Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has no immediate plans to retire and intends to remain in charge of the European and English champions "as long as he can," he told CNN in an exclusive interview.
Ferguson, who has won the Champions League twice with Manchester United, also revealed how he craves more European success and feels that United have not won all that they could have during his more than two-decade reign at Old Trafford. Asked who he thought would be his successor at United, Ferguson said: “I don’t know what the club thinks about who the next manager is going to be but hopefully it’s not for another two or three years because I intend to stay on as long as I can.” Ferguson, who is 67, also said he wanted to win “a couple more European trophies” before he quits. What do you think about Alex Ferguson’s comments Have your say. “If there was one challenge I would love the club to win more European trophies then they have done and I think up to this point, quite a few times over the years, I don’t think we’ve won the number we should have won,” Ferguson said. “There have been years where we were unlucky. The years we were disappointed. The years when we’ve thrown games away, and that sort of gives you a kaleidoscope of what football is like in a way. So therefore if we could just win a couple more European trophies then I would definitely quit.” An exclusive face-to-face interview is not an everyday occurrence for Manchester United football manager Alex Ferguson — he rarely does them. But at one of the most critical times in the 2008/2009 season, the Old Trafford supremo took time out to speak one-on-one with CNN sports anchor Pedro Pinto. The 67-year-old has plenty to say: he has won 24 titles in 23 seasons with the Red Devils and in doing so has established himself as the most successful manager in British football history. On the international front he has few, if any, peers.
Don’t miss Pedro Pinto’s exclusive interview with Manchester United legend Alex Ferguson, only on CNN Friday.
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Ferguson has also raised some of the most amazing talents in the game, names who are known from Buenos Aires to Beijing, Sao Paulo to Seoul. He nurtured David Beckham through to stardom and more recently has brought Cristiano Ronaldo to the very pinnacle of his game. This year Ferguson’s team are aiming for something unprecedented — the “quintuple”. Having already claimed the FIFA Club World Cup and the League Cup, the side are leading the race for the Premier League title and they also have the Champions League and FA Cups within potential reach. Here’s what Alex Ferguson had to say to CNN’s Pedro Pinto. Pinto: Sir Alex, a lot of people consider you to be one of the most powerful men, if not the most powerful man in football. How do you see yourself, do you see yourself as a godfather of football figure Watch in full Pedro Pinto’s interview with Alex Ferguson » Ferguson: No I don’t fall into these traps of, how would you put it, praise. I think that you try to keep your feet on the ground. I think that’s important. For instance, for the last, what a few weeks ago I kept trying to put down all the hyperbole about Manchester and untouchables. One minute, or the next minute or the next day you’re going to get kicked in the teeth. Pinto: What keeps you motivated every morning when you get up What are you thinking to keep yourself at the top and really at the crest of the wave
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Ferguson: I think basically you get into a habit of your life and that is you got to get up in the morning — I’ve always got to be up in the morning. I enjoy getting into my work. I love getting to this place. So there are some things that help me. The kind of club that Manchester United is. It’s a great club to work for and also the expectation drives you and you can’t afford to be complacent at any time. I think that when you do get complacent at this club then your results will be different. I don’t have any complacency. I still work as hard as I did when I first came to the club. I work at the right club. I enjoy the expectation. I enjoy the challenge of having to be number one or try to be number one. Pinto: Is that what you thrive under, the pressure, to keep living up to expectations and exceed them Ferguson: Yeah, I think that we respond to the prospect of failure. I respond to it well and I think this club over the years has done that quite well too. Pinto: How much longer do you want to stay at Old Trafford and when do you know is the right time to turn your back on it all Ferguson: Well, several things will come into it. My health will be very important. You know, I’m 67 now, so therefore you hope your health, you retain your health and that way then I can still enjoy my job. If that were different I would quit my job immediately because you have to think that to do this job you have to be fit. Pinto: But do you still think there’s something else you want to do A lot of people talk about the record of league titles that belongs to Liverpool and after Manchester United you’d say “ok I’m done” Ferguson: No that wouldn’t come into it at all. Definitely not come into it. If there was one challenge I would love the club to win more European trophies then they have done and I think up to this point, quite a few times over the years, I don’t think we’ve won the number we should have won. There have been years where we were unlucky. The years we were disappointed. The years when we’ve thrown games away, and that sort of gives you a kaleidoscope of what football is like in a way. So therefore if we could just win a couple more European trophies then I would definitely quit. Pinto: If you do go, it will be incredibly difficult for whoever comes here. What kind of manager do you think can succeed you Ferguson: Well I think, obviously I’m glad it’s not my decision, but I think you need someone with experience here because it’s a big club now. It’s a massive club. When I came here I was 46 I think I was, when I came about 45 or 46, something like that, and therefore I had the energy and I had some experience at Aberdeen of course I did have good years there so that was kind of the foundation I need to go to such a big club. But when I came here it was nothing like what it is today. Pinto: People have spoken recently about the possibility of Jose Mourinho maybe coming here. How do you see him as a manager and do you think he would fit in here Ferguson: Well obviously I mean, I made a point, in terms of an experienced manager to come to Manchester United. I like Jose, I think he’s a good guy, we’ve got on very well together but as I said, I don’t know what the club thinks about who the next manager is going to be but hopefully it’s not for another 2 or 3 years because I intend to stay on as long as I can. The funny thing about football is how the game changes. Now two or three years ahead I don’t know what’s going to happen in this world. I have absolutely no idea. So for me to think about where Jose Mourinho is going to be or Arsene Wenger is going to be or whoever it’s impossible because their careers can take directions and turns which surprise you. Pinto: Whoever comes in will have to command respect. You do that and have always done. Do you think that players fear you a little bit as well and is that important Ferguson: Well I think that maybe, you know, maybe there’s a great respect of me because of my age and how long I’ve been here. Sometimes maybe fear, sometimes I lose my temper and I’m quite angry.
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Pinto: Football has changed a lot since you’ve been here and in the world of management. Is it harder to motivate the players now because they’ve got everything in their lives Ferguson: I think it can be difficult for some types of person that have the nature that when they get into a comfortable zone they can relax too much and they can’t get it back. Whereas real stars – you think of Tiger Woods – he’s been off golf for six months, he comes back after that knee operation and there he is he wins that tournament last week. You tell me what drives him on and it is that they’re special people. No matter how successful they are they have a driving force in them that makes them want to win the next one and the next one – that’s their nature. Others’ nature is “oh I don’t need to go to work tomorrow, I’ve got enough money, I’ll retire at 30”. And you see people even in the banking world or commercial and they retire at 45 – 50 years of age. They should be working till they’re 70. So, you can’t change the nature of people. You don’t know how they’re going to handle success, when they get a bit of money what are they going to be like You don’t know that till it hits you in the face or you see it and you say to yourself “he’s changed” and you have to do something about it. Pinto: What players have you most enjoyed working with and why Ferguson: I’ve been fortunate, I think the players at this club realize quite quickly they have to have a standard and they don’t go below that standard or they won’t be playing. So our training performances are fantastic. The intensity, the concentration, the quality is always first class. You look at someone like Ryan Giggs and he has to be the prime example of what we’re after in life. Someone that has never changed, someone who at every training session does his best and throughout his 20 year career has excelled in different levels all the time. He reinvents his energy better than anyone I’ve ever seen. Pinto: You have overseen the development of Cristiano Ronaldo – he’s come into the world of fame and fortune. How have you been able to keep him grounded Ferguson: I think that he’s had the temptations and there have been periods where you have seen that effect of it. He’s lucky we have people here that can tell him the truth and be straight with him and he appreciates that and he has responded to that. Fortunately Ronaldo has got good human qualities. He’s a good guy and he knows the time of day, he knows when he’s going too far and he draws back. Pinto: What’s your most memorable game ever A lot of people would point to 1999. Ferguson: Yeah, definitely. You can’t beat that. With three minutes to go you’re one nil down, three minutes later you’ve won the European Cup. It wasn’t by accident because the team kept doing that that season – scoring late goals throughout the season. Against Liverpool in the FA Cup, against Arsenal. It just was not an accident, it told you about the character of the team it told you about the determination and the hunger to succeed. Pinto: You won three trophies then, you can win five or six if you include the Community Shield this year could be a historic campaign. Can you do it And how difficult is it going to be to do the clean sweep Ferguson: It is very difficult of course and we’re trying to dismiss it in every way possible. We’ve had to live with all these plaudits and hyperbole in these last few months and I’ve been trying to dampen it down. Now, we’re in a battle: we’ve drawn with Porto at home, we’ve got a difficult tie now away from home. We’ve lost two league games to Liverpool and Fulham – now the press are saying we’re cracking up. So, what I think I have got to do now is to remind the players that where we are at the moment, we are. It doesn’t matter what happened on Tuesday night against Porto, we’re still in the European Cup with a chance, we’re still in the FA Cup semi-final with a chance, we’re top of the league with a chance – so what more can I do with my players but just to remind the players why we got here and that we are where we are. We’re in a fantastic position.
Pinto: Who’s your greatest rival in the world of football Or who has been the greatest rival Ferguson: Well over a long period Arsene Wenger has been the longest survivor in terms of rivalry and particularly between the two clubs Arsenal and Manchester United has been a fantastic competition over the years. And of course with Arsene staying as long as he has that’s persisted. Whereas, if you take Chelsea – they’ve had three managers in the past three years, Liverpool have had seven managers in the time I’ve been here. No-one has survived as long as Arsene so he has to be the main rival.