Tag Archive for 'Ferguson'

The football leadership style

Transformational leadership is the new leadership model that, starting in the managerial world, has been extended in recent years to the world of sports. Here are the 4 main characteristics and examples of soccer coaches who use it

  1. Idealized influence - Conveys pride to the players, sets a good example to follow, and allows the leader to earn the respect of them in a way that increases the relevance of values. Ferguson: “I always have a lot of pride in seeing younger players develop.” In this way, the job of a coach is like to that of a teacher. Technical skills are formed, a winning mentality and better people are built. This leads to loyalty in young people to the club, as they are aware of the opportunity they have received.
  2. Inspirational Motivation - Conveys a vision of where the team is going motivates the players while inspiring them to take on challenging tasks. Communicates optimism and enthusiasm and stimulates self-efficacy. Guardiola: “I don’t want everyone trying to dribble like Leo Messi, you have to pass the ball, pass it and pass it again… Pass, move well, pass again, pass, and pass… I want every move to be smart, every pass accurate, that’s how we make the difference from the rest of the teams, that’s all I want to see.”
  3. Intellectual Stimulation - Encourages problem solving through new and creative strategies. Klopp: “”Playing unforgettable games, being curious and looking forward to the next game to see what will happen, and that’s what soccer should be about. If you make that attitude your own, you will be 100 percent successful.”
  4. Individualized Consideration - Recognizes the commitment and needs of everyone within the group through empathy, listening, compassion and the coaching process. Mourinho: “There are many ways to become a great manager … but above all I think the most difficult thing is to lead men with different cultures, brains and qualities.” At Inter he granted a vacation to Wesley Sneijder who was exhausted. “All the other coaches only talked about training,” Sneijder said. “He sent me to the beach. So I went to Ibiza for three days. When I came back, I was willing to kill and die for him.”


History: the grenada quarter of an hour

During the matches it happened that Grande Torino seemed to fall asleep, probably because everyone felt too strong compared to the opponents. In those moments when also the public whistled them, one of them, Oreste Bolmida, railway master of Porta Nuova, understood that he had come to play the charge and then with his trumpet he started playing. At that moment, Valentino Mazzola on the field of play adjusted his hair and rolled up the sleeves of the grenade jersey and gave the quarter of an hour grenade, in which the team became irresistible for the opponents. Like the one at the Stadio Nazionale against Roma who set the result at 0-7, six goals in 14 minutes. In Turin, at home stadium, Philadelphia, it was like this. Mazzola and his team-mates rested in the first half and then, in the second half of the match, the captain pulled up the sleeves of his uniform and the Toro became overwhelming.

Giovanni Arpino, many years later, in 1972, used the word tremendismo to explain this approach to the game:

“But what is the “tremendousness”, so much mentioned this year about the grenade? Paraphrasing Petrolini, you could say: <<Tremendism is that thing / that burns in stadiums and squares / the girls like so much / because it’s red and never goes down … >> … It can indicate even a quarter of an hour, in a match, but in that quarter of an hour it unloads all its driving force”[1].

Tremendismo is the one shown by Ferguson’s Manchester United:

“If I had to sum up what it means to be the coach of Manchester United, I’d say that you have to watch the last 15 minutes: sometimes it’s quite mysterious, it seems that the ball is sucked into the net. Often the players seem to know that it was going to happen, that they were going to score; it didn’t always happen, but the team never stopped believing it. It was a very good quality, this one.                             I always took the risk. My plan was: don’t worry and don’t lose patience until the last quarter of an hour, then attack with your head down”[2] .

[1]“Torino ‘72” [editoria – 40],  edito a supplemento della rivista “Piemonte sport e club” nel 1972, a cura di Giorgio Gandolfi e Bruno Perucca. https://toro.myblog.it/2009/04/19/il-tremendismo/

[2] Alex Ferguson (2014). La mia vita. Milano Bompiani, p.58.

Never, ever cede control

You can’t ever lose control—not when you are dealing with 30 top professionals who are all millionaires,” Ferguson told us. “And if any players want to take me on, to challenge my authority and control, I deal with them.” An important part of maintaining high standards across the board was Ferguson’s willingness to respond forcefully when players violated those standards. If they got into trouble, they were fined. And if they stepped out of line in a way that could undermine the team’s performance, Ferguson let them go. In 2005, when longtime captain Roy Keane publicly criticized his teammates, his contract was terminated. The following year, when United’s leading scorer at the time, Ruud van Nistelrooy, became openly disgruntled over several benchings, he was promptly sold to Real Madrid.

Responding forcefully is only part of the story here. Responding quickly, before situations get out of hand, may be equally important to maintaining control.

Ferguson: If the day came that the manager of Manchester United was controlled by the players—in other words, if the players decided how the training should be, what days they should have off, what the discipline should be, and what the tactics should be—then Manchester United would not be the Manchester United we know. Before I came to United, I told myself I wasn’t going to allow anyone to be stronger than I was. Your personality has to be bigger than theirs. That is vital.

There are occasions when you have to ask yourself whether certain players are affecting the dressing-room atmosphere, the performance of the team, and your control of the players and staff. If they are, you have to cut the cord. There is absolutely no other way. It doesn’t matter if the person is the best player in the world. The long-term view of the club is more important than any individual, and the manager has to be the most important one in the club.

Some English clubs have changed managers so many times that it creates power for the players in the dressing room. That is very dangerous. If the coach has no control, he will not last. You have to achieve a position of comprehensive control. Players must recognize that as the manager, you have the status to control events. You can complicate your life in many ways by asking, “Oh, I wonder if the players like me?” If I did my job well, the players would respect me, and that’s all you need.

I tended to act quickly when I saw a player become a negative influence. Some might say I acted impulsively, but I think it was critical that I made up my mind quickly. Why should I have gone to bed with doubts? I would wake up the next day and take the necessary steps to maintain discipline. It’s important to have confidence in yourself to make a decision and to move on once you have. It’s not about looking for adversity or for opportunities to prove power; it’s about having control and being authoritative when issues do arise.”

Ferguson’s leader style

Rene Meulensteen  was a key member of Sir Alex Ferguson’s first-team staff at Manchester United for six years. Here he talks about Ferguson’s leadership style


The ultimate aim was to win, but Sir Alex wanted to win in a certain style. I can remember him bringing me into his office when he’d made me first-team coach. He had a flipchart and said, ‘listen, Ren – I don’t need to talk to you about how to run your sessions, you know all that. But I’d like to reiterate what I want to see. Possession is important, but always possession with a purpose. When we attack I want to see pace, power, penetration and unpredictability. These are the four things you must instil in the team in every single training session.’

And he was always a big advocate of youth. That meant investing in youth facilities and policies, but also giving opportunities. If ever he had chance to bring a homegrown player into the first team, he would do it.


The manager achieved the highest level of management – he delegated. He was overseeing it all, he always stayed in control, but he gave us the freedom to do our jobs as well as we could.

Creating the right environment

There was something else, which I only really realised afterwards: not once did I ever feel any level of pressure, not in the six years I worked for him. I never felt ‘I’m under the cosh here’ or ‘the manager’s not happy with this’. That takes top-drawer management, to make everyone feel that comfortable. We had some tough moments but never got carried away. We were able to very quickly see it in perspective and move on.

Always adapting

Things change … He had this ability to adapt and evolve, which is rare, maybe unique, when you think how long he had been there and how much success he had had.

Being decisive

If a difficult decision had to be made, he would make it … He was never afraid to make the big calls.


He always said, ‘our approach is 75/25 -75% about us, 25% about the opposition. Because we are Man United.’ It was about always reinforcing how good we were, how strong we were.


The key to working with such high-profile players is to inform and facilitate. In training, you’re not telling them every step they should make, you’re showing them the options. You back it up with video footage – ‘this is what I talked to you about, this is what I meant’. And you let them evolve it.

If one thing stands out from my time at Man United it was the amount of laughs we had. We laughed every single day. Sir Alex had an unbelievable sense of humour.


Alex Ferguson

Il Manchester United nella finale di Champions di questo sabato con il Barcellona ha la possibilità di vincere la sua quarta coppa, la terza dell’era Ferguson. Allenatore dal 1986 della squadra con cui ha vinto 12 campionati inglesi. Molti articoli su questo manager sono apparsi in questi giorni per spiegarne la figura e il successo. Intanto va detto che ha applicato quelle che per i tifosi del Manchester sono due regole d’oro: “Diamo un’opportunità ai giovani; noi attacchiamo”. Giggs che ora ha 37 anni esordì a 17, Charlton e Cristiano Ronaldo a 18 anni, Beckam e i fratelli da Silva a 19.  Segue i calciatori giovani con grande attenzione. Nel 2009 ha detto che le tre regole della leadership sono: controllo, gestione del cambiamento e osservazione. Quest’ultima abilità consiste nel mettere a fuoco ogni cosa, nell’analizzare ciò che è importante e vedere i pericoli e le opportunità che gli altri non scorgono. Non è un conservatore, è attento a qualsiasi innovazione metodologica e scientifica che possa essergli utile ma è anche famoso per le sue tirate furiose ai giocatori, chiamate “hair-dryer treatment”, in cui strilla sulla faccia del suo interlocutore a distanza ravvicinata. E’ considerato come una persona di molto fascino in grado di parlare di qualsiasi argomento ma le sue squadre sanno anche essere prepotenti e dure quando serve. Per la maggior parte degli inglesi è il migliore manager di sport di squadra nel mondo di sempre.