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Ferguson: Secrets of my success

ALEX FERGUSON has offered a remarkable window on the motivation and methods he has used over three extraordinary decades of success at Old Trafford in a lecture to students at the Harvard Business School in Boston.

Asked by the organisers of the event to explain the secrets behind his remarkable life as manager of Manchester United, he delved deep to give more insights in a day than he has done in 40 years of press conferences.

His talk ranged from pre-match team talks all the way through to the two men, José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, seen as the most likely to replace him when the time finally comes to quit.


Champions League v Premier League

"It's difficult to marry the two competitions in one season. We are in a country where tribalism is rife. There is strong competition between regions and top clubs, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham based in London, two clubs here in Manchester, and Liverpool.

"That puts tremendous pressure on you to win your league. But the European Cup is the biggest trophy.

"Last season, when we went out in the group phase, I made a mistake. I was playing a lot of the young players. Although that had worked in the past we got careless in our games.

"It was a shock, because it was only the third time I've not qualified for the knockout stage. I decided I wouldn't be taking the risks I took in Europe last year."

Fergie on...

The Glazers and longevity

"The Glazers decide. They have generally been very supportive and are very low-key. If I owned United and they won the league, I would be over the moon.

"I remember when I played with Rangers, when the directors were under the shower with their clothes on, dancing about.

"But the Glazers shook a few hands and had some photographs taken, that was it.

"Some English clubs have changed managers so many times that it creates power for the players in the dressing room.

"That is very dangerous. Football management in the end is all about the players. You think you are a better player than they are, and they think they are a better manager than you are."


Manchester City

"I've still got a wee bit of anger in me, thinking of how we threw the league away last season.

"It was another day in the history of Manchester United. That's all it was. It created the drama that only United can produce.

"Who would have thought that Blackburn, bottom of the league, would beat us 3-2 at Old Trafford? Or that Everton would draw with us when we were up 4-2 with seven minutes to go?

"My motivation to the players will be that we can't let City beat us twice in a row."


Mourinho and Guardiola

"José is very intelligent, he has charisma, his players play for him, and he is a good-looking guy. I think I have most of those things, too, apart from his good looks.

"He's got a confidence about himself, saying, 'We'll win this' and 'I'm the Special One'. I could never come out and say we're going to win this game. It's maybe a wee bit of my Scottishness.

"Guardiola is an impressive guy. He's brought about change in Barcelona, urging the team to always work hard to get the ball back within seconds after losing it.

"They are gifted but work hard. It was a fantastic achievement. He elevated the status of his players."



"Players these days have lived more sheltered lives, so they are much more fragile now than 25 years ago. I was very aggressive all those years ago. I am passionate and want to win all the time.

"But today I'm more mellowed -- age does that to you. And I can better handle those more fragile players now.

"Some players have a bit of evil in them. One of my players has been sent off several times. He will do something if he gets the chance -- even in training.

"Can I take it out of him? No. Would I want to take it out of him? No. If you take the aggression out of him, he is not himself.

"There is no room for criticism on the training field. For a player -- and for any human being -- there is nothing better than hearing 'well done'. Those are the two best words ever invented in sports.


The Hairdryer

"You can't always come in shouting and screaming.

"That doesn't work. No one likes to get criticised. But in the football dressing room, it's necessary that you point out your players' mistakes.

"I do it right after the game. I don't wait until Monday.

"If they misbehave, we fine them, but we keep it indoors.

"And if anyone steps out of my control, that's them dead.

"When I work with the biggest talents, I tell them that hard work is a talent, too.

"They need to work harder than anyone else. I am only interested in players who really want to play for United, and who, like me, are bad losers.

"You have to get the game out of your system quickly or it becomes an obsession.

"Win, lose, or draw, we show our face and keep our dignity.

"We are Manchester United."