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Fergie’s pivotal moments at Manchester United

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There are hundreds and hundreds to sift through, because quite simply, Manchester United have so many wonderful moments with Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm.

But there have also been some pretty hairy times in his early days at Old Trafford, with United close to relegation and Ferguson under intense pressure just a few years into the job. Good thing they kept hold of the wily old Scot!

So let’s take a look back at some of the defining moments of Sir Alex’s United career.

7 January 1990, Win or bust, Robins saves Fergie: Many people believe this was the game that saved Ferguson’s career as United manager. Mark Robins scored to take United through to the fourth round of the FA Cup at Nottingham Forest, and they went on to win the trophy — Fergie’s first title. The team had not won since the previous November and fans were calling for Ferguson to be fired. Onwards and upwards from here.

2 May 1993, Cantona sparks United’s resurgence: Ferguson produced one his best ever pieces of business, as he signed Frenchman Eric Cantona for £1.2 million from Leeds United. After he arrived United surged from tenth in the table to win their first league title in 26 years. The Frenchman would go on to captain the club and become a legend with United fans.

5 May 1996, You won’t win anything with kids…: Despite successful seasons with a group of experienced professionals, Ferguson took what was deemed a huge risk by many, as he sold Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Anrei Kanchelskis and replaced them with youngsters such as David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers. His decision paid off, big time, as United secured their third title in four seasons… with a bunch of kids.

26 May 1999, United complete historic treble: Perhaps the crowning moment in Ferguson’s era as United manager, most soccer fans can recall what they were doing and where they were as the Red Devils completed one of the most spectacular comebacks in European history. Two stoppage-time goals secured the UEFA Champions League crown, Ferguson said afterwards, “football… bloody hell.” The European Cup success also capped a stunning treble as United performed the clean sweep of EPL, FA Cup and Champions League titles.

4 February 2002, Fergie calls it quits…then U-turns: It could have all been over a long time ago, as Ferguson announced he would retire at the end of the 2001-02 season. But his United side failed miserably in that campaign, tailing away massively in the second half of the season and, well, Fergie couldn’t go out like that could he? He reversed his decision and the rest, as they say, is history.

21 May 2008, More Champions League success: Ferguson won his second Champions League trophy, after United defeated Chelsea on penalties in Moscow. The Scotsman was delighted to replicate the teams triumph in 1999, as more success on the European stage had always been Fergie’s aim. Many believed after this trophy he may step down, but his desire to lead United onto more success never wavered.

14 May 2011, United break record, overtake Liverpool for 19th title: Now we know Manchester United have 20 English League titles to their name, but Ferguson was desperate to get to 19 and “knock Liverpool off their perch.” The Red Devils’ closest rivals held the record for the most league titles… but not anymore. A 1-0 victory at Blackburn Rovers, courtesy of a Wayne Rooney penalty, sealed the 19 championships, 12 of which came during Ferguson’s tenure.

Mourinho: Leicester home should be Claudio Ranieri Stadium

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Claudio Ranieri, Manager of Leicester City shows his frustration as Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on September 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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Jose Mourinho cannot quite get his head around Leicester City’s firing of Claudio Ranieri.

The story is on the tips of the tongues of many in the Premier League, and Manchester United’s boss is no exception.

[ MORE: UEL draw | Who is Rostov? ]

Speaking Friday ahead of United’s EFL Cup Final against Southampton, here’s what Mourinho had to say.

From the BBC:

“He deserves the Leicester stadium to be named ‘Claudio Ranieri Stadium’. The most beautiful thing in the Premier League and one of most beautiful in football history.

“Now Leicester are in the highlights again with a decision that has everyone in football united. It’s very difficult to accept. It’s important to realize how football is and we need to react. I was sacked as a champion [by Chelsea], a giant negative as I thought – peanuts compared to Claudio.

“I don’t think he needs more. Nobody can do what he did. If some of the stories have just a little bit of truth, it is difficult to find words to justify but we have to be able to cope.”

Mourinho is giving voice to what many feel, this writer included. Ranieri is in a relegation fight, yes, but to fire him days after the Foxes stole a road goal against Sevilla that gives them reasonable odds to advance in the UEFA Champions League? It’s an odd one, and smacks a bit of, “Well, we can’t fire him if he beats Liverpool or Sevilla”.

Liverpool visits the King Power Stadium this weekend, and the Foxes will need an incredible response at home to topple the rested Reds. Sure the Premier League is win now, but add me to the chorus who thinks the new manager will have the same odds to fix Leicester as Ranieri.

Roma’s American president losing patience over stadium delay

James Pallotta, AS Roma
AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
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ROME (AP) Roma’s American president is starting to lose patience with city officials over long-delayed plans for a new stadium.

Ahead of a meeting between municipal authorities and club officials Friday, James Pallotta issued a statement saying the team expects “a massively positive result” from the encounter.

Pallotta adds “the alternative would be catastrophic for the future of AS Roma, Italian football, the city of Rome, and quite frankly for future business in Italy.”

[ MORE: PST feature on Pallotta ]

The mostly privately financed 1.6 billion euro ($1.7 billion) project received another setback this week when cultural authorities announced plans to declare the proposed stadium site – an abandoned hippodrome – as a site of “particularly important interest.”

The project in Tor di Valle, halfway between downtown and Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, also includes three office towers.

Who is Manchester United’s UEL opponent Rostov?

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 15: Jano Ananidze (L) of FC Spartak Moscow is challenged by Alexandru Gatcan of FC Rostov during the Russian Premier League match between FC Spartak Moscow v FC Rostov at Otkrytie Arena Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)
Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images
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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United have learned their fate for the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 16.

The Red Devils face Russian side FC Rostov in the next round of the tournament, four victorious ties from claiming an automatic spot in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Spurs sent packing | Full UEL draw ]

So who is Rostov? Seventh in the Russian Premier League standings, Selmashi finished second last season and won the league in 1994 and 2008.

Rostov entered the Europa League after a run through the Champions League which saw the club knock out Anderlecht and Ajax, both still alive in the UEL, before finishing third behind Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich in the group stage. Rostov beat Sparta Prague in the Round of 32 of the UEL.

The club is led by former Moldova boss Ivan Daniliants. Its leading scorer is left wing Dmitri Poloz with 11 goals, and Ecuadorian national teamer Christian Noboa and Moldova veteran Alexandru Gațcan among its mainstays.

While some will make the case that a rough pitch, long trip, and stingy team makes this draw a bad one for United, Mourinho’s crew should triumph. How worse could it have been? This one won’t be easy, but consider Roma, Schalke, Borussia Monchengladbach… even a reunion with Memphis Depay and Lyon would bring more of a challenge than Rostov.

Europa League draw: Man Utd learns fate

Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan, center back to camera, celebrates scoring the opening goal with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 2nd right, and other teammates during a Europa League round of 32 second leg soccer match between Saint Etienne and Manchester United at Geoffroy Guichard stadium in Saint Etienne, France, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
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The travel is tricky, but Manchester United’s draw for the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 could’ve been much worse.

The Red Devils are off to Russia to face FC Rostov in the next round of the UEL competition.

[ MORE: Spurs out | Who is Rostov? ]

In another draw that leads you to question whether there’s anything random about it all, United and lone La Liga representative Celta Vigo drew winnable matches against Russian clubs, Roma has a tantalizing match against Lyon, and an all-Bundesliga match hits the docket.

Heck, we’ll even see an all-Belgian tie between Gent vs. Genk.

And in a draw which will have many glued to their sets, USMNT left-sided man Fabian Johnson will help Borussia Monchengladbach against German rivals Schalke. The first leg comes five days after the pair face off in Bundesliga play.

The Round of 16 legs will be played March 9 and 16.

UEFA Europa League Round of 16

Rostov vs. Manchester United
Celta Vigo vs. Krasnodar
Copenhagen vs. Ajax
Olympiacos vs. Besiktas
Lyon vs. Roma
Schalke vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
APOEL Nicosia vs. Anderlecht
Gent vs. Genk