Sir Alex Ferguson on Practice, Practice, Practice at Stanford GSB (Full Transcript)

Former Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson on Practice, Practice, Practice at Stanford GSB in a fireside chat with ‎Chairman of Sequoia Capital, Sir Michael Moritz – Full Transcript


Sir Alex Ferguson – Former Manchester United manager

Sir Michael Moritz – Chairman, Sequoia Capital


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Sir Michael Moritz: The greatest coach in the history of professional sports Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Thank you.

Sir Michael Moritz: You’re looking very dapper tonight.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Thank you.

Sir Michael Moritz: Yeah.

Sir Alex Ferguson: My mother looks after me well.

Sir Michael Moritz: Looks like we’re the only two who got dressed this evening. So what would you do, Sir Alex, if some of this scruffy mob here showed up and were players, and wanted to get on the Manchester United bus?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well, first I was a coach, everyone had to have a short haircut, all shaven. I don’t know how managers allow players on the bus with a beard, that’s not for me. Now, whether if I’ve not lost my strength, if I would allow that. But what I did like to see was my team coming to a ground with the United blazer on, white shirt and a tie because they’re representing Manchester United.

Sir Michael Moritz: And what would you do if they didn’t show up like that?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well, I think it’s part of the education you have to give them. The responsibility they have as a Manchester United player. And it’s just a discipline. And I think that was a strong discipline at United. And it’s still today. Even Louis van Gaal, all smart, I know it’s the boys that are not playing sit in the back of the director’s box, blazer and flannels on, I like that. That’s for me. I’m sorry you guys with the beards.

Sir Michael Moritz: You recommend a shave, would you? So did you see the game on Saturday? The Everton game. What’d you think?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Did very well. I thought it was going to be a difficult game actually, and I saw Everton did all the strongest team out. You know, and I thought this is going to be a difficult game because the last I think they’ve lost the last three years there, but they won very comfortably. Complete control, the way they changed the system a little bit. I thought Evan couldn’t handle it. So, I was pleased, because after, the great test of any Manchester United team is how you recover after defeats. There was three-nil with Arsenal, a bad defeat. They come out at the next game, win. And that’s the best way to answer the critics and also to show the resolve and the determination to get over a defeat. Because it’s not easy at Club United. Because when you lose you’re front page, when you win you’re back page. It’s a difference.

Sir Michael Moritz: Better to be on the back page. So, there are, I think if I counted correctly, there were 8 of the 18 players who showed up, who were in the squad on Saturday, were players that you had signed. How long does it take to knit everybody else together into a really cohesive unit? Is that a matter of years or can you do it in a season?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well, if you’re talking with the present court of players — and five last season, five this year, and that’s difficult. Particularly, the players they brought in were players from other countries. The division’s very difficult, really difficult. When we brought players in from abroad, we always gave them first season, forget it, second season, okay. But one or two excelled, surprised us by doing really well at the beginning. In my time, the thing that was different from me and Louis Van Gaal of course is that I had longevity. I was there 27 years. So when I went to United at first, my job was to build the foundation at that football club. Because I think most managers, quite rightly, have to think about a football team, the first team because as a result industry they are to make sure the first team does well. I never thought that way. I thought that rebuilding the youth in the club so they would give me a foundation and I’d given them with the young players coming through. My conviction was never going to change. I told the directors on day one, that’s exactly what I was going to do. And of course, yeah, I was concerned that the first team — second bout of the week. And I just took my time with that, I wasn’t in a hurry, most concentration was on scouting, trialing, and coaching for the young people.

Sir Michael Moritz: Now at the end of the Everton game, United are in third position in English Premier League. It’s the end of October and obviously everybody here is connected to the business school in one way or another. And an important thing in business is setting expectations. And how would you, were you managing United today, knowing that there’s a long part of the season still to come? You still got to play Christmas, you got to get, you’re in the other different cups and championships. How do you go about setting the expectation of where you would want the club to wind up at the end of the season knowing that you’re in third position today?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well I think the definition, you take my job at Aberdeen. Aberdeen’s in the north of Scotland. Cut off from the central bell with a mainstream of footballers. I had to build an expectation, to create an expectation for the players. Whereas in United you have to live with the expectations for every player that comes through that club. Even after Saturday’s game, every player on that team has to weather the expectation. So, the expectation is to win. Absolute, whether it’s a European cup or a cup. They all have to win. That’s the mentality they have. The mindset is the winning mindset. There’s no question about that.

So, I never ever said to the press, we’ve got to win the European cup, we’ve got to — I’ve never said that. Every time at press conference, well, I hope we win something. I wouldn’t want to get carried away and give them a headline. But, deep down, win every game. That was the mentality. I never expected to lose a game, ever.

Sir Michael Moritz: Would you be talking to the players at this juncture about the possibility of winning the league this year?

Sir Alex Ferguson: No.

Sir Michael Moritz: And when would you start privately calculating whether or not you thought.

Sir Alex Ferguson: You won’t believe this if I tell you. Every beginning of January, I used to get all opponents games and predict the point that we want to get against us. And I was never far wrong. Never far wrong. Even to the point that, I knew we’d maybe have to make three points up on one of our main opponents. I was pretty accurate in that. And I did this every year. And so that, add my win. Sort of a challenge.

Sir Michael Moritz: Would you sit down with each of the top clubs or the whole league?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Just the top clubs, only the four ones. I will know by January 1st who our main challenges are going to be. And then I used to do that, I kept to myself, I didn’t share it with anyone. I was never far wrong. I knew even the years we lost it. I knew that dangers we had in terms of challenges.

Sir Michael Moritz: You’re pretty accurate about, say in January, about the number of points that United itself would have at the end of the season.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Yeah.

Sir Michael Moritz: Let me change the topic a little bit, to two things that again are germane to every sort of business. One is assessing and judging talents and another is discipline. So, let me take you back. It’s 1957. There is a young man growing sideburns. Alex Ferguson who’s turning out in his first seasons for a club in Scotland in Glasgow called Queen’s Park. How would you assess the talent of that player?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well, outstanding comes to mind. But, well, I probably was one of the few players that played for Glasgow Skills, Scotland Skills, Scotland Youth, Scottish Amateur, and the full Scottish team. But I wasn’t an outstanding player, I was a goal scorer. In fact, at United we used to get into the video analysis room most mornings. And this morning our Goalkeeping coach Eric Steele says, I was just pulling up your goalscoring record. He said that’s pretty good, that. 179 goals in 300 games or something like that. And I said, that’s only league goals, I said where are my cup goals? So, I said, well, I’ll try and get them out. We couldn’t get them. We couldn’t find any cup goals. I don’t know why, but no, I was a goal scorer, and had a great career without actually winning anything. I went to Rangers about the time when Celtic were completely dominant. They’d just won the European Cup under Jock Stein, and they were the fantastic team. The were a devil to beat at that time. But I enjoyed it, I had a good career.

The thing about playing is that that is the best time of your life, which relates to how I would never ask any of my players to retire to become a coach. I encouraged them to take their badges. When I went to fulltime at football, because I was an engineer. I was a tool maker until I was 22, was part-time at football. I made my mind up. I was not going back to Engineering. So I took all my coaching badges, I prepared to stay in the game. Like everyone should do, if you’re going to do something, prepare. Whether it’s through study, or like I did, take your coaching badges, I think that’s an important issue.

Sir Michael Moritz: And how well behaved on the field was that young player Alex Ferguson?

Sir Alex Ferguson: You’re getting this from my son Jason. Had a bad record.

Sir Michael Moritz: Pardon?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Had a bad record. I was sent off eight times.

Sir Michael Moritz: Pardon?

Sir Alex Ferguson: I know, I know. But I was misunderstood.

Sir Michael Moritz: Do you remember some of the incidents about why you were sent off?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Every one of them. Yeah. Retaliation was mostly. Or maybe a late tackle or something, or an elbow in someone’s jaw or something like that. I had a funny running style. I run with my elbows like this. So, I was always getting into trouble. Matt’s laughing here. I was always getting into trouble because of my elbows, yeah.

Sir Michael Moritz: The elbows. Yeah. So let’s talk about judging other talent several decades later. I’m going to pick two players, David Beckham and another one we’ll come to in a moment. So, how did you first come across Beckham and how old was he? And what did he seem like as a player when you first saw him?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well, David came to know us through a scout in London, from the same area as David. He was a headmaster at school, Malcolm Fidgen. And he put David on the radar, but the real impact came from Bobby Charlton. Bobby had soccer schools at the time, and David had won a placement for Bobby’s soccer school in Barcelona. And Bobby came back and said I’ve seen a kid, you need. So I flagged it up with the chief scout. He said, of course, he’s coming next month. Just by coincidence. And that was a start, he would be eleven years of age at the time. He was a little thin boy, he had no height, no physique whatsoever. But he had this wonderful talent, in terms of control of the ball, striking the ball was really his forte. And, his parents were United fans. His grandfather was a Tottenham fan, but he and his parents were United fans. So he used to come to the game. After we got the contact with him, we invited him to the games every time we were in London. And, in fact, he was a ball boy in the West Ham game which is this area of London. And he was a certainty to come to United. He trained at Tottenham for a while. I think he trained somewhere else, maybe Fulham or something like that. But he was always destined to come to United because he wanted to come to United.

And, in that class of ‘92, who were the team to win the Youth Cup, David never got on the team until the semi-finals because he was just a little boy. Then, within months, six foot, still thin, no confirmation in his body whatsoever. No, he was a skinny boy. And then, that group with the same desires, the seven or eight of them, they talk about the ones that are well known, Giggs, Scholes, Butt, the two Nevilles and David. But we had two other players would’ve been great players, but their careers were cut by injury, Chris Casper and Ben Thornley, they were outstanding. But they all practiced.

Sir Michael Moritz: Give a sense of how hard these guys worked.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well, the training would start 10 o’clock to 12 o’clock. The other ones, they would be out in the afternoon practicing all the time, or with the youth coach in terms of their general training. And for David, who lived in accommodation with Mrs. Gosling with several other boys, he would go into the school at nighttime and help the coaches with the young kids. So his desires were strong, and also he was a practicer, he’d practice, practice, practice. And I think that the advice I’d give to any young kid is, anyone can play a game of football, anyone. But practice makes you a real footballer. You see games on a Sunday. Pub games. Oh, love a game of football. The real players had a practice ethic about them. I remember being at lunch in Glasgow many, many years ago, and Gary Player was the guest.

Sir Michael Moritz: The golfer?

Sir Alex Ferguson: The golfer. And they asked him that question, why do you keep practicing from the bunker? Because he was famous for, you know, the bunkers. I know, I’m going to be in the bunker at one time in the game, maybe twice in the game, and I’ve got to put it in the hole. That’s why I practiced, and practiced, and practiced. That’s a great example of what you have to do to be a top player. And David and all these young lads did that same. And all the young kids at United practice well.

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Sir Michael Moritz: Different well known name Cristiano Ronaldo, how old was he when you first came across him?

Sir Alex Ferguson: 17 he was.

Sir Michael Moritz: And how did he first tip your radar screen?

Sir Alex Ferguson: That’s a great story because my assistant, of course is a Portuguese. And he thought it’d be a good idea for us to have an association, a relationship with the sport in Lisbon, because he’d been there as a kid, and he was from Lisbon. And he set it up, and what we’re doing then was sharing coaching. So we would send coaches over there, and they would send coaches to us. And Jim Ryan, who was head of youth department at the time, youth scouting rather. He came back, he says, well I’ve seen a player. And he was playing center for youth team at the time, Cristiano Ronaldo. So I said to Carl, it would be a good idea if maybe we’d build a relationship here. And he spoke to the president, and the deal was that we couldn’t get him the next year, but we could get them two years from then. Then [Carlos] left me the next year, we’d promised through the association with him, the relationship, we’d offer the new stadium.

Sir Michael Moritz: This is at Sporting –

Sir Alex Ferguson: Yeah, Sporting, that’s correct. And we flew from the States, from here, to Lisbon and played the game. And Cristiano is playing outside left against John O’Shea, and the poor soul’s got tortured blood. Honestly, he is absolutely annihilated. And I’m up there going, John! Get up against him. He says, I can’t. So I get my kit manager. He says, go up there to the directors box and get Peter Kenyon down right away at half time. So Peter Kenyon comes down. 8I say, we’re not leaving here.

Sir Michael Moritz: Peter Kenyon was the then –

Sir Alex Ferguson: Chief executive.

Sir Michael Moritz: Chief executive of United.

Sir Alex Ferguson: At that time, yeah. And I say, we’re not going to go – leaving here with that boy playing. So then we got a little room after the game with the president of Lisbon, his agent, his lawyer and the boy. I said I want you to come back with us to Manchester. Now that’s a test. If he doesn’t want to come, you know he doesn’t want to join you. He says, yeah I’d love to come but I want my mother. So I said, great. Next morning his mother, his sister, his brother, the whole trip come out. And I said to him, I promise you one thing, you’ll get the best education you could possibly get here, but you won’t play every week. And he looked at him that. He was impressed. He didn’t expect that. I say, the Premier League’s a very difficult league and you may play substitute sometime, you play an odd game, you may play in the League Cup which we do have a lot of young players. And, he said, but when do I get in the first team? Well, if you get to a level that’s Manchester United, I can’t stop you. You pick yourself. And he played his first game, he was sub in the first game of the season against Bolton and he came on at half time and the crowd went absolute mad with him. He was absolutely fantastic. He had courage to take the ball, the first rate back of first minute, he come on the second half, he got them and says, give me the ball. And the great players have gotten this courage. Nothing will daunt them. They’re not afraid of anything. And Cristiano had that.

Sir Michael Moritz: And how, when he first came to Manchester, I think he came with his mother and his mother and sister came up. How disciplined was he in his sort of daily ritual at that point?

Sir Alex Ferguson: He was the best practicer I’ve ever known. But he had these what you would call Latin American faults.

Sir Michael Moritz: You can get arrested for saying that in the state of California.

Sir Alex Ferguson: And it’s a simple fault, which can be eradicated, if the boy’s got the right desire and discipline and listen to us. And he was diving as a young kid.

Sir Michael Moritz: Diving to try and get a penalty.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Yeah correct. The players were great with him. Every time he’d go down and scream, the players would go an scream at him back. Get up you, and all that. And I used to get at him all the time. And the unfortunate thing for Ronaldo because he was such a great player. The press never left him alone in that situation because after about a year and a half, it never happened. But any time we’ve failed, someone all knowing and curious will say, oh yeah, he dives. But no, it’s not true, because — against defenders, all you need to do is nudge him a little bit and the [bowl on] scores and they go down. But it wasn’t —

Sir Michael Moritz: Did the criticism get to him at all?

Sir Alex Ferguson: No no. I remember he come off of that period, at the season where Rene was sent off, and he said he wasn’t going to come back. And I flew out to Portugal and I said look, he wanted to go to Real Madrid. It was always his lifetime ambition to do that. And I said, look, you give me a year and you go on with my blessing to Real Madrid. He was fantastic. But the first game was at Charlton. And I sat in the director’s box, and there’s this guy down in front of me. He’s up and he’s giving them so much, the cursing, the language. Then about five minutes from the half time, he got the ball, he beat three men, cut in, hit the underside of the bar. The guy never got up again. That wasn’t finished. He had the courage to do all that.

Sir Michael Moritz: And Cristiano today, considerable many years later now, does he still have the same sort of drive and work ethic?

Sir Alex Ferguson: I’ve never known anyone like him, honestly. I was at his house for dinner a few month ago. And his services made for the best player in the world, no doubt about that.

Sir Michael Moritz: How’s that?

Sir Alex Ferguson: The gymnasium’s probably about half the size of this, this size here. He’s got everything in it. He’s got two pools, he’s got a hot pool and a cold pool. He’s got an atrium at minus 160 degrees. He goes in there for ten minutes after every game. It’s just unbelievable. And I say to him, he says to me, I’m going to retire at 35. I said you don’t retire at 35. You can play till you’re 40, easily. Ryan Giggs has played to 41. Says no, no, I’m doing that, and I’m working on making sure I’m three kilograms under my best weight the last five years. But I went, brilliant. Amazing.

Sir Michael Moritz: Right. Now, with all these people, with all players of incredible caliber, Beckham, Ronaldo, the others that you had, how do — what were the tools that you used to maintain discipline?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well, I think that the most important thing is to be consistent, who you are and don’t change. And I never changed, I didn’t use discipline as a weapon against players. They would be disciplined if they stepped out of line for certain reasons, maybe a silly sending off or a misbehaving outside the ground. But I never used it as a continual weapon against them. You got disciplined. It’s over. We move on. And they all accept that, eventually. They understand who you are. That’s the most important thing, because that’s the essence of being a leader. They know who you are. You’re consistent, they trust that you’re right, and this one is an important aspect of managing them, there’s no question. But technically, you’re dealing with very well paid players. If you’ve got a discipline that’s different with different people, you’re going to wrong way. So, my discipline is always the same for everyone. I never treated anyone any different.

Sir Michael Moritz: And what was the sort of discipline that the players dreaded? Was it the fine, or the threat of being transferred or being put in the stands to watch a game?

Sir Alex Ferguson: I think every player wants to play in. Even though we had no indication of it, discipline of player by being in the stands. But the other aspect of putting players in the stands is because you have a score to 24. And you have to pick 11. Now that’s difficult. But what I used to do was, because my own experience as a player, I was told 50 minutes from a kick-off in the Scottish Cup final I wasn’t playing. I was the top goalscorer and there was no subs at the time. So that was always in my mind about how to treat players if they’re not playing. So I used to call them in, individual with all of them, and explain to them why they weren’t playing. It was very easy as time went on because they knew with a squad of 24, it’s not the 11 that win the league, it’s the 24 that win the league or the cup. No question about that. And the important part to do that is to trust them to whatever team you play. And make them feel that they have contributed like the best players in winning.

Sir Michael Moritz: And Sir Alex, how did you ensure that even for the bigger stars they all understood that they were part of, not the, but part of a team?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well I think the best players, the ones that want to win more. The best players who’ve got that ego, a win is important to them. So I enjoyed that. I enjoyed players with that confidence.

Sir Michael Moritz: But how did you make sure that none of them began to think that they were bigger than United in themselves?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well the message is, to prove they’re the best, they have to work as hard as everyone else and even more than other ones. And that was the message you’d always give to them. The evidence is always on the football field. The best player can let themselves down, by not living up to expectation, his own expectation in fact. Oops! That’s gone. So I had no great worries with that really. The fight had been there such a long time of course helps, but also I think that players who come to United, that club is such a great club. They don’t want to miss the bus. They want to go on the bus all the time. And I think that was very important.

Sir Michael Moritz: Now, how do you — let’s switch the topic a little bit and talk about compensations. Some of these players are getting paid a large amount of money, obviously. How do managers cope? Not you, because you were among the highest compensated in the Premier League. But there are some clubs where the managers are paid less than their players. How do they ever have a chance of establishing authority in those clubs?

Sir Alex Ferguson: I think in most cases I was maybe a little bit different because I always felt that being the manager of Manchester United I should be the highest paid person. Yeah but it’s important because the responsibility of managing that club is huge. I’m there more hours than any of them. I’ve got the biggest responsibility. So I feel that should be always recognized. Not always years, by the way. Took a long time to agree with me. But I think from other managers’ point of view, I think they expect that the very, very top player is going to be paid more. I have no issue at all with what players get paid, the top players. You know why? I think if you look at golfers. American footballers, basketball players.

Sir Michael Moritz: Head funded masters.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Yeah, exactly. Or potentially your wealthy old men are there. But then, I have no issue with that because they’re bringing 75,000 people with their effort.

Sir Michael Moritz: Yeah. What about saying good bye to players, whether they were 16, 17, 18 year olds you didn’t think were going to make it? And then let’s talk about them and then I wanted to talk about some of the players who’d done well by you that you had to say good bye to. What about that case?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well, the most difficult task for any manager is telling a young kid he’s not going to make at United. When we bring a boy to the club, we speak to the parents and we say, we always say the same. We hope your boy plays in front of 75,000 people, if not, we’re confident we can get him a career in the game. Even to this day, there will be about 90 players in England, Scotland, Denmark, Germany all started a career at Manchester United. And that’s been like that for 10 to 15 years. Very difficult to tell them that. I did this stupid thing where something as a young coach. I was filmed. I was terrified to tell a young boy he was not going to be good enough. So I had this idea bring the five of them in.

Sir Michael Moritz: Five young boys together?

Sir Alex Ferguson: And I told them. One of them started crying. Oh I never. That was that. Finished. It was a difficult time. It was not easy.

Sir Michael Moritz: And what about some of the older players who had done very well by you and then you had to break the news to them that they were done?

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Sir Alex Ferguson: That’s equally hard because I’d become a father to them, and it’s such a family business at Manchester United anyway that, for instance a team on 94 worked with us for quite a few years. From round about ‘91, right through to the 97, with Dennis Ober and Steve Bruce, Brian Robson, Gar Powester. And they’d love to play to the 90. But they don’t actually realize they get older. I’m the one that recognizes it because I see it on the football field. But what I did with them, was made sure we give them free transfers. So they made the free bob, Dennis went [Rules], Steve Bruce went to Birmingham. Bryan Robson actually became a manager at Middlesbrough. And Gary Paulsen went back to Middlesbrough with him. So — with Paul Parker. We gave him a free transfer. They got clubs in West Brom, Paul went to Fulham. So, we did well by them. And recognition for the service they give us, and I think that was real important. Money doesn’t come into it when the guy’s giving you ten years. So I think it’s the best way you could do it. And the only thing you can do, and it definitely works, is to be honest with them. That’s the only thing that works. You don’t want to go take these guys on. These are professionals, who have been great to you.

Sir Michael Moritz: Different topic. What about, again, for a lot of people setting out on lives in management and everything. What are some of the things that you wished you had known when you were 30 or 32, just setting off on your lifetime of management up in Scotland?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Yeah. I got this at Harvard. This is I belted the question, had to think about it for a while. And the easiest one I think about is communication, recognition, absolutely vital. When I was 32, I wanted to rule the world. I was a young manager and most players are playing at 32, but I had a groin injury and I gave up to go into management.

Sir Michael Moritz: It wasn’t the elbows that were?

Sir Alex Ferguson: No, there was, they were polished. And I was holding the grass feed for the groundsmen, and pies for the director’s room. The programs on Saturday. And, you know, you forget to manage up the way. When the chairmen went to go full time, you know when that became — I didn’t realize I still carried on the way I did. Of course he can sack you.

Sir Michael Moritz: So let’s talk about the two things. One, how did you learn to delegate?

Sir Alex Ferguson: I think, the natural thing about delegation was, I wasn’t properly recognizing until I got to about maybe 60. And then I realized, is well, if I’m going to keep my energy, I’ve got to do it. And then you have to give the trust to that. By that time anyway I trusted all my staff anyway. It was just a natural thing that when you’ve got energy and you’ve done something for so long, you don’t think it’s ever going to change. But, of course, age changes you. And then I delegated far better. I delegated a lot actually after that. The thing of energy and anyone listening to this, is very important. When you stop, where you’ve add to the United, we’ll see at 43, 44 years of age. The seething energy, the pure seething energy, you see it burns over you. But when you get to the 60s, they still expect to see it.

So I had to look at myself in terms of energy, that I was a select because when I was a young manager, four or five years, no problem. When I got to my 60s, I needed six or seven hours. So you go to bed earlier. You work at your diet better, after the game at home. I never, very very seldom and ate. So that added examine myself of my energy because people want to see the energy. A very important aspect to it, you know?

Sir Michael Moritz: Yeah, the second aspect of that was what you just alluded to, during, coming a cropper with an owner. What’s the advice you give managers these days when they call you about the relationship that they should have with the owner of the club that they work for?

Sir Alex Ferguson: You’ve got to find a way. It doesn’t matter what you think of them. You’ve got to find out whether that can be a good harmony, going together. And also to agree that you’re both going the same direction. I think that, even if you find a way of actually getting on with them, and they’re going that way and you’re going that way, it still doesn’t work. So you have to find out that we have agreed were the direction the club is going, and the job you’re doing. Now that I think of it, reckon it’s communication, is a really important part too, that you must recognize that people are working for you. Knowing their names, saying good morning to them in the morning. I had a manager, as a player, he couldn’t say good morning to you. He’d walk by you. Now that could be lack of confidence, could be anything. But you have to recognize that people work for you. And every time you win a cup or trophy, every man by that staff or in that canteen. The laundry girls, the canteen staff, the groundsman, the champion out, because to see a trophy as much as the players, they became a team that way.

Sir Michael Moritz: Now, did you enjoy the celebrations yourself?

Sir Alex Ferguson: No, no no. Because maybe any game lasts for me about half an hour. And I’m thinking about tomorrow. And I was just –

Sir Michael Moritz: Even after 1999, the famous treble season?

Sir Alex Ferguson: After the dinner I went to bed. After the club, I went to my bed.

Sir Michael Moritz: Do you wake the next morning in a bad mood, or?

Sir Alex Ferguson: I was exhausted. Actually, when the team are getting presented with the cup I went for a walk. And the bus one has all these alleys and little corridors and all of this and I’m walking through them all and bump into this friend of mine from Aberdeen. He couldn’t take either. He was wanting the, heard from the manager. And we’re working through all these alleys, and then we see this buggy coming up. And it’s a guy who’s looking for me, he says, you got to go to the press conference. This is about half an hour after the game. I can celebrate for half an hour, then it was –

Sir Michael Moritz: Right, how did you avoid complacency and getting complacent and –

Sir Alex Ferguson: Well it’s a disease you know. Every time at half time if we win a game has come up, it comes up all the time. There’s nothing you can do about it when you get complacent. I mean a few occasions it’s never one in the same connect with United because we’re human beings but we kept reminding them when half the time you’re winning. Complacency, it’s a disease. The Ryder Cup. This is the message I gave to the team in the Ryder Cup –

Sir Michael Moritz: The British team?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Yeah. And, I told them, I said what do you think about [Medinah] two years before. And, the ten-six on a Saturday night. They’re winning ten-six, America. And I’m sitting there in the dinner. And they’re promising each other, when we win these four and a half points. There’s a great temptation there, isn’t it, of some type. Win four and a half points. And the coincidence resonated later. And, but, you don’t win the first point. And he win the second point, and then there’s bit confusion. Then win the third point, panic, and then capitulation. Unfortunately, with that message, put Europe again into the last game, 10 six in front. Fantastic. It’s a disease. We were playing Everton. We lost the league because of it. Four to two, seven minutes to go. We lost two goals. And that causes a weak and as human beings, the best way is to keep reminding them that complacency could cost everything. And there’s no way out when complacency sets in. There is no way out. Absolutely no way out.

Sir Michael Moritz: One other question from me and then I know we have some audience questions. You had this incredible record that’s unparalleled. Did you ever feel, or do you feel that you should have won more?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Absolutely. I do honestly. I think that European cups was my biggest regret. And on some occasion were very unlucky. Some occasions where we got bad decisions against us and some occasions we didn’t play well enough. And the three semi-finals we lost and the two were against Dortmund in ’97 and against [Webercuse] in 2001. We should have won those games.

Sir Michael Moritz: Does that still bother you today?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Yeah, it does. I don’t think you should ever look back with regrets. But when you ask a question, that it bothers me all the time, and so — but I have no bitterness about it because football, I can’t work in my career and not being regret at anything. I had a fantastic time, but the question is, the way you put it to me, yes we should have won more European championships. Our last season playing Real Madrid – that referee.

Sir Michael Moritz: What do you really think of him?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Absolutely control the game. And there wasn’t a player at that time, it took ten minutes to get over and by that time they scored two goals. And even at two to one down, was that we made all the chances. So, it’s a disappointment, but, as I say, I can’t –

Sir Michael Moritz: Let me welcome Nev Given. She has I know a few questions from the audience. And how many people here are soccer players in the audience. Good.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Not bad.

Sir Michael Moritz: And NCAA soccer players? Fantastic.

Nev Given: I’m going to take the liberty of asking the first question. So, you touched on aspects earlier but here in the valley our equivalent of the prize footballers are the best engineers. They’re paid the most, they get poached by rival tech companies, yet most of us at the GSB are most likely to go in as their managers. For the early days, what are your top tips to garner their respect despite the fact that were not techie, retain control and ensure that no individual becomes larger than the team or the organization?

Sir Alex Ferguson: We’re dealing with players who are mega-stars or players with egos and are wealthy. I honestly believe that those people are genuinely the winners all the time. That’s why they go there in the first place. And yeah, there’ll be occasions where they slip off the platform of where they were and maybe get complacent, whatever. But it’s easy to remind someone who’s a winner. It’s easy to remind them how they got there. What was their expectation. I think it’s important to remind them of that. They represent themselves in a big way, and I think that should always be reminded of them.

Nev Given: What management trait did you not have that you wish you had and how did you compensate for that?

Sir Alex Ferguson: Languages, definitely languages. Because when United changed, when the academy system come into being and we had to change the dynamics of the club in terms of scouting. Then more Europeans players come in, from South America, from France, Spain, whatever, Germany. One year, particularly, there were 21 nationalities in the club. Now, I had French and German at school. But, it’s like, when you leave school and you don’t use the languages, you forget about them. So when we start to get, I started thinking about how I could communicate, particularly with the French players. And it’s not easy. Languages is really important. I said to my son Mark, I said years ago when he was in school, take languages, is another one that went, he was just I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that. 20 years later. It’s really important to communicate with players in their own language. That’s why I brought Carlos in and, he spoke four, five languages. Fantastic because we had all these nationalities and the communication was easy then. Carlos would do all that. And I would do my little smatterings in French. We only had one German player, a young boy, Ronny Zieler who’s with Hannover now. He was the only one I needed to communicate with in German. I think that is important, languages.

Nev Given: I sympathize with it. I’ve barely mastered English. I am surprised that weren’t more tweets coming through for racing or wine tips from you, seeing that your track record on that is as good as many.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Forget the racing tips.

Nev Given: I sadly, and the audience are going to kill me, but we’ve only got two minutes left. So, I’m going to ask a question which, to you both actually, which is somewhat synonymous with the GSB, because it’s one that we will have to answer as part of our applications. And that is, what matters most and why?

Sir Alex Ferguson: That’s a good question. My, I think your upbringing. I think my upbringing was fantastic. I had parents who give me good disciplines, good advice. Don’t be late, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t lie. These things stood by me all my life. And I hope, then, that foundation I bring to my kids, and they can bring it to their kids. And that’s what I’m bringing is, it’s an inheritance. That’s what it is, and I think that was important to me.

Nev Given: Best family heirloom. Sir Michael?

Sir Michael Moritz: Following your instincts.

Nev Given: Short and sweet. So, with that, please join me in thanking Sir Michael and Sir Alex.


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