“Can you do a piece on Fergie’s 25 years, mate? Seeing as you’ve seen them all? Not saying you’re old or anything lol” was the persuasive message I got our from our chief Justin Mottershead earlier in the week to do something on our boss.
There are a million and one articles on Sir Alex’s anniversary out there today. Every man and his dog have put great pieces together giving a run down on how he came in 25 years ago, we’d not won the league in 18 years, it took him four years to win his first trophy, he nearly got the boot before that, and the success he’s had in the Premiership and Europe ever since.
Rather than add another one in to the mix, I wanted to take a look at what is maybe the main reason why we’re able to sit here today, 25 years later, reading these accounts in celebration of a great man.
Alex Ferguson arrived in Manchester after successfully knocking Rangers and Celtic off their respective perches north of the border with Aberdeen. The league and European success he engineered up there due to hard work and no nonsense was the ethic that hadn’t been seen at Old Trafford for years. He came to a club of ‘nearly men’ who although were good, were well short of the qualities needed to oust Liverpool from their status as the country’s leading football club.
Predecessor Ron Atkinson had a management style of ‘I’ll be your mate’ and ‘it’s all about camaraderie’ which meant his group of exceedingly talented players had a good team spirit, and maybe a relaxed attitude to everything else. Wasting opportunities of what should have been better times. The card schools and the drinking clubs of the Atkinson years are well documented by media and former players who look back on that time with fondness, but fondness is all they have. Most of them don’t have the medals to look back on. When Fergie came in, this was going to change. Big style. And if you weren’t ready to adapt, you were heading for the door. Mr Ferguson was here for a good time…built from success, built from hard work and nothing else.
A winning mentality, hunger and desire to succeed have been the driving force for the Manchester United we know today. You can work on the assumption that the boss makes United successful because his players fear losing. The ‘hairdryer’ at half time is what players are scared of and as a result United players make sure they win matches. But you need to look a lot deeper than that to not dis-credit the most successful British manager in the game.
Norman Whiteside played for the reds pre-Ferguson, and during the early years of his reign. In his autobiography Detemined: The Autobiography, he perfectly sums up the change of philosophy that came in on November 6th, 1986:
“Ron was an old-school motivator, full of enthusiasm and encouragement but not one who would endlessly drill us on set plays or put on a coaching master class to outline his defensive theory…His whole philosophy was ‘we are Manchester United. Let’s not worry about what they are going to do. Let them worry about us.’ When Fergie came in he would have the opposition watched three or four times and would come out with all sorts of intricate instructions, for example: ‘In three successive games between the sixty-fifth and seventieth minutes, their left-back began to tire because he had made too many runs. I want you to start hitting that channel in the seventieth minute’. His level of preparation was such that anyone would look bad when measured up against him. Ron never gave a hoot about anything like that.”
Sir Alex’s successful 25 years hasn’t been down to just picking the right teams, opening the chequebook, and dishing out bollockings left, right and centre. He’s a grafter. An intelligent grafter, and us fans often forget the extent to which he goes to, to ensure we sit there and enjoy the fruits of his labour for 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon.
Fergie has been the manager of Manchester United Football Club. He’s not concentrated his efforts on solely the first team as Atkinson did, or as Mourinho does at every club he manages. Atkinson would rely on coaches and the rest of the staff to run the other areas of the club. But Sir Alex has overseen the youth set up, the reserves, the scouting, and he’s has had huge input in to the club’s training facilities and the modern day Old Trafford. He absorbed the traditions of the football club since the day he arrived, rebuilt it from the very foundations, and the standards we have at Manchester United throughout is down to him, and his work. Solid hard work. And everyone he employs has to take on that work ethic, otherwise you don’t deserve to be part of it. I hope that he is around for many years to come, and when it does come to us appointing his successor we need the best person able to take the club on.
He deserves the tributes, he deserves the accolades, he deserves the knighthoods and stands named after him. And he deserves a hell of a lot more! Sometimes you realise that as much as every single one of us loves Alex Ferguson, we don’t half take what he does for us for granted!
Sir Alex…for the last 25 years. Thank you.
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You can buy Norman Whiteside’s awesome autobiography “Determined” by clicking here