Fiona and I are on the way to Manchester for a dinner to celebrate Alex Ferguson’s 25th anniversary as Manchester United manager. Partly in response to a few tweets and messages asking why I hadn’t blogged on this milestone, and partly because it will help the journey speed by, I thought I would give you 25 reasons, in no particular order, why he is like he is, and some of the qualities that have made him the greatest manager of all time.
1. He is obsessed about winning. Especially trophies.
2. He gets to work early.
3. He loves people, including difficult ones.
4. He loves young people, and doesn’t mind being challenged by them.
5. He is fascinated by change, and adapts to it well.
6. He is a control freak who pays attention to detail.
7. He has strong adherence to his roots, and the values he grew up with.
8. He has an abiding love for his deceased parents.
9. His wife Cathy and their three sons are strong characters who ensure there is no risk of his feet leaving the ground.
10 He would cite his brother Martin as perhaps his closest friend.
11. He is not scared of big decisions.
12. He has a phenomenal memory.
13. He has a hinterland away from football – books, music, film, history, travel, horses, wine.
14. He reads widely, and applies lessons in leadership from history and politics to his own leadership position.
15. He is not scared of big characters, and doesn’t employ yes-men in his Old Trafford inner team.
16. He inspires loyalty by showing loyalty.
17. He goes to more funerals than anyone I have ever met, apart from ministers.
18. He has strong opinions and is never scared to voice them.
19. He is a good delegator.
20. He never underestimates opponents.
21. He came up the hard way – he has been at Manchester United so long people tend to forget his long managerial apprenticeship in Scotland, including his brilliant spell at Aberdeen.
22. He knows every member of the MUFC staff by name, and knows most of their life stories too.
23. He virtually designed the Carrington training complex which has been central to the club’s success.
24. He eats well.
25. He genuinely likes the supporters.
All a bit random, and the minute I press ‘publish’, I will think of something else I should have said, but it’ll do for now.
Oh, PS, he’s Labour … Must have been a reason I think.
PPS -a million thanks to another legendary Scot, Billy Connolly, who is tonight raising funds for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research at the Criterion Theatre. There are not many people or events who could get me to miss that, but Alex and his anniversary are among them. Billy C follows Mel Brooks, Stephen Fry, Michael Palin and Kevin Spacey in this regular arts events series we started a few years ago. Thanks to our good friend twitter, we sold out in less than a day, the theatre isn’t charging us a penny, so it is win-win-win and we are hugely in the Big Yin’s debt.