Black pays tribute to Ferguson influence
Eric Black first met Sir Alex Ferguson as a 14-year-old at Aberdeen, and 34 years later he is hoping to finally come out on top in a clash with his former boss.
Blackburn's assistant manager played under Ferguson during the Dons' glory days in the 1980s, scoring the opening goal in their 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners' Cup final in 1983.
Rovers joined Manchester City as the only team to beat United at Old Trafford in the league in the last two seasons when they pulled off a shock 3-2 win on New Year's Eve, three weeks before Black joined the club, and he is hoping they can make it a double in Monday's reverse fixture.
The Scot said of Ferguson: "I've met him a few times but I've never been in a position to say, 'Well done' and we've taken the three points.
"I would like to experience that but he's striving yet again to win the Premier League and I can guarantee he'll be as focused as he was the first time he walked into Old Trafford because that's what he does."
Black spent almost a decade at Aberdeen, and he had no doubts then that Ferguson would go on to great things.
"He was authoritarian, dictatorial and exceptional," said the 48-year-old. "What he achieved with a provincial club like Aberdeen was nothing short of breathtaking.
"What he's done post-Aberdeen is probably the greatest achievement of any manager but when you look at Aberdeen in relation to it, it's pretty exceptional too.
"It's no real surprise to me what he's achieved, and I now know having gone into coaching just how much of an influence he's been on me as an individual.
"I think people can show certain standards for a couple of days, some can do it for a few months but there's not many that can do it day in, day out for 40 or 50 years.
"He's got an insatiable appetite to succeed, to set standards, to ensure that others set standards. It must be tiring at times but whatever he has that's driven within him ensures that he does it."
Ferguson himself is refusing to take anything for granted even though his side's trip to Blackburn marks the start of three games on the trot against sides mired in relegation trouble.
With QPR and Wigan to come over the Easter period, Manchester United look well placed to take maximum advantage of Manchester City's recent dip in form.
However, Ferguson will be acutely aware that all three sides have won two out of their last three matches.
And with the battle for points getting more intense, the United chief is determined there will be no complacency creeping into his squad.
"We know how quickly football can turn on you and bite you," said Ferguson.
"You can look at all the fixtures and say all those teams are fighting for their lives. And they are the kind of games you know will be tight."
Ewood Park has never been an easy place for United.
Ferguson's team have emerged victorious on just two of their last 11 visits, a record that is worse that against any other north-west rival, including Liverpool and Manchester City.
Two seasons ago, United were held to a goalless draw that ultimately cost them any hope of retaining their title.
And even last year, when they only needed a point to get it back, the Red Devils required a late Wayne Rooney penalty to start the celebrations.
"The game at Blackburn has always been a difficult match," said Ferguson.
"It is a local derby and tends to be a bit feisty.
"Last season we were lucky enough to come back from a goal down to win the league.
"But it will be a very difficult game. That is the way it is going to be from now until the end of the season."
With just one game a week now all their cup commitments are at an end, Ferguson has had some tricky selection posers to sort out on the club break at St Andrews.
Chris Smalling and former Blackburn defender Phil Jones will come into consideration for a recall at right-back and both would be on standby to replace Rio Ferdinand should Ferguson not be entirely convinced the 33-year-old has recovered from the back complaint that reared its head again during last week's narrow win over Fulham.