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25 reasons why Sir Alex Ferguson is the greatest manager of all time

Posted on 6 November 2011 | 4:11pm

Fiona and I are on the way to Manchester for a dinner to celebrate Alex Ferguson’s 25th anniversary as Manchester United manager. Partly in response to a few tweets and messages asking why I hadn’t blogged on this milestone, and partly because it will help the journey speed by, I thought I would give you 25 reasons, in no particular order, why he is like he is, and some of the qualities that have made him the greatest manager of all time.

1. He is obsessed about winning. Especially trophies.

2. He gets to work early.

3. He loves people, including difficult ones.

4. He loves young people, and doesn’t mind being challenged by them.

5. He is fascinated by change, and adapts to it well.

6. He is a control freak who pays attention to detail.

7. He has strong adherence to his roots, and the values he grew up with.

8. He has an abiding love for his deceased parents.

9. His wife Cathy and their three sons are strong characters who ensure there is no risk of his feet leaving the ground.

10 He would cite his brother Martin as perhaps his closest friend.

11. He is not scared of big decisions.

12. He has a phenomenal memory.

13. He has a hinterland away from football – books, music, film, history, travel, horses, wine.

14. He reads widely, and applies lessons in leadership from history and politics to his own leadership position.

15. He is not scared of big characters, and doesn’t employ yes-men in his Old Trafford inner team.

16. He inspires loyalty by showing loyalty.

17. He goes to more funerals than anyone I have ever met, apart from ministers.

18. He has strong opinions and is never scared to voice them.

19. He is a good delegator.

20. He never underestimates opponents.

21. He came up the hard way – he has been at Manchester United so long people tend to forget his long managerial apprenticeship in Scotland, including his brilliant spell at Aberdeen.

22. He knows every member of the MUFC staff by name, and knows most of their life stories too.

23. He virtually designed the Carrington training complex which has been central to the club’s success.

24. He eats well.

25. He genuinely likes the supporters.

All a bit random, and the minute I press ‘publish’, I will think of something else I should have said, but it’ll do for now.

Oh, PS, he’s Labour … Must have been a reason I think.

PPS -a million thanks to another legendary Scot, Billy Connolly, who is tonight raising funds for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research at the Criterion Theatre. There are not many people or events who could get me to miss that, but Alex and his anniversary are among them. Billy C follows Mel Brooks, Stephen Fry, Michael Palin and Kevin Spacey in this regular arts events series we started a few years ago. Thanks to our good friend twitter, we sold out in less than a day, the theatre isn’t charging us a penny, so it is win-win-win and we are hugely in the Big Yin’s debt.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Sir Alex is an outstanding character, no doubt about it.
    But having a club like Man Utd to manage helps. In my books the greatest manager of all time is Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electric between 1981-2001.
    In football I would go for Dario Gradi of Crewe Alexandra (between 1983-2007). He launched careers of David Platt, Rob Jones, Geoff Thomas, Danny Murphy, Dean Ashton etc.
    And he had no money to spend.

  • Pip

    Great insight, his achievements will only increase in impact in years to come. As usual with high profile figures their story is much more down to earth than thier public persona

  • Ehtch

    Also remember the great job he did as the boss at Aberdeen before Manc U – took them places competing with the Glasgow’s big two.

  • Alex Gallagher

    Aberdeen’s not really hardship y’know….

    you forgot honesty btw….

  • Chris lancashire

    And here’s one why he’s not: he is the worst example of sportsmanship anywhere – persistently bullying referees and attempting to undermine opponents. Undeniably the most successful manager of recent times but “greatest”? He isn’t in the same league as Busby, Shankly or Clough not to mention Guardiola.

  • Robrob2002

    Worth reading a great article in this month’s World Sccer magazine by Patrick Barclay.
    Conclusion is that Ferguson isn’t even ManUtd’s greatest manager – never mind the greatest manager ever!

  • Quinney

    A typicallly deluded bitter blue. Sir Matt built two teams, SAFhas built four, Sir Matt won one European Cup, SAF has won two and got to two finals as well.
    Shanks won no European Cups and Cloughie did win two and also won the league with different clubs.
    SAF has won the lot including doubles, eleven league titles and one treble, he has won trophies in the modern era, as Bobby Robson once asked “How do you motivate millionaires?” SAF manages it constantly.
    As a United fan obviously I’m biased but Alex does have, IMHO faults but don’t we all?

  • Chris lancashire

    Not blue and not bitter. You can count as many trophies as you wish it doesn’t detract from the fact thatSir Alex remains a narrow minded tribalistic man who will use every ruse, some underhand, to destabilise opponents. Generosity of spirit and fair play are concepts completely alien to him. Keep counting but he will never make the Busby-Shankly league.

  • Jbmcfadden66

    He encourages his players to cheat,thats the main reason he isn’t one of the greats, another is that the premiership is rubbish and he would not have won trophies in any other major european nation.