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It's a long read but it's well worth it.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is the Freud of football - Telegraph

When the definitive account of the career of Sir Alex Ferguson is written, any consideration of his contribution to the business of management cannot confine itself to football.

Ferguson has not delivered in the cause of Manchester United simply by knowing his way around the game that dominates British sporting life.

Though he understands the milieu well enough, it is his comprehension of the stuff beyond football that underpins his success in it; his grasp of personality, of character, of power, of the human dynamic that bolts our behaviour together. Ferguson is the Freud of football, a psychological profiler of uncanny intuition whose gifts would have application in any boardroom in any industry.

It is this fluency in the machinations of ego and super ego that permits Fergie to knock on a troubled door at just the right time, to coax Eric Cantona back to Old Trafford via clandestine meetings in Paris; to reassure Cristiano Ronaldo after the fall-out of Wayne Rooney’s World Cup sending off which Ronaldo had greeted with a wink; to persuade Ronaldo to remain at Old Trafford a year ago when his mind was in Real Madrid; and who knows, to lock down the deal that keeps Carlos Tevez at Old Trafford.

If the Premier League is retained today and the European Cup likewise 10 days hence, then his handling of Ronaldo in particular can be regarded as one of the great examples of man management in the history of the game by arguably the greatest club manager of all time.

Power today is with the player. In the pampered culture of plenty that protects them from the forces of economic gravity that have the rest of us pinned to the credit-crunch floor, alpha footballers get what they want when they want it. For the World Player of the Year you can multiply the Madonna effect tenfold.

Ronaldo had made up his mind to join Real Madrid, the club who fill the hearts of children doing keepie-uppies before breakfast in Madeira. Ronaldo has an emotional attachment to the idea of Madrid beyond the reach of reason.

That Fergie persuaded him to come back to Manchester one more time demonstrates the charismatic influence that he has on those around him. What arguments did he use to overcome a prejudice towards Madrid nurtured since nappies? The wisdom of Ferguson is a powerful instrument, the same one that when the occasion demands it turns his tongue into the turbo-lash of legend.

None is infallible, of course. Judgment in these matters is not an exact science. Fergie did after all buy Ralph Milne, and more recently Kleberson and Djemba Djemba. Rather than expose him, the mistakes confirm his genius for getting most things right. And when he makes a decision it is made absolutely, for good or bad.

To operate in this way takes immense courage, the kind of conviction only great leaders display. For all his socialist sentiments there is nothing democratic in the Ferguson factory. He is, on balance, a benevolent dictator, working solely in the interests of Manchester United, never himself.

Even Arsene Wenger, the manager who opposes him today and who in his 13 years at Arsenal has applied as great an intellectual force as any to bring him down, has come to appreciate Ferguson’s ability to manage anything.

Ferguson’s autocratic style has cost him popularity. His obsession with United and winning places him necessarily at odds with any who threaten his hegemony. He is intolerant of failure, of those who don’t come up to the mark and of those who oppose him.

He is the last of the great dynasty managers, men who controlled every aspect of a club from the penalty spot to the broom cupboard. Yet this is not a world that his forebears would recognise. Men like Jock Stein, Sir Matt Busby, Bill Shankly, Don Revie and Brian Clough enjoyed the same control but in a smaller space.

The mechanisms of governance are more sophisticated in these days of global empire and the sphere of expertise required must embrace traditions and cultures way beyond our shores, which makes Fergie’s achievements unique in the British game.

The United shaped by Busby, the Liverpool built by Shankly, Celtic by Stein, Leeds by Revie, Derby and Forest by Clough, were deeply British institutions that emerged at a time when the domestic football model was pre-eminent.

Stein won the European Cup in 1967 with a team of players born within 30 miles of Celtic Park. Exceptional though that was, Stein could add a couple of zeros to that distance today and have little chance of minting another set of Lisbon Lions.

When Ferguson walked into Old Trafford 24 years ago his team were the same amalgam of overwhelmingly British and Irish talent it had always been. Today United is a multinational mélange. Not only has Ferguson built three great teams, one more than Busby, he has done so in wildly shifting circumstances. This is why he deserves to be ranked above all-comers.

We admire the urbane brilliance of Wenger. That a man who thinks and speaks about football in such a high register has won the Premier League just three times tells us much about Ferguson, who is poised to seal his 11th championship today.

Eighteen is the magic number at Old Trafford, the figure that represents domestic parity with Liverpool. The worry for Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, Wenger et al is the enthusiasm with which Ferguson continues to go about his work.

In this he is like a Winston Churchill recurring, a great leader who won’t go away.

11,207 Posts
Great read.

Though it hinted on it, I think we should praise Fergie's adaptability.

The players of today will be a slightly different kettle of fish to the ones of yore and Fergie still manages to handle them well.

I also think he has softened his stance on some issues and does not rule with an iron fist in all areas. This is one of his strengths. He knows when to be boss and in which areas he should give some leeway.

Best manager of all time IMO.

4,099 Posts
On the contrary, I'm glad he stayed in club management :p
yeah, its the same for me. he stayed at club with United, and won us trophies. and lots of it. but at the same time, he has had only success. i believe years later when he passes on, people would be sitting down and thinking, that the only blip he has had would be not to have taken charge of international sides and win international trophies.
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