt the Scot to walk away. United had been eight points clear of City with six games remaining, but a run of dropped points – including a shock defeat at Wigan – allowed Mancini's team to finish on top.

"I think he will only leave United when he feels it’s right," O'Neill added. "It won’t be ­because of a setback. I think to ­accuse Sir Alex of lacking hunger, ambition and determination would be tantamount to heresy.

“He will have that till he’s 98 and he may still be manager when he’s 98 with five European Cups on top of that. Those are things the man certainly does not lack.

“Those setbacks will only serve to make him ­madder. It will spur him to go on and win more trophies.”

Did Alex Ferguson retire too early? Have your say in the comments section

Ferguson and O'Neill faced off again in the 2012-13 season
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O'Neill stuck to his guns after the final game of the season. United were denied the title on goal difference, with City's 6-1 win at Old Trafford earlier in the season playing a part, but the Sunderland boss backed his counterpart to rebound.

“He will not want to let Manchester City become dominant,” O'Neill said. “He will do something about it.”

Sure enough, Ferguson made sure City didn't immediately defend their title, leading United to their 20th top-flight success in 2012-13. However, that was it for the legendary manager.

Ferguson won the Premier League in his final season
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When Ferguson ended his stint as Man Utd manager, he made clear he still planned to watch the club as a fan. However, O'Neill's prediction about managing into his 90s was wide of the mark.

"I have been very fortunate to manage some of the greatest players in the country, let alone Manchester United," Ferguson said. "My retirement doesn't mean the end of my relationship with the club, I'm able to now enjoy watching them rather than suffering with them.

"If you think about it, those last-minute goals, the comebacks, even the defeats, are all part of this great football club of ours. It's been an unbelievable experience for all of us, so thank you for that."

Ferguson has certainly been visible around Old Trafford for the nine years since he called it a day. However, it turns out even he wasn't quite ready to keep going longer than he felt was necessary.

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