When Manchester United won their 19th league title at Blackburn a few days ago, I was ecstatic on the phone with a friend of mine and couldn’t stop screaming. “It was the 19th. It was THE 19th.”
The Kop had finally run out of things to brag about. This was Manchester United’s time. Ryan Giggs had a superb season, Wayne Rooney found his touch towards the end, Vidic was a tough nut to crack in the back and Javier Hernandez was special, but it’s hard to imagine the Red Devils being here without their persistent, gum-chewing, wry manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
In an era where managers get fired every few years, here is a man who has been at the helm for a whopping 25 years and running. One of the most striking aspects of Ferguson’s longevity is the immense desire that seems to drive the man. Even today at 70, he manages to inspire the younger generation of Manchester United players.
Ask any United player from the the last two decades about Sir Alex, and the first thing they talk about is his phenomenal desire. However, such drive can often turn into an obsession, but somehow Ferguson has managed to keep it perfectly on the line. Therein lies his real charm.
Sir Alex has this uncanny ability of feeling extremely attached to desire, but very blunt and detached from the professional side of players. The man is so fiercely competitive that he even chucked his son since he couldn’t make the grade at United.
His ability to judge the shelf life of a certain player and his utility to the team is so acute that every time he does it, he leaves you in awe. Every time he rips apart a team by telling David Beckham, for instance, to step down and brings in someone like Ronaldo, his goal is very simple: winning.
While this might sound ruthless to many, the fact is he is completely focussed on doing what is best for the club. The fact is he is on good terms with most of the players at a personal level who have been given “the boot” from Fergie.
The constant distinctions that Ferguson makes between the professional and personal aspects of football, coupled with his judgmental instincts, are a crucial component that ascertain his credentials as the best in the business. This entire process of rejuvenating teams lies in his visionary approach to football.
One thing that seems to be a given is that Sir Alex will splash the cash this summer. He has the vision to understand that after being Champions, there needs to be an infusion of fresh blood to sustain the ‘desire’ factor in the players, which is the key to sustained success. He understands the practical need of a counter-attacking approach to attain success in Europe.
Furthermore, the emphasis that Ferguson places on the youth is part of this vision that he has for the club. Without this foundation that Ferguson laid in 1986, he would not have that era of Giggs, Scholes, Becks and the Neville brothers nor would he have been able to judge talent in the younger generation through the years.
Ferguson’s record 12 Premier League titles are a testimony to his relentless desire to be the best. His longevity can be linked to his ability to judge and rejuvenate his team.
It has often been said that man’s greatness lies in his thought. And that statement rings true when you talk about Ferguson. He dared to dream, set up an academy early and today, we see the results.
When the same friend called back, I asked him who he thinks is the greatest ever manager. He didn’t even think twice before saying in a convincing tone, “Sir Alex Ferguson‘s greatness among managers is like comparing Sachin Tendulkar with the rest of the batsmen, period.”
Well, that sums it all up, doesn’t it?