Sir Alex Ferguson is an undoubted legend of the game, and arguably the greatest manager of all-time. Yet some in Preston have a tainted view of the Scot.
It says a lot that Manchester United haven’t truly even challenge for the Premier League title since Ferguson’s exit in 2013. For him to win the league in his final season, and then see United immediately regress, just shows how great he was even towards the end of his managerial career.
Still, some in Preston will have memories of his actions in 2010. North End had appointed Darren Ferguson – Sir Alex’s son – in January 2010. Almost immediately, United youngsters Danny Welbeck and Matty James headed to Preston on loan.
That summer, James returned to Preston, and whilst Welbeck didn’t follow, fellow striker Josh King did. When North End were struggling mid-season, United also sent Ritchie de Laet to Deepdale too.
The relationship appeared to be strong, but Darren Ferguson’s sacking in December caused chaos. All three players were hauled back to Old Trafford almost immediately following his exit, with North End in dismal form and hurtling towards relegation.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Stoke boss Tony Pulis then joined in. He recalled Michael Tonge and Danny Pugh, with The Guardian noting that Preston feared Sir Alex was pulling the strings there too.
For sacking his son – who was clearly failing – North End lost five players in no time. That left Phil Brown with a tough job to do in January, and Preston unsurprisingly slipped to League One.
Sir Alex’s petty actions have left a sour taste in the mouths of many Preston fans, and almost nine years on, the situation has been surprisingly brought back into the public eye.
Ex-Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane has a very public feud with Ferguson, and he’s stoked the fire again. Speaking to Off The Ball in Ireland, Keane has savaged Sir Alex for recalling his players, suggesting that he wasn’t acting with the best interests of Manchester United at heart.
“Darren, his son, was at Preston one time,” said Keane. “Darren loses his job, had a couple of young players on loan from Man United. Guess what happens the next day? They’re pulled out of Preston. Is that what’s doing the best for Man United? Do me a favour,” he added.
Keane’s vendetta against Ferguson is quite remarkable, yet remembering those actions remains something of a surprise. Few even batted an eyelid at the time, but Keane hasn’t forgotten – and neither have a number of Preston fans.