Search icon


14th Apr 2018

Owen Hargreaves’ story about Alex Ferguson’s envelope really captures the Scot’s managerial genius

Matthew Gault

Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson hated losing more than anything.

Not only did Fergie thrive on winning, he loathed failing. Luckily, his 27 years or so in charge of Manchester United brought more success than failure.

But not only did the Scot have that singular desire to succeed, he drilled it into his players. Time and time again. Ferguson rebuilt United teams several times over and there was always a common thread: never accept failure.

It’s what marked United out as the best team in the Premier League throughout the 1990s and for much of the 2000s before Fergie retired in 2013.

And any insight into how Ferguson worked with his players is always fascinating. Speaking on BT Sport’s Premier League Tonight programme, Owen Hargreaves did just that.

The pundit played under Ferguson for four seasons after signing from Bayern Munich in 2007 and, although the former midfielder’s time at Old Trafford was ravaged by injury, Fergie’s influence has clearly left an indelible mark.

“I remember when I first signed for United, we were in Asia somewhere, pre-season. He said we have all these players from all different countries, we should win the league and the Champions League. And he had an envelope and had some names in it.

“He said ‘there are some names in here of people I think are going to let us down. Make sure your name is not in here. And everybody ran out of the room and basically tackled through the door not wanting to let the gaffer down. That’s what he did well, he made you want to not fail him because you didn’t want to disappoint him.” 

This stroke of psychological manipulation clearly had an impact on his squad. United won the league and Champions League during Hargreaves’ first season at the club. They all played a part that year, from Cristiano Ronaldo’s prolific goalscoring to Hargreaves himself, who played all 120 minutes of the Champions League final against Chelsea, scoring United’s fourth penalty in the shootout en route to a famous European triumph.

You can watch Hargreaves discussing Ferguson below.

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?