Sir Alex Ferguson has been talking about the mentality required to be successful in big matches such as Manchester United’s trip to Liverpool today.
Ferguson was in a zoom conference with Jurgen Klopp, Sir Kenny Dalglish and Gareth Southgate for the Team Talk with Legends charity event (via The Athletic) and was the first to confirm the importance of the fixture.
‘I always regarded it as the game of the season,’ he said.
‘The two most successful teams in Britain. It is obvious you have to beat Liverpool to win anything. That was the case when I arrived at Manchester United.
‘In reality, it is the game. I have always had respect for Liverpool. I used to go down and watch them in European ties many years ago.
‘Liverpool’s success of the 70s and 80s was phenomenal. To do that it meant having to wait, building the club instead of building a team. Eventually, it turned out fantastic.
‘Now I’m retired — thank goodness I’m retired actually! When I see Liverpool’s performance the last two years: phenomenal.’
The great man went on to say that having a winning mentality was just as important as having the most skillful players.
‘If you don’t have a winning toughness in the dressing room, you have absolutely no chance in this game of football. You need to inspire them to be brave all the time,’ he mused.
‘There are some players who are not born with the natural talent of Ronaldo, Giggs, Scholes, or Kenny Dalglish or Graeme Souness. But there’s something inside them that makes them the best.
‘There is a drive in there, inside their stomach, that makes them perform when they really need to.’
Sir Alex believed that United’s current manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was one such player and that he has what it takes to bring United back to their best.
‘He used to take down all the training sessions. As a sub, he would watch the game all the time.
‘Sometimes subs will look around the stadium, chat to each other. Solskjaer? Always on the game.’
Ferguson also talked about his infamous ‘hairdryer treatment’ and when and how it should be administered, admitting that it would not be so easy with modern footballers.
‘The issue of losing your temper, you can only do it for the right reasons.
‘One, is to remind the players of the expectation of playing for Manchester United. It is really important they understand it.
‘But the more important part is to tell the truth. Always tell the truth.
‘I never ever brought it up after the game, not a Sunday, Monday. It was all over in the dressing room, I expected it to stay in the dressing room.
‘Every player understood exactly why we were doing it. Nobody had to go to anyone else to ask, “What is he talking about?” Unless it was my broad Scottish accent. I remember I was having a go and Nani turned to Paul Scholes, “What is he saying?” Paul says, ‘He’s not happy”.
‘Jim Smith once told me one of his players started crying when he got criticised. I am going back 15 years.
‘I thought, “What is the game like now? Where are we going?” So obviously you have to be tactful nowadays about the criticism you give them.’
The legendary boss completed his fine performance in the Zoom conference with a customary jibe at the Liverpool manager.
‘Jurgen. Jurgen, get a good sleep. You’re gonna need it for Sunday,’ he said.
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