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Fergie's code: Cross me and you're dead

Last night football manager Alex Ferguson waxed lyrical about the secret of his success as he was made an honorary patron of Trinity College Dublin's Philosophical Society.

Ferguson (68) greeted hordes of students as he entered the Graduates Memorial Building to a standing ovation last night.

By turns witty and charming, he displayed his no-nonsense attitude for keeping stars in line.

"Control is very, very important because if I lost control of all these multi-millionaires in my dressing room -- I'm dead . . . So if anyone steps out of my control -- they're dead," he declared.

Having seen numerous talents come through the ranks during his 23-year tenure with Man United, he is still top dog.

"The most important person in Manchester United is the manager," he said.

And he defended the astronimical salaries earned by his players, saying "they deserve it".

The Scot dismissed the "tattoos and earrings" of the modern footballing fraternity and was critical of how many young goal-scorers celebrate by "knocking players out of the road for self-adulation".

"Over the years, I've learned to handle success and treat it very lightly. One day you're a hero, the next . . . I'm more concerned about how the players react to success, I always will be, that's part of my job," he added.

Alex told how, during his early playing career, he had become disillusioned with the game and was ready to emigrate to Toronto in Canada when he suddenly got the opportunity to play in the first team of his club, St Johnstone.

"I scored a hat-trick against Rangers, it changed my life . . . I seized the opportunity of a break and changed my future. I could have gone to Toronto and you'd not have heard of me.

"You must never miss the golden opportunity, it will be presented to you at some point in life. I've missed some opportunities in my life, but I didn't miss the most important one," he added.

Irish Independent