Sir Alex Ferguson made Manchester United the dominant force in the Premier League during his 26 years at Old Trafford but, according to the man himself, he only managed four world-class players there.
For most of Fergie’s time in charge of United, it seemed unlikely that anyone would overthrow them as the league’s dominant force.
The Scot said local rivals Manchester City would not overtake the Red Devils in his lifetime, a comment which backfired as United were beaten by Pep Guardiola’s side last weekend.
During his 26 years at the club, United had some of the best players the Premier League had ever seen, with the likes of Peter Schmeichel, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney always mentioned whenever an XI of all time is discussed. .
However, the 80-year-old is not convinced that any of those on the list, or many others, have ever achieved the extremely vague description of ‘world class’.
According to the former Aberdeen manager, he was only in charge of four players who could be described in those terms, despite what most people would think, at United.
In his 2015 book Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United, Ferguson wrote: “If you read the newspapers or listen to the TV commentators, we seem to be inundated with ‘world class’ footballers.
“I don’t want to belittle or criticize any of the great or very good footballers who played for me during my 26-year career at United, but there were only four who were world class: [Eric] Cantona, [Ryan] Giggs, [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [Paul] Scholes.
“And of the four, Cristiano was like an ornament on top of a Christmas tree.”
While Ferguson omitted several stars from his ‘world-class squad’, the Scot suggested Giggs and Scholes were ‘fantastic players’.
He added: “But these players have risen above it all.
“The younger breed like Ryan and Scholes were just fantastic players and the thing about those two was longevity.
“Are there any players who have played throughout the Premier League who have played at the level they have? There are none, absolutely none.
“Of course, Ronaldo was just a complete genius of a player.”
Ferguson probably doesn’t appreciate seeing what’s going on with Ronaldo, who he first brought to the club in 2003 and was integral to the striker’s return to United 14 months ago.
Ten Hag hopes that at some point he can be the first United boss to win the league since Ferguson won his 13th title more than nine years ago.