Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates his 1,000th league game in charge of Manchester United at Southampton on Sunday still taking as much pleasure as ever from working with top-class players.
Ferguson’s remarkable longevity and ability to rebuild teams have been his hallmark, while 12 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups and two European Cups have cemented his place in history.
Up to the challenge: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson
He has handled some of the most iconic footballers – Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs – and established United among the most commercially successful sporting products in the world.
‘There have been so many wonderful players at the club and it has been a pleasure and an honour working with them,’ he said
‘There’s nothing I like better than to pull my car into the training ground of a morning and look forward to another few hours working with them and my staff.
‘There’s an awful lot of trepidation about the job. Being manager of Manchester United carries a tremendous responsibility but hopefully I have been, and will continue to be, able to handle it.
‘Any manager would be thankful to remember one great squad; I’ve had five or six.’
Twenty-six years ago Ferguson, now approaching 71, began his managerial reign at United with a 2-0 defeat at Oxford United before going on to become the most successful manager in British football history.
Victory would be his 599th in the league, while 233 league games have been drawn and just 168 lost. His 999 games in charge have also seen 1,863 goals scored and 663 conceded.
His unparalleled success has seen the Scot given legendary status by his fellow managers. But his advice to those on the way up? Be your own man.
‘I never tried to model myself on anyone,’ he said. ‘I’ve never read any books written by managers. I have always tried to be my own man and do it my way.
‘If I was to give any advice to young managers, it would be not just to learn by your mistakes but also heed the reasons why you made them.
‘I don’t just mean why your team may have lost a game, but all the other things that you have to attend to every day – your judgment of players, tactics, team selection, player welfare – everything.’
Sunday’s match at St Mary’s will be approached with the same rigour and energy as his previous 999.
‘I could never imagine how long I would be at the club or that I would be looking forward to my thousandth game,’ he said. ‘It may be a special occasion but it’s just another game that I want to win