Sir Alex Ferguson: The importance of longevity
We see the form of a team fall and at once there are strong rumours that the club's board will change the manager.
The breaking of the record by Sir Alex Ferguson recently of the late Sir Matt Busby as Manchester United’s longest serving manager of all time (24 years, one month and 15 days) shows just how important it is to stick with managers rather than wield the axe at the slightest dip in form.
It really is the exception rather than the norm in today’s fast-paced world of football. We see the form of a team fall and at once there are strong rumours that the board (and now in most cases owner) of the club will be changing the manager.
Gone are the days when managers would be given time to sort out the on-the-field problems of the team. Just a few bad results and the media will seize the opportunity to give the manager unwanted attention and harp on about the ‘sack race.’ It really is unfortunate how it’s turned out to be like this.
The art of restructuring the team cannot be performed now. Certainly, the majority of the blame for this goes to those at the top who call the shots to decide who the manager will be and how short or long his stay will be, but it is also partially the fault of the impatient expectations of the fans and the opportunistic media who will look to grab the earliest chance to sharpen their knives on who will get the sack.
The chairman of Manchester United at the time of Ferguson’s early years, Martin Edwards, is disliked at the club for many blunders he made; most notably putting the club on the stock exchange that later paved the way for the Glazer takeover. But, at the same time he is also fondly remembered for the one decision that proved to be glorious.
While now, many would panic and fire the man at the dugout, Edwards stood by the man he had appointed in November 1986, backing him with transfer funds and the time he needed to restructure a disorganised team. Even the famous 5-1 hammering received at local rivals Manchester City in September 1989 (which is now considered the darkest period of Ferguson’s United reign) did not deter the United board which could see that their man knew what he was doing in the long run and was really working for the betterment of the club.
Soon the Scott repaid the faith and patience that was put in him and things started becoming brighter on the pitch. The rest, as they say, is history. Year after year, silverware was being won and Ferguson was now assembling a side that was coming closer and closer to finally end Liverpool’s stranglehold on English football. The likes of Hughes, Ince and Kanchelskis were established names in the starting line-up that were frightening opponents for anyone. All this would have, of course, not been possible had Martin Edwards done what the likes of Roman Abramovich and Florentine Perez do today.
Take the case of Real Madrid for example. One of the biggest clubs in the world has been in the shadows of their bitter rivals Barcelona in recent years, after playing musical chairs with innumerable managers. From Carlos Queiroz to Jose Antonio Camacho to more recently Manuel Pelligrini, those in the dugout have been replaced too often for anyone to ensure any kind of sustained success.