The Blog

Sir Alex Into Fergie Time

There are many great Britons who in the eyes of Winston Churchill, 'made the weather,' on route to their success. There is only one great Briton though who has been able to make time, specifically 'Fergie time'.

There are many great Britons who in the eyes of Winston Churchill, 'made the weather,' on route to their success. There is only one great Briton though who has been able to make time, specifically 'Fergie time'.

There have been few Britons in any sphere in recent times that have had more success than Sir Alex Ferguson. The statistics speak for themselves. Manager of Manchester United for 26 straight years and 1500 games. That kind of longevity and stability is unparalleled amongst his rivals both domestic and European.

The 71-year-old Scot has remained securely in his post; the last speculation over his job security was in 1990, 38 trophies have been won since then. Every other Premier League Club Manger has either been sacked or been the subject of tortuous media speculation. Not Sir Alex though.

How was it all possible? Well through hard bloody work mainly. English football is completely unrecognisable from what it was in 1986 when Sir Alex first took the helm at United. It's one of the world's greatest industries; football is unavoidable in the modern world. It has powers and influence that extend beyond other sports.

Manchester United themselves; a club of great success along with great tragedy are now a global brand.

They are a business, and businesses must move forward, especially those listed on the New York Stock Exchange. This makes the stability provided by Sir Alex all the more vital, a lesser man would have crumbled under the weight of expectation and responsibility placed on their shoulders.

Sir Alex, along with his squads over the years has also seen his job transformed. Many of the modern day managers in the Premier League come from Spain or Italy and are much more consultant type managers, solely based on the team and strategy. Sir Alex in contrast controlled everything, from the brand, to spotting talent, right up to the player's pre-match meal.

His greatest asset lay in his man management. The ability to be respected as well as feared by multi-millionaire players is not to be underestimated. A point proven by the world's richest sportsman, David Beckham who likened Sir Alex to a 'father figure' during his time growing up at the club. Of course there relationship was not without incident. Sir Alex once accidentally kicked a boot into Beckham's face before shortly before booting Beckham out of the club for his celebrity tendencies and status, reaffirming the club as a business.

As a businessman, Sir Alex was equally talented as he set out to achieve greater performances from his players and staff per pound. Season after season, Manchester United regularly spent a lower proportion of their revenues on wages than any other club in the Premier League.

Sir Alex's success and leadership style has made him an alluring figure outside of the world of football. His methods are studied by politicians and businessmen who are looking to achieve success in their own right.

Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alistair Campbell noted in his diaries the links that Sir Alex had. At one point he expressed extreme concern around the Iraq War over the phone to Blair. It is absolutely incredible to think that the manager of a football team has such connections.

It raises an interesting question however. Can our elected leaders learn from Sir Alex's exploits at Manchester United and replicate his unparalleled success?

During Sir Alex's reign at United, English football became the world's best system and paid the most money. Between 1992 and 2010, average wages in the Premier League rose by 1500%. An undoubted catalyst for Sir Alex's success was his enthusiastic embrace of globalisation, something that many in the political world are still uncomfortable with.

Having arrived at Old Trafford, Sir Alex's squad was made up of primarily of home grown talent. He leaves behind a squad with players coming from a dozen countries from around the world.

This liberal immigration policy was combined with a superb domestic education system, guiding young players through the ranks and into the first team. The graduates of this system include David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers (no relation) who formed the foundation of the Manchester United team for several years.

Today's politicians are right to take note.

One politician bearing many similarities to Sir Alex is the late Margaret Thatcher, although as a red in both politics and sport, he would not appreciate this comparison. Both possessed a relentless drive that helped them achieve global success, whilst making Britain great.

Sir Alex would do well not to make the same mistake as Lady Thatcher and not be seen to idle at the scene of so many victories and iconic moments, but he has instead taken up a role as a Director at Manchester United where he can mentor his successor David Moyes. Up to his old tricks, harrowing the officials, he says now is the right time to retire, but his watch still says 6 minutes left.

These relationships hardly ever work though, it might be better to accept 'Fergie time' is up.