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Sir Alex Ferguson: How I created a winning mentality at Manchester United

by Leo Nieboer

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted that the avoidance of complacency was fundamental when it came to encouraging a winning mentality at Old Trafford.

The Scot won 27 major honours during his time as Man United, emphatically asserting himself as one of the greatest – arguably the greatest – managers of all time.

Ferguson departed Old Trafford in 2013 after delivering a 20th league title for United – the 13th Premier League title of his reign.

Speaking earlier this week, the 74-year-old insisted that avoiding complacency was crucial factor in the club’s unyielding success over his 26-year reign.

“With complacency, you do not see it happening, you do not see where it is coming from,” he said.

“But, when it hits you, you ­cannot get out of it, you can’t eradicate it. So that was an important part of how we constructed a winning mentality at Manchester United, to avoid complacency.

“Three or four players got old at the same time. I had to remember that I was manager of Manchester United, not their father and I had to go and tell them their time had come.

“Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Denis Irwin and Bryan Robson … it is very difficult to do. Some people might say it is ruthless but it is about loyalty to the club.”

Complacency is perhaps the most destructive of all faults that can plague a football side: a complacent team takes its foot off the gas; a complacent team assumes they’ll cruise to victory before succumbing to a smash-and-grab 0-1 defeat; a complacent team goes to sleep at a corner and concedes; a complacent team, as Ferguson notes, always falls short.

United under Ferguson were never complacent. Anything less than absolute ruthlessness was punished by omission and, on some occasions, public criticism. Indeed, complacency is a natural human trait, but Ferguson’s United weren’t human: Ferguson’s United were the stormtroopers, the faceless machine designed to do nothing but win, win, win and win again.

Ferguson’s ability to eradicate all forms of complacency for 27 years outweighs any managerial achievement in the modern game, and the world will always remember him for it.

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