Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice for Manchester United players

by Tanveer Arayan

Sir Alex Ferguson has offered a piece of advice to Manchester United players when considering the future, outlining the importance of making their minds up early when it comes to deciding whether or not they want to pursue a managerial career once they retire from playing.

The Scot begun life as a manager at the age of 32, taking charge of East Stirlingshire just months after leaving Ayr United as a player.

Many former Man United players have gone on to manage at clubs around the world, with Stoke City boss Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce serving as examples.

And Ferguson, when asked about how players should conduct the transition from playing to managing, emphasised the importance of making up their minds early.

“When I came to United in 1986, I never thought for a minute I would last 27-and-a-half years. And that was done simply because I had the energy to do that,” he said. 

“I had great energy, and I sacrificed [a lot] – my kids would grow up with my wife, and the role she played was really important. I didn’t need any motivation. You don’t need motivation at Manchester United. The history of that club is enough. So I enjoyed a fantastic spell.

“Today I think a lot of players don’t make their mind up that they want to stay in the game until it’s too late. In other words, they don’t have a rounded preparation like I did. They maybe take their badges at 32, 33 and then they expect to be managers two or three years later.

“It’s a result industry. It’s a serious result industry. You have to win games. And if you don’t have the proper preparation like I did, and a lot of coaches did, you’re going to suffer.

“It’s a very, very difficult industry. And of course the other side, as opposed to when I started, was that you have different owners. They have owners from all over the world, with different ambitions — there’s a lack of patience in that respect. But you really need to be prepared to stay in the game. That’s the most important message I could give them all.”

Jose Mourinho, funnily enough, fulfilled the demands outlined by Sir Alex here when approaching life as a manager. The Portuguese spent 13 years after leaving Comércio e Indústria occupying various coaching roles before receiving his first job as a manager in 2000, working, learning and adapting at Vitória de Setúbal, Porto and Barcelona before taking the reigns at Benfica.

This is the reality of football management: many players seek jobs almost immediately after collecting their coaching badges and find themselves out of their depth as a result. Mourinho – just like Sir Alex – played the long game, and this is exactly what the likes of Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes – who have all expressed a desire to manage in the future – should keep in mind going forward.

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