Alex Ferguson is without a doubt one of the best, if not the best Football Mangers of all time. His team won 38 trophies in his 26 years leading Manchester United. Whilst he is most widely recognised for his role in leading Manchester United, he also led St Mirren and Aberdeen to glory. He even won European Competitions with Aberdeen in the 1980s, something any knowledgeable football fan knows is practically inconceivable. He is regarded as a great leader and one that knows how to get a team to succeed. In his book Leading by Alex Ferguson, he shares his knowledge along with some fascinating behind the scenes stories about how he did this. So, what can we learn from this book?
Take a step back and look at the bigger picture
In his early career, Ferguson was extremely hands on, he would manage every single training session himself. He wanted to be in the middle of the session focusing on all the small details. However, his assistant Archie Knox suggested rather than being involved in the session himself, he should step back and just watch the training session. This was a turning point in Alex Fergusons career. When he was coaching, he was watching the ball along with everyone else. But when he took a step back, he could see the whole picture. This allowed him to see the overall patterns of behaviour, attitude, energy levels, body language. He could see whether those off the ball were leaving too much space, or not enough and allowed him to focus on ensuring the whole team were doing the right thing at the right time and not just the person with the ball.
Build for the long term
Ferguson was always focused on the long term. If you look at his history of bringing in new players, he very rarely brought in the finished article. When you think of Manchester United, you may naturally think of players like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Wayne Rooney, but you need to remember they were not world class players when they joined Alex Ferguson. David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and dozens of others were youth team players groomed to become world class under his guidance. Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Manchester United as an 18-year-old kid with potential and became the most valuable football player in the world. Wayne Rooney joined as another 18-year-old and went on to be England’s leading goal scorer of all time. He very rarely looked for a short-term fix and always focused on building a team for the long term and invested heavily in the team’s development.
A team covers each other’s weaknesses
Another key lessons from Fergusons teams is that you need a diverse team who bring different things for the table. For everyone Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, there is a Wes Brown, Nicky Butt and John O’Shea. You cannot win by just having one type of player play in one type of position. You require a diverse group of individuals all playing their part in order for the team to succeed. Without the less glamourous players performing the essentials, the superstars cannot thrive and vice versa.