48 trophies, a knighthood from the queen and a variety of accolades from peers and players alike. Management careers in soccer don’t come much better than Sir Alex Ferguson’s.
So successful is he, that even Europe’s bright managerial upstart José Mourinho refers to him as ‘The Boss’ and he pretty much disrespects everyone and everything. Furthermore, esteemed academics are keen to pick his brains, Harvard Business School recently inviting him for a range of talks on management.
Clearly then, even outside the sphere of soccer Alex Ferguson’s got a lot to teach on success. Casting an eye over his career and some of his quotes, here’s some things you can learn from the success of ‘Fergie’ (Not to be confused with The Black Eyed Peas Singer…)
Dream big, constantly
Raised in a tenement in a poor area of Glasgow, few could have foreseen Ferguson’s rise to becoming the greatest British manager of all time…other than probably Ferguson.
Watching his father toil in a gritty Glasgow dockyard for a meagre return, the young Ferguson was enveloped by ‘a determination to make something of himself‘ and, as such, focused on the most accessible avenue out of an existence of industrial exertion; Soccer.
Whereas others around him succumbed to their bleak surroundings and accepted their place in society, Ferguson sought more. As he still does to the present day.
Work harder than anyone else
Ferguson’s work ethic is legendary. Even at the ripe old age of 71 he’s at Manchester United’s training ground at 7am, every day of the week.
This is something he instils in his players, too, demanding that they ‘work harder than anyone else’. Step out of line and refuse to abide to his philosophy, then they’re out. A litany of players are testament to that.
As Manchester United’s trophy cabinet illustrates, this hard working philosophy is one that certainly pays off.
Seek and surround yourself with winners
Like all successful people, Ferguson hates losing. He seeks this trait in every player or member of staff he brings into club and, as such, has achieved unparalleled success.
Through sourcing players who share his hatred of defeat, he’s created a winning culture at Manchester United that’ll remain long after he retires as manager. It’s often said that his sides never know when they’re beaten, the best example of this perhaps being their European Cup win in 1999.
Trailing 1-0 and outplayed for the entirety of the game, in injury time they dramatically scored two goals, claiming the trophy. Despite being second best all game, his side never succumbed to defeat, as they seldom have in his managerial reign.
Persevere and retain self-belief
As British football folklore goes, Ferguson was once perilously close to the sack at Manchester United. Fans, journalists and board members reportedly growing weary of his team’s lacklustre performances during the 89-90 season.
Speaking of this season, Ferguson describes it as ‘the darkest period he’d ever suffered in the game’ yet he maintained his convictions and stuck to his guns, backing his players and himself to see this bleak period through.
They did and Ferguson’s perseverance saw them rewarded with the first of many trophies come season end, thus beginning a dominance of English soccer that continues to this day. When others doubted him, Ferguson believed in himself and persevered, winning the naysayers over.
In his time as Manchester United manager, Ferguson’s seen off countless challenges. Key to this has been his ability to constantly evolve and adapt his management style.
Arsene Wenger brought his first major challenge in 1996. He revolutionised British football introducing continental training sessions and imposing strict new diets on his playing squad. This led to Arsenal winning the 1997 title, leaving Ferguson in no doubt that he needed to freshen things up and change his management philosophy.
He embraced the growing role of sports science in soccer and brought in a raft of new players, this sowing the seeds for Manchester United’s trophy treble in 1999, a feat unmatched by any other British side.
Where rival managers have come and gone, Ferguson’s remained in place. Thanks, largely, to his ability to adapt and evolve both his management style and team. As many soccer journalists will concur, this has perhaps been the biggest key to his longevity.
That’s probably the biggest lesson you can take from Ferguson; Never rest on your laurels and continuously seek to improve and learn from others.