Archie Knox 1986-91

The Scot had accompanied Ferguson to Old Trafford from Aberdeen and would be his close confidant and, initially, his house-mate in Timperley. "A two-bedroom semi in a housing scheme," he recalled recently. "We went through the door, Alex dived up the stairs and got the best room, and that was it." Knox spent four-and-a-half years with Ferguson and played his part in changing the culture at The Cliff, whether that was shutting down the drinking schools or choking the dressing-room leaks. The pair won the FA Cup in 1990 then, a week before the European Cup-Winners' Cup final against Barcelona, Knox moved to Rangers. Their financial offer was more than United were prepared to meet. There have been spells as assistant at seven other clubs since, as well as with the national team, and the 65-year-old is now back at Aberdeen.

Brian Kidd 1991-98

Kidd had played 203 games for United in a seven-year spell that ended in 1974 before returning to the club as youth development officer in 1988. His promotion to assistant manager coincided with the first wave of success enjoyed by Ferguson at Old Trafford, with the 1992 League Cup followed by a first league title in 26 years in 1993, two league and cup doubles in 1994 and 1996, and another title a year later. Kidd was instrumental in the development of the golden generation of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, but his departure to manage Blackburn infuriated the man Kidd still refers to as "The Boss". Ferguson lacerated him in his autobiography. "But I will always appreciate what he's done for me," said Kidd, now 63 and on the coaching staff at Manchester City after spells with Leeds, Sheffield United, Portsmouth and England. "You can't buy those wonderful memories."

Steve McClaren 1999-2001

McClaren became the youth and reserve team coach at Oxford upon retiring from playing before, three years later, joining Jim Smith at Derby as assistant. He arrived at Old Trafford during the treble-winning season of 1998-99 and brought with him an almost academic element to coaching, including elements such as video analysis and sports psychology. He was a student of the game, picking up techniques from foreign clubs, and arguably even refreshed Ferguson. His spell at the club brought almost unbridled success, with three successive titles, before he departed, with the manager's blessing, to take up the reins at Middlesbrough. His subsequent time with England damaged his reputation, and there have been two spells with FC Twente in Dutch football, but McClaren remains one of Ferguson's most successful assistants.

Jimmy Ryan 2001-02

Ryan's coaching career at Old Trafford now extends to 22 years after initially returning to the club, for whom he had played 27 times, in 1991 as reserve team coach. His season-long spell as Ferguson's assistant was unsettled by the manager's plan to retire – he would change his mind – and the appointment of Ryan, while an experienced right-hand man, was not entirely embraced by the players. He subsequently reverted to reserve team duties and is currently director of youth football at the academy.

Carlos Queiroz 2002-03 & 2004-08

The Portuguese has enjoyed two spells as Ferguson's No2, his nomadic career having taken him from the United States to United Arab Emirates, Japan to South Africa, before he arrived as assistant in 2002. He brought with him a reputation for developing young talent and a range of international contacts: his influence has been cited in the signing of players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, while his tactical nous added a new dimension to Ferguson's approach. A brief and unsuccessful spell at Real Madrid interrupted his time at Old Trafford, but his second spell yielded two titles and the Champions League. Some railed at his perceived cautious approach to the game, with Roy Keane a critic, but the 60-year-old was so respected by Ferguson that he was once considered a potential successor. There was a spell in charge of Portugal that ended in 2010, and a six-month suspension for disrupting an anti-doping test ahead of the 2010 World Cup which was later annulled by the court of arbitration for sport, with Queiroz now coaching the Iranian national team.

Walter Smith 2004

Smith, who managed Rangers, Everton and Scotland in a 23-year coaching career, had travelled to the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico as Ferguson's assistant and enjoyed a brief spell as his No2 in 2004, relieving some of the burden on the manager. His appointment was only ever considered short-term, but he did see the team win the FA Cup final.

Mike Phelan 2008-13

Phelan had been signed as a player by Ferguson and featured 146 times for United in a five-year spell at the club. His early coaching career was spent alongside Gary Megson at Norwich, Blackpool and Stockport before he took up a position at United's centre of excellence, rising first to reserve team manager and then first-team coach when McClaren left for Middlesbrough back in 2001. He succeeded Queiroz in 2008 and, for many years, Phelan was the manager's mouthpiece on television while Ferguson refused to talk to the BBC.