Neville: Ferguson a pioneer

Sir Alex Ferguson's passion transformed Manchester United from the laughing stock of football to a dominant world force in the club game, says Gary Neville.

Last Updated: 09/05/13 at 09:53 Post Comment

Ferguson, who guided United to 38 trophies in his 26 years as boss, becoming the most successful manager in British football in the process, has announced that he will retire at the end of the season.

Former full-back Neville - now a Sky Sports pundit - came up through the youth ranks to become Ferguson's captain and won eight Premier League titles under the Scot.

He believes that Ferguson's unparalleled success was based on a unique combination of ambition and traditional values.

"He took everybody with him," said Neville of Ferguson, who will take up a role on the club's board as director and ambassador.

"He felt passionate about the football club. Winning the first trophy was a huge thing for the club and he demanded the [highest] standards of every single player that played under him.

"If you had 500 employees at Manchester United and he was one of them you had 499 'mini-mes'. He changed the mentality of every single individual at that football club.

"It's an incredible thing - balancing the traditional aspects of life (his upbringing) with actually being open enough to change with the modern game. He is the last of a kind.

"We talk about the crazy world of football that we see now - he really maintained a real, traditional value within that football club; a family value.

"He completely trusted in his players - he believed in them, trusted in them, made them feel good. He didn't confuse them too much. He was very simple in terms of his instruction but you knew full well that you had to perform for him and you knew full well that you were playing at a football club that demanded performance.

"I grew up as a fan in the seventies and eighties when that club was really the laughing stock; it proclaimed itself to be the greatest football club in the world but couldn't win the championship.

"Now he has taken them to a point of dominance over 20 years and made them serious about winning trophies again in the right style, bringing through young players while doing it."

Support

According to Sky sources David Moyes - whose contract at Everton runs out at the end of the season - is in pole position to replace Ferguson but the Toffees' board have as yet been given no indication he's leaving.

Neville believes that whoever does succeed Ferguson has a perfect opportunity to build on the Scot's legacy and will be guaranteed the support of the fans.

"The club will always move on - Manchester United is a massive football club," said Neville. "It moved on from the Munich air disaster, it moved on from Sir Matt Busby, it will move on from Sir Alex Ferguson.

"People will say 'how will the new manager be able to replace him?' and there will be comparisons. It's quite simple - play attractive football, bring young players through and win a championship.

"The fans will support them, the club will support them. This is not a stupid football club, this is not a crazy football club that changes the manager every 10 minutes.

"The new manager will need time and the club will need time to move on but they've got sensible people there.

"Somebody will be extremely fortunate to follow him. They are going into a football club where so much is perfect. The staff have been there for 15-20 years - they are grounded in winning, they have a mentality for winning and how to behave. It really is fantastic."

Pioneer

After leading United to a record 20th league title this season, and the 13th in his time as manager, Ferguson's final game will be against West Brom on May 19th.

The match will be his 1500th in charge of United and Neville said that's why Ferguson's legacy to the club will be his "longevity".

"You can mention 100 different things in terms of how he has pioneered squad rotation and the fact that we had never heard of a team having four strikers before Sir Alex Ferguson.

"The idea that in the Houses of Parliament in the mid-90s people were debating why he left seven or eight players out and played a group of kids at Port Vale. They are all doing it now.

"You can talk about all these little things where he has been a pioneer but the longevity of what he has done in both Scotland and England is absolutely incredible.

"It's so hard to do that for so long and I couldn't even begin to think that that will ever be achieved again."

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