Charlton: Ferguson is a genius

    Bobby Charlton: Ferguson's best moment
    Bobby Charlton: Ferguson's best moment

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    Bobby Charlton: Ferguson's best moment 02:39

    Story highlights

    • Man Utd legend Bobby Charlton has hailed Alex Ferguson as a genius
    • Scottish manager Ferguson celebrates 25 years at United this month
    • World Cup winner Charlton believe Eric Cantona is Ferguson's greatest signing
    • Charlton was a director of the club when Ferguson first joined in 1986
    Twenty eight years ago, Bobby Charlton, a World Cup winner with in England 1966, watched Aberdeen take on Spanish giants Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners' Cup final in the Swedish City of Gothenburg.
    Aberdeen had managed to break up the duopoly that Glasgow clubs Rangers and Celtic had over Scottish football by winning the First Division title in 1980 and back-to-back Scottish Cups in 1982 and 1983, but were still underdogs heading into their clash with six-time European champions Real.
    Aberdeen upset the odds to record a famous 2-1 win at the Ullevi Stadium courtesy of striker John Hewitt's extra-time goal, and from that moment Charlton knew the Dons' Scottish manager was the man to lead his former club Manchester United to glory.
    That manager was a 41-year-old Glaswegian called Alex Ferguson and, in November 1986, United director Charlton got his wish.
    "I wanted him to come to Old Trafford the first time I saw him," Charlton told CNN. "I watched his team, Aberdeen, beat Real Madrid in Gothenburg and he was running up and down the line.
    "He was living every minute of the game, and not only that, it worked because they actually outplayed Real Madrid."
    Bobby Charlton on 25 years of Ferguson
    Bobby Charlton on 25 years of Ferguson

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    Bobby Charlton on 25 years of Ferguson 04:52
    Ferguson, now 69, celebrates 25 years as manager of United this month, having led the Red Devils to 12 English Premier League titles, five FA Cup victories and two European Champions League triumphs as well as numerous other honors.
    "It really is unbelievable, but then you start to think, how has he done it?" said Charlton, who was part of the United team which became the first from England to be crowned European champions in 1968.
    "I've been as close to him as anyone really, but I still don't know all the things in his mind. He is a genius."
    Charlton, who enjoyed a 17-year playing career at United and was named European Player of the Year in 1966, believes it is Ferguson's football knowledge which sets him apart from his peers.
    "He knows about every player, what every player's expected of, what's expected of every player that he's ever worked with. Alex is always prepared.
    "He's a great lad and I love him. I think he's the most fantastic thing that's ever happened to Manchester United."
    Former Scotland coach Ferguson's eye for a player has served United well during his quarter of a century at the helm.
    He was responsible for the signing of Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon in 2003, who went on to be crowned World Player of the Year in 2008 before joining Real for a world record transfer fee in 2009 -- and also recruited star names such as England stars Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand as well as Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy
    But Charlton is in no doubt as to who has been Ferguson's greatest acquisition, iconic forward Eric Cantona.
    "The best business that was ever made was Eric Cantona," said Charlton of Ferguson signing the Frenchman from fierce rivals Leeds United in 1992.
    Cantona, who had played for six different French clubs before arriving in England, helped United to four Premier League titles and two FA Cups during a dazzling five-year spell with the club.
    "He got him from Leeds back when they were in a daze and before they realized what was happening, he'd been signed and he was gone," recalls Charlton. "It was probably one of the greatest eras there has ever been for any footballer.
    "He was just magic. He had all these young players, all on the bit waiting to go, and all they needed was somebody to just hold it together. And he was perfect."
    The pinnacle of Ferguson's reign arrived in May 1999, when a stunning late comeback secured United a 2-1 victory over German side Bayern Munich and Champions League glory.
    The win at Barcelona's Nou Camp stadium sealed an historic Champions League, Premier League and FA treble for United, a feat unmatched in English football history.
    "I remember him at the time. You know, the end of the match, the dressing room was heaving with people and he does not mind asking directors into the room, into the changing room, which is not normal, I don't think in the game.
    "And we get in and listen to him. When we won in Barcelona, everybody was so pleased and so happy. The smile on his face, it was just magic."
    The longer Ferguson's tenure continues, the more the question of who will take over from him is raised.
    But Charlton says he has not considered who it will be that attempts to fill the shoes of the man who last season led United a record 19th English title.
    "Everybody I speak to, the last thing they say is, 'Who's going to take over for him?' I say, 'I don't even think about it.'
    "The way he walks, he's not arrogant, but he's always busy. He's always busy! And it doesn't matter where he sits, no matter what, he's thinking about the game. Winning matches on Saturdays."