This piece actually appeared in the New York Times this January. We try as much as possible to feature winners and this is another interesting read on Sir Alex Ferguson, a living legend.
Lessons can always be learned from the great ones…
|Sir Alex Ferguson|
Sir Alex Ferguson, marking his 25th season as Manchester United’s manager, turned 70 on December 31. A former player, he began coaching in 1974 with East Stirlingshire in
, which gave him £2,000 to acquire five players. His 1999 United team won three titles, sweeping Scotland ’s Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League. In an interview with Claire Bloomfield for the British online magazine Sabotage Times, England recently reflected on how the game, and his job, had changed over the years. Ferguson
Question: What were the major factors in your life that ensured your success?
Sir Alex: Good teachers. When I was at school, I had a fantastic teacher who inspired me. The next thing is to create standards. The second part is practice and creating standards. The tactical ability will maybe come later. The most important thing at that age is practice and the time to practice.
Q: How important is youth development in modern football, and how can it affect the success of a team?
A: You can’t play in the street because of traffic, and computers have taken young people’s lives away in terms of their involvement in sport. We must have a setup where they can have a concentrated effort to produce young players, and in a coaching sense, it will be a step forward for them. It has to happen.
Q: How do you think the game has changed since you played?
A: It’s different to 30, 40 years ago. There’s a fantastic book called “Unlimited United” and the center pages is a photograph of Manchester United players and Leeds United players all fighting on the pitch. They’re ripping the strips off each other. In the background, the fans are silenced. They’re just watching. Nowadays, they’re screaming over the fences, screaming at the away section of fans, and the behavior pattern of people is different today.
Q: Do you think anyone else will ever manage the same club for 25 years?
A: I don’t think so. I’m a phenomenon.
Q: What have you learned, and how have you changed as a manager?
A: One thing I have learned in the last decade is delegation. In the early days, I was involved with scouting, coaching, youth, everything. You can’t do that for a long period of time.
Q: What about your retirement?
A: I said it to the directors 15 years ago, maybe more than 15 years ago. You have to remember that the most important person at Manchester United is the manager. The minute a footballer becomes more important than the manager, your club is dead. The history of this club goes down the drain. I am the most important man at Manchester United. It has to be that way.
25 years at the top
A: I think the expectation of
is too huge. It’s too big. You’ve got to also look at the program English players are faced with going into the World Cup. The league is unforgiving, and it’s very difficult in the Premier League nowadays. The top teams have got to also involve themselves in European football, and some, if they’re lucky, get to the later stages of the European tournaments. We’ve been in a lot of finals in the last decade. That definitely takes a lot of energy out of you, and it’s a big problem in the English game. England
Q: What needs to be added to the English game to improve it?
A: Sometimes, a pearl of wisdom comes out of the woodwork: a winter break. I’ve been saying it for the last 55 years, and no one listens.
Q: Do you think you have become less hands-on with the team in recent years?
A: I have certainly mellowed. There’s no question about that. It’s a more fragile human being that I am dealing with today than 25 years ago. They are cocooned by modern ideas, modern parents, modern agents, and they are cocooned by their own image at times. It’s a different world for me, so I have to change myself to adapt to that. I have changed because of these things.
Q: What do you think about the cultural diversity of the English game?
A: I think it’s fantastic. I sit there on Friday nights at the team hotel, and at the table you’ve got English, Brazilian, Polish, Serbian, Bulgarian, Dutch, and they’re all talking to each other and some of them don’t speak English. They communicate fantastically well. I think it is wonderful to integrate the different cultures, the different personalities, to see how different they are, how they view life. For instance, we have an issue with Brazilians because they eat late. They’re a nightmare. They don’t go to bed until 1 o’clock in the morning. That’s the culture, and I’m trying to change that.
Q: Do you think that there will be a time when you will just burn out and leave?
A: I’ll give everyone a tip here: retirement is for young people, not older people. Young people can do something else. When you’re older and you’ve been on that treadmill for length of time I have been on it, if I get off that treadmill, where do you think I am going? Down there. Trust me. Retirement is for young people. When you get older, don’t retire.
Q: Do you think you have a good relationship with the American owners of the club?
A: I have had a great relationship with our owners. They never bother me. They never ask any questions, they never phone me and they never interfere with my job. I am in a privileged position.