Ferguson, named the LMA's manager of the year for a record fourth time on Monday night, said: "At Sunderland last year we were champions for 10 seconds! But you can't win them all.
"That's when I thought we could win it again this season.
"I thought the players were really focused. I think adversity is the best recipe for success, I really do.
"There was good character in the team, enough experience, great resolve and purpose, and I felt we had a good chance, I really did."
Ferguson was also against "fast-tracking" of players into top coaching jobs.
"I'm dead against this fast-tracking of managers. Prepare, learn your trade, get your badges. Work for years at lower levels and you'll have a better chance'.
"You have to earn the right to be a manager."
Ferguson also revealed that his wife Cathy and children had not wanted him to take the United job after his success at Aberdeen - but he was persuaded to by Bobby Charlton.
He added: "When they first offered me the United job you jump at it. Then you think: What have I done?
"My wife didn't want to go, two of my sons didn't want to go. Jason, who is a United fan, he wanted me to go. It was Bobby Charlton who talked me into it."