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May 23, 2013

Sir Alex's trophy haul, leaving on top

If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to ESPN's team of football anoraks at asknorman@hotmail.com and they will try to answer as many as possible.

Has any other club in Europe had more success in terms of major trophies won during Sir Alex Ferguson's 26-year reign at Manchester United? (Regardless of the number of managers a particular club employed during that time)M.Sheriff from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, asked

Ferguson retired on Sunday, 26 years and six months after arriving at Old Trafford. If we ignore the 1986-87 season - United were in danger of relegation when he was appointed in November, so it is unrealistic to think he could have won the title - and judge him on his 26 full seasons in charge, he won the Champions League twice, the Premier League 13 times, the FA Cup five times, the League Cup four times, plus the Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup and Club World Cup.

In terms of league titles, the most successful club of the Ferguson era in Europe is Porto with 18, with the Portuguese giants also winning 11 Portuguese Cups and two European Cups. Factor in 15 Portuguese Supercups, two Intercontinental Cups, two UEFA Cups and one UEFA Super Cup and that takes them to 49. Even including ten Community Shields, Ferguson's time at United only yielded 38 trophies. However, the question referred to "major trophies".

Some would say Portuguese domestic competitions might not qualify, so turning our attention to clubs from Europe's top five leagues, one potentially close comparison with United is provided by Bayern Munich. Should they win Saturday's Champions League final, they will have been European champions twice in 26 years, like Ferguson. Like him, too, they have 13 domestic league titles.

No one else in France, Germany, Italy, Spain or England has more. Nevertheless, arguably others have been more successful, largely because they have been European Cup/Champions League winners more often. Real Madrid have ten Spanish titles in that time and have only won the Copa del Rey twice. However, they have three Champions League wins to United's two and two Intercontinental Cups to Ferguson's one.

If we give greater weight to Champions League wins, the most successful club in Europe over Ferguson's long reign are AC Milan, who won five European Cups during those 26 years, even if they 'only' won Serie A eight times and the Coppa Italia once in the same period.

But Barcelona are arguably the strongest club over that period. They have been champions of Spain 12 times, Copa del Rey winners six times, European champions four times and winners of six major European trophies in all (to United's three).

In terms of the most successful 26-year spell ever, Liverpool still lead the way among English clubs. Between 1964 and 1990, they won 12 league titles (a 13th came the preceding year, 1963-64), four FA Cups, four League Cups, four European Cups and two UEFA Cups.

Abroad, that is bettered by Real Madrid's record between 1954 and 1980, a period that brought them 17 Spanish titles and five domestic cups plus, in the element that puts them ahead of everyone else, six European Cups.

After watching Angelo Henriquez lift the FA Cup for Wigan while on loan from Manchester United, I started wondering whether other players have won the trophy while on loan from their parent club? Anil Shah asked

Anil noticed Henriquez, who was on the bench, but Wigan actually fielded two loan players in their starting XI: Joel Robles, borrowed from Atletico Madrid, and Paul Scharner, owned by Hamburg. The last loan player to win the FA Cup was Milan Baros, a substitute with Portsmouth in 2008, when actually a Lyon player. Wigan's three loanees is a record for an FA Cup-winning team but no more than the Capital One Cup winners fielded: Jonathan de Guzman scored twice for Swansea at Wembley, Roland Lamah came off the bench and Itay Shechter, like Henriquez for Wigan, was an unused substitute. One to watch out for this weekend, by the way, is Nuri Sahin, who could win the Champions League while on loan from Real Madrid to Borussia Dortmund.

One element about Henriquez, by the way: after Paul Scholes' retirement, he is one of four current United players with an FA Cup winners' medal. The others are Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher, from their time at Old Trafford, plus Robin van Persie, whose success came from Arsenal's 2005 final against United.

This season in the Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his retirement, Roberto Mancini has been fired, and Rafa Benitez is expected to leave at the end of the season. That means the teams that finished 1-2-3 in the league will all have new managers next year. It made me wonder whether this has ever happened before in the English league (obviously not in the Premier League era, because Ferguson never finished lower than third), or in any major European league. Can you help me get to the bottom of this? Ben Mooneyham asked.

After a long journey through the history books, a short answer: no. Since the formation of the Football League in 1888, there has never been a time when the managers of the top three clubs have left the same summer. Indeed, not since 1974, when Leeds' Don Revie moved on to become England manager and Liverpool's Bill Shankly retired, have the top two clubs lost their manager straight away.

The last example of the top three teams in Spain losing their manager at the end of a season occurred further back than I expected: in 1979, champions Real Madrid replaced Luis Molowny with Vujadin Boskov, second-placed Sporting Gijon bade farewell to Vicente Miera and appointed Jose Manuel Diaz Novea, and Atletico Madrid parted company with Ferenc Szusza and reappointed Luis Aragones.

In Italy, despite a reputation for hiring and firing, you have to go back still further. AC Milan finished third in 1949 and brought in Lajos Czeizler to take over from Giuseppe Bigogno. Inter, in second, plumped for Giulio Cappelli, and tragically Scudettowinners Torino lost co-managers Egri Erbstein and Leslie Lievesley in the Superga air disaster, which also claimed the lives of 18 players. They then moved for Bigogno from Milan.

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