Sir Alex Ferguson will go down in football history as perhaps the most successful manager the game has ever seen.

32 years ago to this day, however, he was just starting out at the club where he would go on to achieve so much.

That club, of course, was Manchester United, who’d recently sacked Ron Atkinson after a poor start to the 1986/87 season.

The man they turned to in order to help re-establish the club at the top of the English game was Ferguson.

He had made himself noticed by becoming the first manager in over a decade to break the dominance of Celtic and Rangers at the top of the SPL, leading Aberdeen to three titles in six years.

Perhaps his biggest accolade at Aberdeen was the European Cup-Winners’ Cup and European Super Cup double he achieved in 1983.

The Dons emerged 2-1 victors over Real Madrid in the Cup Winners’ Cup, while a 2-0 home success against Hamburg after a stalemate in the first leg was enough to secure them the Super Cup.

He then took charge of the Scottish national team at the 1986 World Cup but resigned after failing to guide them through the group stage.

United soon came calling, but they weren’t the first to enquire about Ferguson’s services – Tottenham and Arsenal both offered him their manager’s job at the end of the season prior.

Ferguson declined both.

He could not reject United’s advances, though, and he took charge on the 6th November 1986.

The Match

When he walked into the club for the first time, United sat 19th in the league table (out of a possible 22).

They hadn’t finished lower than fourth in any of the previous five campaigns, and there were early signs of concern around the club about a potential relegation.

Ferguson’s first game in charge was against Oxford United two days later.

Manor Road, the home of Oxford, was crammed to its 13500 capacity – despite United’s struggles so far in the season, they were still considered a massive draw.

Oxford, then managed by Maurice Evans, had a number of key threats of their own.

Their star asset was the future Liverpool striker John Aldridge, who was playing in his final season for Oxford before his move to Anfield.

Aldridge scored the opener in this one from the spot, Neil Slater then adding a second.

With only two days between his appointment and this game, Ferguson had little time to put his stamp on United’s style of play.

They could not respond and fell to a 2-0 defeat, leaving them in 20th place with just 13 points from their opening 14 games.

The Rest Of The Season & Beyond

Ferguson did manage to inspire a revival in the second half of the season, with United only losing twice more between this game and the home defeat to Luton Town in the middle of March.

The highlight of that spell was undoubtedly a 1-0 win at arch-rivals Liverpool, which would prove to be United’s only away win of the season.

Kenny Dalglish’s side themselves lost out on the title to neighbours Everton, who took the league by nine points.

As for Oxford, United did the double over them in the following season and they were relegated, never seen in the top flight again since.

Ferguson guided United to second place in 1988, and sealed a number of high profile signings, the most influential ones being Steve Bruce (from Norwich) and Brian McClair (from Celtic).

The Scot also agreed a deal for Mark Hughes to return to the club, the ex-United man having to stay in Spain until 1988 for financial reasons associated with his transfer from the club to Barcelona in 1986.

Things got better and better for United over time, although Fergie did need a Mark Robins winner in a 1990 FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest to ensure his job remained safe.

His record since remains unrivalled – 38 trophies in 23 years, including two Champions League titles.

Amongst current managers, the most successful is Jose Mourinho, who has won 17 trophies.

Not many could have predicted Ferguson’s meteoric rise after watching his opening game, with United in disarray, even with his arrival coming with huge promise, but the way he turned the club around in the following years was emphatic.