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Man United: Sir Alex Ferguson reveals dressing room secrets

Football News 24/7
It might seem an unlikely setting, but In the widest-ranging interview of the past decade, Sir Alex Ferguson last night broke his code of silence to academics from the prestigious Harvard Business School in Boston.Ferguson revealed the dressing room secrets that have kept him at the top for a quarter of a century to a spellbound audience..

The Scot, who turns 71 on New Year’s Eve, even did a 40-minute stint in the classroom during a recent trip to the USA.

As reported in the Daily Mirror, Ferguson discussed his determination to keep his team from leaking out until the last minute, the key to ensuring there is no resentment from players who are admitted, the core values he demands and that he must address the toughest issues head-on and never second-guess himself, with the killer maxim: “Never go to bed with doubt.”

But his explanation of his attitude, determination and commitment to making United number one all over again shone through as he laid himself up for analysis by one of the world’s leading institutions.

Ferguson said: “Some managers are ‘pleasing managers’. They let the players play 8-a-sides or 10-a-sides - games they enjoy.

“We look at the training sessions as opportunities to learn and improve. The players may think ‘Here we go again’ but it helps to win. The message is simple: we cannot sit still at this club.

“There is no room for criticism on the training field. For a player - and for any human being - there is nothing better than hearing ‘well done’. Those are the two best words ever invented in sports. You don’t need to use superlatives.”

Ferguson, a manager since taking over at East Stirlingshire 1974, clocked up 26 years at Old Trafford last month and accepted he has had to change and adapt himself to ensure the maximum response.

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“Players these days have lived more sheltered lives, so they are much more fragile now than 25 years ago,” he added.

“I was very aggressive all those years ago. I am passionate and want to win all the time.

“But today I’m more mellowed - age does that to you. And I can better handle those more fragile players now.”

Not that all players are fragile. Ferguson talked of dealing with players who “have a bit of evil in them” and appeared to have Paul Scholes in mind as he went on: “One of my players has been sent off several times.

“He will do something if he gets the chance - even in training.

“Can I take it out of him? No. Would I want to take it out of him? No. If you take the aggression out of him, he is not himself.

“So you have to accept that there is a certain flaw that is counterbalanced by all the great things he can do.”

For Ferguson, it is about trust, not fear. Although, as he conceded, you can never trust players too much. And must be prepared to remind them who is boss.

“You can’t always come in shouting and screaming,” he said. “That doesn’t work. No one likes to get criticised.

“But in the football dressing room, it’s necessary that you point out your players’ mistakes.

“I do it right after the game. I don’t wait until Monday, I do it, and it’s finished. I’m onto the next match. There is no point in criticizing a player forever.

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Ferguson continued: “You can’t ever lose control - not when you are dealing with thirty top professionals who are all millionaires.

“If they misbehave, we fine them, but we keep it indoors. And if anyone steps out of my control, that’s them dead.”

No room for doubt there, either, with Ferguson suggesting he was as tough with Wayne Rooney - or Cristiano Ronaldo in the past - as any of the youngsters trying to make a mark.

“When I work with the biggest talents, I tell them that hard work is a talent, too,” Ferguson added. “They need to work harder than anyone else. And if they can no longer bring the discipline that we ask for here at United, they are out.

“I am only interested in players who really want to play for United, and who, like me, are ‘bad losers’.

“You have to get the game out of your system quickly or it becomes an obsession. Win, lose, or draw. We show our face, and keep our dignity. We are Manchester United.”

And to ensure they are Manchester United, Fergie believes he must make his players trust his decisions - even if they are not happy with them.

“We never reveal the team to the players until the day of the game,” he said. “For a three o’clock game, we tell them at one o’clock and before that I speak to the players I’ve left out.

“I do it privately. It’s not easy, but I do them all myself. It is important. I have been dropped from a Cup Final in Scotland as a player at ten past two, so I know what it feels like.

“I’m not ever sure what they are thinking, but I tend to say ‘Look, I might be making a mistake here,’ - I always say that - ‘but I think this is the best team for today’.

“I try to give them a bit of confidence, telling them that it is only tactical, and that there are bigger games coming up.

“But I believe you must make quick decisions and move on. Why should I go to my bed with a doubt?”

“Every season, I always tell the players that if we are within three points from the top come New Year’s Day, we’ve got a great chance at the title. I never say we will win the league, but I would be very disappointed if we did not seriously contend for it.

“So I work sometimes two games ahead - I might rest key players for a game that may be less important.

“There is a risk element in doing that, and it can backfire, but you have to accept that. You have to trust your squad.”


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