Marking Mancunian mastery
Back in 1999, roughly halfway through his reign at Manchester United, the newly-knighted Sir Alex Ferguson granted FourFourTwo a rare interview at United’s then training ground, The Cliff. In it he speaks about the future of his Treble-winning team, how he stays motivated after achieving so much, and what he looks for in a player.
Talking openly of “the family feel” at United, Fergie acknowledges how his authority had been established through “time and control”. Clearly he recognises the value of continuity within the team and club: “The one thing a player always respects is when he knows the manager is going to be his manager the next day.”
However, when a team struggles, uncertainty about a manager’s future “dilutes the control of the whole place.” It is a feeling that he admits to experiencing first-hand, thinking back to his darkest days in 1989 and describing “the unavoidable feeling, percolating throughout the team and the club” that his influence was on the wane.
The interview is a fascinating look back on an exciting time at United, especially with the benefit of hindsight. Ferguson speaks of how the club expected “the likes of Scholes and Butt and Beckham and the Nevilles and Giggs to be peaking in the next five years.”
On the other hand, Ferguson’s attitude towards wages shows how different things were at the tail-end of the last century. Noting how "until this summer United's wage structure limited its players’ basic pay to around a million pounds a year” – now roughly a month's wage for Wayne Rooney – he fears being left behind financially by Italian clubs, perhaps not envisaging the financial power rival English clubs would come to wield.
Ferguson's somewhat guarded approach to the media means that in-depth interviews with this managerial legend have been scarce. It's a fascinating piece, yet another we've uploaded from the magazine to the ever-expanding online archive. Enjoy…
Sir Alex Ferguson speaks to FourFourTwo, Nov 1999
FFT's interview archive
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