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Fergusons secret: As football changed, so did he

Reproduced from The Telegraph's Rory Smith on 31 Jan 2011 – Sir Alex Ferguson has now seen an incredible 1,069 football club managers lose their jobs since taking charge at Old Trafford in 1986. To him, those figures indicate that managers’ lifespans are growing shorter by the season. In an ESPN exclusive interview in conjunction with the League Managers’ Association, the Scot suggested it was proof that the new breed of club executives must be taught that patience breeds success.

“There is a trend at the moment to short term management” he said “you hope it goes in cycles. Me and Richard Bevan – LMA chief executive, have been talking about educating directors about the game” he revealed “you are getting people from abroad and the old style of chairman is gone, the old chairman who used to love his club and love to be there on a Saturday to have a brandy after the game.

We have got very aggressive, very ambitious directors and I think people’s natures have changed a lot in the last 30 years. I have got a great photograph of Manchester United and Leeds players scrapping in the mid

dle of the pitch and the crowd are absolutely motionless. There is not a bit of emotion in the fans.

Nowadays, anything that happens, they are screaming over the top of each other. The emotions of the support have generated a different atmosphere in the grounds. It gets through to the boardrooms and these directors panic like hell”

Ferguson, of course, has benefited from both the patience of United’s board and despite occasional doubts in the late 1980’s, the club’s fans in his 24 years at Old Trafford.

So successful has his time there been that the Scot believes he has put aside the fear of failure that drove him as a younger man, with his victories now satisfying the “responsibility” he feels to those supporters who stood by him.

“That fear was maybe with me when I was young” he said “you know you have to be successful and it probably drove me on. Now it is that once you have got ingrained in the fabric of the place, you have a responsibility to win.

Of course I have had to change as a manager to be successful. You have to adapt to the individuals and the characters of the people we deal with now. It’s a different human being we’re dealing with now, a much more fragile human being.

Facilities are better, the quality of life is better. The people I’m dealing with nowadays seem to be more cocooned by their pay or their agents or their egos, so you have a different person altogether.

You naturally alter yourself as it goes along. And of course being at the club 24 years gives me the time to do that. Some other managers unfortunately don’t get that time we have always had here.”

Will there EVER be another Sir Alex Ferguson in English football?


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