Giving Beckham The Boot: Six Superstars Alex Ferguson Got Rid Of For The Good Of Man United
"The minute a Manchester United player thought he was bigger than the manager, he had to go," said Alex Ferguson about his famous bust-up with David Beckham.
Fergie lived these words. He shocked fans, the media and even his own board by getting rid of massive names, even when they seemed in their absolute prime. All for the good of the club (usually).
These players got a blast of Fergie's trusty hairdryer, swiftly followed by the Old Trafford exit door. But did Sir Alex always have the last laugh?
Defeat to Arsenal. Rage. Fergie kicks a boot in the dressing room. Ping! Right into Beckham's handsome face.
Incredible skill - and the low point of a relationship souring since Ferguson began to suspect his star pupil cared more about fame than football. Beckham left for Real Madrid in the summer.
Did it work? Yes. Beckham had a fine career post-2003, but United saw the best of him - and he was replaced that summer by a young winger called Cristiano Ronaldo. Whatever happened to him?
Fergie's own board tried to stop this one. Midfield enforcer was labelled a "Big-time Charlie" (whatever the hell that is) and shipped out in 1995 to Inter.
Established stars Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis also left - and after United lost their season opener to Aston Villa, pundit Alan Hansen warned: "You'll never win anything with kids."
Did it work? Like a dream. Replacing Ince with Nicky Butt and promoting Fergie's Fledglings brought a Double triumph in 1996, laid the foundations for the 1999 Treble, and ensured poor Alan was haunted by people saying "kids" to him.
Officially the big, bald, terrifying colossus was shipped off to Lazio in 2001 due to an achilles injury robbing him of a yard of pace.
Unofficially, Fergie was reportedly enraged by the Dutchman's autobiography, in which he called the Neville brothers "busy c***s" and implied that the United boss had tapped him up while he was at PSV. Oops.
Did it work? "I made a bad decision there," Ferguson said of a sale he's admitted was a rare mistake. Stam was still a top-class centre-back, while his replacement Laurent Blanc was a great defender miles past his best.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Free-scoring striker fell out with Fergie after being left out of the 2006 League Cup final side. Later in the year he rowed with a young CR7, telling him: "Go crying to your daddy."
He innocently meant coach Carlos Queiroz - but Ronaldo, whose father had died the year before, allegedly broke down in tears. Ruud was sold to Real for just £11 million.
Did it work? Thumbs up. Van the Man was still a superb finisher but his departure freed up United's attack. Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney (plus Carlos Tevez a year later) fired the club to a hat-trick of league titles, plus a Champions League win.
A Rolls-Royce defender despite chronic knee problems and an alcohol addiction, McGrath was a troubling case for the young United manager in 1989. Fergie could see his quality but was trying to shake up the club, so let his star centre-back go to Aston Villa. McGrath was bitter, but the pair have since made up.
Did it work? A win for both parties. McGrath became a Villa legend, winning the 1993 PFA Player of the Year award. But he was replaced by Gary Pallister, whose partnership with Steve Bruce was the bedrock of Fergie's first title win.
The 34-year-old was past his peak in 2005, but the captain's mid-season exit was still a big shock. After rows with Fergie and Queiroz, Keane blasted his teammates on MUTV, claiming: "Just because you are paid £120,000 a week and play well for 20 minutes against Tottenham, you think you are a superstar."
No prizes for guessing what he makes of the squad now, some of whom are on more than £120,000 a week and probably can't manage 20 good minutes against Spurs. But Keano was out.
Did it work? Keane played only 13 more games, for Celtic, so injuries had clearly caught up with him. But sadly the feud has only worsened between Lord Ferg and the midfielder who often seemed the absolute embodiment of his manager's will to win on the pitch.