Former Manchester United coach explains exactly why Alex Ferguson was so successful
Sir Alex Ferguson success in management stretched across four decades. Before becoming the diving force behind Manchester United's period of unprecedented dominance, he broke up the Old Firm duopoly with Aberdeen, winning three Scottish titles, four Scottish Cups and the Cup Winners Cup.
That success in Europe, achieved with a final victory over Real Madrid, was a big part in United recruiting Ferguson in 1986.
It took him five years to win a trophy at United, and seven years to bring the league title back to Old Trafford, but Ferguson would oversee a spell of success the likes of which English football may never witness again.
When he retired in 2013, Ferguson had helped United win 13 league titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, two European Cups and the Cup Winners Cup. His teams played exciting, attacking football, with a mix of skill, flair, steel and tactical nous, maverick players and youth team graduates.
It is difficult to pinpoint one exact facet of Ferguson that enabled him to bring so much success to United. Many have pointed to his to strong personality, and ability to inspire performances from players through a mixture of fear and loyalty.
However, the Scot would not have lasted as United manager for 26 years if he had deployed such a one-dimensional approach. Rene Meulensteen, a former United first-team coach, has detailed seven aspects of Ferguson that enabled him to bring such success to the club in an interesting article for Training Ground Guru.
According to Meulensteen, the keys to Ferguson's success were - "vision", "delegating", "creating the right environment", "always adapting", "being decisive", "belief" and "humour".
The former Fulham manager said Ferguson was always planning ahead, committed to a certain way of playing and always willing to give young footballers a chance.
"He was always a big advocate of youth. That meant investing in youth facilities and policies, but also giving opportunities. If ever he had chance to bring a homegrown player into the first team, he would do it."
Meulensteen said the former United manager was in control, but willingly delegated, and trusted his team to do their jobs. He was an excellent man-manager, who made people feel comfortable, which enabled them to express themselves. The Dutch coach says Ferguson also remained in touch with changes within football, and was willing to adapt.
Meulensteen also spoke about Ferguson's unwavering belief in his teams.
"He always said, 'our approach is 75/25 -75% about us, 25% about the opposition. Because we are Man United.' It was about always reinforcing how good we were, how strong we were. A lot of teams do the opposite, showing clips of the opposition and making them look so good that you think ‘wow, what are we up against here?’"
And finally, Meulensteen said that Ferguson, rather than being a dour authoritarian, as he was often depicted, is actually a funny man, with an infectious sense of humour.
"If one thing stands out from my time at Man United it was the amount of laughs we had. We laughed every single day. Sir Alex had an unbelievable sense of humour. After he left he had a hip operation and I went to see him at his house. He said, ‘it’s only now I realise how unique it was.’"
When Ferguson was asked by Dave Brailsford, the British cycling coach, what was the secret to his longevity, the Scot replied: "Get rid of the c****."
Meulensteen's reflections show there was a bit more to it than that. You can read the full interview here.