Those Whom Inspire- Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson, CBE
Full Name : Alexander Chapman Ferguson
Born : 31st of December 1941
Birth Place : Glasgow, United Kingdom
Country : Scotland
Occupation : Football Manager (retired)
Industry : Football
He has won, during his illustrious career everything there is to win in the game of football. Born to a working class family in Govan, in a world in the grips of the Second World War. Govan, Glasgow was a notorious ship building epicentre, where men were forged amongst steel and heavy industry. A tough and uncompromising environment. Those who know of the man will not be surprised that he originated from such an industrial setting. As a young man he was heavily involved in the unions serving as a shop steward. A fervent socialist and believer in what is right, equality and people's rights. A family man through and through, that is central to his character, the values he upholds and has applied throughout his career. Key to all the clubs he has managed, is the creation of a familial environment.
Alex Ferguson is regarded as one of the very finest managers that football has ever seen. His contribution to the game seen him knighted in 1999 after he led his team to win a historic treble in heart-stopping fashion. His managerial life did not start at Manchester United, though he did spend many a successful year there, in a city so like his own. He made his way in his native Scotland at various clubs, famously putting faith in youth and giving young players a chance.
The most notable period of his early career, was his management of Aberdeen FC. There, he succeeded in breaking the deadlock of the old firm which had a stranglehold on Scottish football, all of the money and power- winning everything pretty much every season. His breaking of the Glasgow based teams domination was really something; as was the success he enjoyed with Aberdeen on the European Stage. A relatively small team from a small country in, Scotland. They lacked the budget to match the majority of their competitors. They beat the infamous powerhouse and arguably, the largest club in the world. They are certainly the most successful- Real Madrid. Aberdeen triumphed in the European Cup Winners Cup final in the 1982/83 season. Aberdeen are the only Scottish team to have won The European Super Cup, this was secured in 1983. The 83' match was against European Cup (now the Champions League) winners, German side Hamburg.
His success north of the border drew attention in the south. Manchester United was a real project. There was a drinking culture associated with the, then team. Like so many others during the 80's; though the United teams reputation for having a good time had particular notoriety. The gates were down and for a club of its size, United was a sleeping giant, not challenging for top honours but comfortably close to the top or else wallowing mid-table. The changes he introduced following his move from Aberdeen were radical. He had to rebuild the club from the ground up. This naturally took time. One of his first ports of call was to revolutionise the club’s youth system and expand the scouting network. The idea of building your own certainly paid off as a talented group of graduates dubbed “The Class of 92” were at the centre of Manchester United’s sustained success. These players (Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Philip Neville), played a vital role in that they knew the club inside out and upheld values. Their influence was keenly felt on and off the pitch.
Success was enjoyed nationally as seen in league titles and cup finals won. The Champions League, notoriously difficult to win was won in 1999 and 2008. The 1999 season was particularly special, it was a treble winning season and that team fully epitomised their manager with their never say die attitude and playing with flair and daring- they were true entertainers. It was fitting that Ferguson’s career ended in winning ways with the league title secured, wrestled back off rivals Manchester City. It was true Ferguson fashion that his final title race ebbed and flowed. So full of tension due to being up against main rival club Liverpool. Liverpool FC, dominated football in the 70’s and 80’s and remain the most decorated team in English football history (with respect to inclusion of their European record). He started out at United with the mission to break their domination and scuppered their resurgence.
It brought to the end almost forty years in football management. To continue for so long demonstrates his incredible ability to adapt, so much has changed in football and in the world. People too, if you compare even his early 90's sides with the side he left behind, you look at the contrast in the characters. Those 90's teams were highly combustible with 'proper men' and characters. Players like Keane, Robson, Ince, Cantona, Bruce and Schmeichel. Modern day footballers are softer, generally and it is a different approach that is needed to manage them. Then there's football having become a global game and the need to manage many internationals in one team. Not forgetting the money that is in the game nowadays, this really took off when Sky took over the Premier League and the sheer volume of money they plugged in. Money of course, filters down to the players and it is a whole different ball game to manage multi-millionaires. Money brought extras too such as the commercial responsibilities that have to be adhered to, which eat into time otherwise spent on just pure football. Ferguson always ensured that United be on the cutting edge when it came to advancements in training methods, rehabilitation and so on. Fitness demands, injury risks, speed the game is played at and the gruelling schedule of matches (internationals, friendlies and commercial matches too) means it is vital for everything to be done to keep these athletes at their peak mentally and physically. The training centre as well as being advanced was insular, a safe environment for players with no press intrusion. It was closed doors and it was vital to Ferguson that all business be conducted privately.
Achievements and How He Continues To Inspire
Alex Ferguson is presently still working, having hung up his managerial boots in 2013. He has presented a series of leadership lectures at Harvard University and has a book on that same topic that has only just been released. You need not be interested in sport to be inspired by Sir Alex Ferguson, his will and determination- belief got him a long way and from such humble beginnings too.
He has inspired and entertained a whole generation of football fans with his team's style of play and infamous never say die attitude which keeps one on the edge of their seat. It can and did feel like a roller-coaster ride watching his teams. Central to all of them was teamwork and that stands out so very much, such a unit and visible in all the teams he built. Often was the case that his teams were better than the sum of their parts. He mastered the squad game, his skill of managing people and mastery of psychology reflects how he managed to keep 25+ players happy, valued and part of it. He succeeded in getting absolutely everything from his players and they fought for him and eachother. As well as inspiring onlookers, he helped to build men and to forge their characters to become winners and as many of his former players and staff members allude to, become better people. A number of his former players have followed him into the difficult world of football management.
"At the end of this game, the European Cup will only be six feet away from you, and you'll not even be able to touch it if you lose. And for many of you, that is the closest you will ever get. Don't you dare come back in here without giving your all"
"Only true champions come out and show their worth in defeat- and I expect us to do that. I'm going to tell you a story about the geese which fly 5,000 miles from Canada to France. They fly in a v formation but the second ones don't fly. They're the sub's for the first ones. And then the second ones take over, so it is team-work."
Football Managerial Career Honours
Scottish First Division Title (1976/77)
Scottish Premier Division x3 (1979/80, 1983/84 & 194/85)
Scottish Cup x4 (1981/82, 1982/83, 1983/84 & 1985/86)
Scottish League Cup (1985/86)
Dryborough Cup (1980)
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (1982/83)
UEFA Super Cup (1983)
Premier League x13 (1992/93), (1993/94), (1995/96), (1996/97), (1998/99), (1999/2000), (2000/2001), (2002/03), (2006/07), (2007/08), (2008/09), (2010/11) & (2012/13)
FA Cup x5 (1989/1990), (1993/94), (1995/96), (1998/1999) & (2003/04)
Football League Cup x4 (1991/92), (2005/06), (2008/09) & (2009/10)
Community Shield (formerly Charity Shield) x10- Relatively minor, glorified pre-season friendly
UEFA Champions League x2 (1998/99) & (2007/08)
UEFA Cup Winners Cup (1990/1991)
UEFA Super Cup (1991)
Intercontinental Cup (1999)
FIFA Club World Cup (2008)