Sir Alex And The Chocolate Factory – The MUFC Tale Of Marcelo Salas

The Faithful would like to welcome Ryan Lockwood its writing staff. Here is Ryan’s first effort for the publication.


Sir Alex knows what he’s doing

How many of you have said this, repeatedly, at the bar, on the sofa, on the road

Sir Alex knows what he’s doing

Even in “Intimate” situations? Yes, even in the bedroom I’ve shouted those same words to the delight of neighbors, dogs, cats and sometimes, though very few, a female companion.

So why is this summer any different?  United won #19 and reached the Champions League final, outstanding achievements that further solidify Ferguson’s legacy.  Many clubs would love to be in the same position.  So why the Chicken Little syndrome?

Sir Alex knows what he’s doing

“Oooo, look at that Shiny head on the Dutch boy in the window Daddy, get him for me?  No, wait, wait … everyone wants a Sanchez, and so do I? Can I have him Daddy, please?”

Back from the dead every summer, the Veruca Salt’s of the world appear, sitting on their “Golden Goose Egg” shaped thrones, demanding Ferguson dance. “I want today, I want tomorrow.”

As Charlie said “Here we go again.”

Sir Alex knows what he’s doing

Let’s look back at a more desperate and trying time; the summer of 1998.  Having finished 2nd to a Double winning Arsenal side, Wenger’s first full season, United supporters were desperate for new blood, someone who could score and bring a title back to Old Trafford.

One name dominated all others … Marcelo Salas, a Chilean striker nicknamed “El Matador.”  I loved him. Hell, we all did. We all imagined him pulling on the shirt, running out of tunnel, turning to applaud The Faithful, scoring goals and lifting trophies.  Infatuation like this is unhealthy.

I can remember the actual day I fell in love with him, a friendly at Wembley.  It was February 11th, 1998 and Salas was auditioning for a Premier League role.  He would score a brace that night against a strong England team. Both Neville brothers were on the pitch, as was Nicky Butt and Teddy Sheringham. Michael Owen earned his first senior cap as well.

Of the two goals he scored, the first I remember most, a thing of pure beauty.  Closing in on halftime, Salas made a run to the top of the penalty box to receive a long ball from the halfway line.  He lost his mark, CAUGHT the ball on his thigh, and volleys it low to the right hand corner … all without breaking stride.  (Link to goal)

Four months later, Salas would lead Chile to the World Cup as top scorer in South American qualifying.  Partnered up top with Ivan Zamorano, Salas scored 4 more times in France.  If the first 6 months of 1998 was any indication, Salas would be a legend.

Sir Alex knows what he’s doing

It was game on for his services … and the bidding was intense.  Ferguson wanted Salas.  The supporters wanted Salas.  But no one wanted him as much as Lazio’s President Sergio Cragnotti.  A man ahead of his time (if “being ahead of your time” means buying every player on the market) he broke the bank that summer for Salas, Christian Vieri, Attilio Lombardo, Dejan Stanković and Sinisa Mihajlović.  That Lazio side went on to win the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup, the Super Cup, and Lazio’s last League title in 2000.

“United’s season is over before it begins” some said.  There isn’t a chance United can challenge Arsenal, or the rest of Europe, with the likes of Jesper Blomqvist, Jaap Stam and Dwight Yorke.  It’s not enough said Chicken Little.

Then we won the League, the FA Cup and the Champions’ League.

History went on to show it was Sir Alex, not the United Board of Directors, who vetoed the Salas purchase.  Martin Edwards backed the decision, saying “We will not mortgage Manchester United for one individual player.”

So Veruca, darling … next time you shake your head, stomp your foot, or furrow your brow, repeat after me:

Sir Alex ALWAYS knows what he’s doing

About Steve Ferguson 886 Articles
Steve Ferguson had taken over & re-branded The Faithful MUFC website back in the summer of 2014 and is now the owner and editor of the site. Steve, from Ashton-Under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, is a 35-year-old life long Manchester United fan, travelling over the globe to see the Reds play. Steve has been lucky enough to be at both the 1999 and 2008 Champions League finals, seeing Manchester United lift the biggest trophy in the World, none more exciting than that faithful night in Barcelona in 99. The website is a blog, but also hopes to deliver the latest Manchester United news from around the internet too, linked up with our growing twitter account which is @TheFaithfulMUFC, give it a follow as we will follow you back as soon as we can.


  1. great story … I remember all … I was 20y old, fan for 3-4 years, still learning about the club and tbh, I was one of “we want Salas” bunch. long time ago … and YES, Sir Alex ALWAYS knows what he’s doing …. … Thanks …. I like this site, very very much. I’ve recommended to all United fans on Talking Reds forum. maybe someone will learn more, after reading this. all I can hear is “we want Wesley” DeJa Vu 🙂

  2. perfect article apart from “the likes of Stam” . He was special when he was signed.Anyone thinking anything less is an idiot…..

  3. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m a lifelong red from Stretford but did he know what he was doing with Ralph Milne, Neil Webb, Colin Gibson, Taibi, Djemba Djemba, Kleberson, Veron, Bartez, Bebe, I could go on. The problem is he’s become beyond critisism & I think he believes beyond even questioning. A lot of big players he’s missed out on over the years I don’t think we tried hard enough, then the fans are patronised into feeling like wanting kids with the bullshit cliches about “value for money” etc.

  4. I always laugh when I hear mancs bring this one up. I don’t think anyone is beyond questioning and criticism. But to bring those players up and make it sound like an issue is complete BS. When fergie goes u will be crying in your beer as were faced with the stark reality of a lesser man calling the shots. Your attitude will reap the sentiment it sows. Personally I’m crapping myself at the thought of a Ferguson-less United as I remember the years before he came oh too well

  5. ditto! After countless championships, titles and Cups, how does bringing up these players factor into criticism. If anything, it’s even more amazing that despite some bad buys (like any team will have) Sir Alex still manages to keep winning year after year! So beyond questioning? On current record? I’d have to say, yeah!

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