I have long been a Manchester United Football Club fan, and one of the things I like so much about the club is the winning culture and champions mindset that’s been set in place by none other than their most successful manager ever, Sir Alex Ferguson who is retiring at the end of the season.
As this is the last week Fergie (his nickname) is in charge at Old Trafford, I would like to write a post in recognition of what this man has done and what I admire and have learnt from him.
Lets see. Before Sir Alex was hired as the new Manchester United manager back in 1986, the club was somewhere near the bottom of the English League which was dominated by Liverpool. Fergie inherited a dispirited team of underachievers and faced a mountain of challenges to turn them around.
Now after over 26 years in charge of MUFC, Ferguson won almost 40 trophies including: 13 Premier League titles, 2 Champion League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, and other cups. MUFC surpassed Liverpool FC in the number of total Premier League titles. More importantly, beyond the trophies, he has transformed the whole club from a mediocre level into the best in England, and perhaps the most popular club in the world.
Fergie has been hailed the undisputed best football manager the game has ever seen by professionals, media, fans and non-fans alike. Here are the 7 qualities I admire in him:
- Untiring work ethics – This was what Ryan Giggs (one of MUFC’s all time greats) said about Ferguson, “You can have all the qualities in the world, but hard work is the key to everything. He just loves his job. He loves watching United play. He loves seeing players develop. He loves everything about his job. You couldn’t do what he does at his age and have the work ethic he’s got if you didn’t love it.”
- Great appetite for success – You can see it in his eyes week in, week out, the fire and determination to win game after game. Even after years of success, he just wants more. Many teams who won the League title, faded away after one or two seasons of success. But not Manchester United; they never stop. It was Ferguson who instilled the winning mindset and insatiable hunger in them for more. Winning is a habit, and it’s the only thing the Manchester United team know.
- Evolving mindset – You can’t be stuck in the same coaching approach and mindset if you want to continue winning for more than two decades. Many good managers who have a winning formula, refuse to change what has been working for them and stay stagnant, even when times have changed. I could see Ferguson evolved with the times, so that his team is always on the cutting edge, always setting the standard and always leading the chasing pack.
- Superstars management – I always wonder this: how do you motivate superstar multimillionaire footballers, especially those who have tasted success, to train harder than before, to win again and again? How did he do that so well?
- No nonsense disciplinarian – Of course, part of the answer to (4) is his strict disciplinary approach to training, playing and the players’ life off the field. He would not tolerate those who go against the rules of the club, no one is bigger than the club. And he is consistent with this, even to his biggest superstar players.
- Bouncing back from defeats – Ferguson proved it time and time again, that he always come back after defeats, bigger and better. Just look at the recent example, MU narrowly lost the Premier League title to their noisy neighbours Manchester City only on goals difference on the last match of 2011-2012 season. This season, they came back with a vengeance and indomitable determination to wrestle back the title and erase the pain of the previous season. They won the title with many games to spare.
- Believing and investing in youngsters – Alan Hansen, the former football player and now a football pundit who once famously said, “You can’t win anything with kids.” He was referring to Fergusion after he sold off three senior high profile players: Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis in the summer of 1995. He introduced several team youth players including Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, and Gary Neville into the first team. MU won the League and FA Cup double that season. Those same youth players went on to help MU dominate England and be one of the best in Europe for many years. While rivals often pay huge sum of money to buy in players from elsewhere, Fergie’s belief in young homegrown players paid off and helped MU built a winning dynasty. He did that again and again – investing in unproven young talents and groomed them up into champions.
Whether you’re an Manchester United fan or not, you just have to take off your hat and give it to this man, who deserves all the highest accolades that have been showered upon him. To me he is the greatest sports coach ever.
Sir Alex Ferguson will forever be remembered and be an inspiration for me, and many people. I believe the winning culture he has set will continue in the club and his legacy will live on forever in more ways than one.