Ferguson Case of Manchester United

November 25, 2021

Management is a crucial aspect of each industry. Applying management principles or ignoring them can make projects succeed or fail respectively. Therefore, it is crucial for involved individuals to be conversant with management as a tool for success in their undertakings. Particularly, the application of quality management principles can ensure good results in sports sphere. Football or soccer is a sport that requires the utilization of management principles towards a team to guarantee its success. One of the greatest personalities in the management of football is Sir Alex Ferguson who implemented various management principles that led to the success of Manchester United. Without proper management at the time, the club would not have achieved the level of success that it continued to enjoy during his tenure. It is crucial to analyze Sir Alex Ferguson’s management of Manchester United to evaluate the principles that should be applied even in daily business operations to ensure success in business.

Football is one of the sports enjoyed in the world. In numerous leagues, different teams compete with each other for trophies and monetary prizes. The English Premier League is one of the most watched leagues in the world due to its competitiveness and the level of technicality involved (Balthold, 2009). As such, the league has fans all over the world. It contains twenty teams that play with each other twice in each season, and the last three become relegated to the lower division of the league while those that are in top of division are promoted to cover those spots. Teams in all leagues in the world compete while conducting business. During transfer windows, players are bought and sold in the transfer market, and this is one of the sources of revenue earned by football teams. Additionally, teams are paid broadcasting fees for having their matches shown on television to the public.

Apart from the English Premier League, teams in Europe also seek to join the UEFA Champions League where teams from the whole Europe compete for a trophy (Hughes, 2014). This league is for the elite teams in Europe and is a lucrative business for the clubs in participation. As a result, all teams seek to become of the 3-4 ones from the English Premier League participating in the competition. This cannot be done without having success in the local league. It is for this reason that teams in the English Premier League seek to have the best managers.

Roles of a Football Manager

A manager has several roles that he or she needs to perform to ensure the success of a club. First of all, it implies ensuring that the first team of each club is ready for the competitions. This is in form of choosing the squad meant to play against a specific team, overseeing the trainings, and providing tactics during the match day. Another crucial role of a football manager is providing recommendations for players during the transfer market to ensure that a team has all the players that it needs to be successful in the league. Football managers also handle the interaction of the team with the outside world such as making press conferences and interviews. Lastly, the managers are tasked with the development of the youth team and the scouting structure that takes any notice of upcoming players.

Problem Statement

As in any other area, football managers face different challenges whenever managing a club. The first of these challenges involves ensuring that the club performs during each football season. In some cases, managers do not have the right players to guarantee that this short-term goal is reached. The next challenge is that the manager has to develop a team that provides the survival of the club. Without the right talent and a strong foundation to ensure that a club always has talented players, it becomes difficult to fulfill this responsibility. Lastly, a manager faces the problem of reaching cohesion within the team and dealing with any disciplinary issues that may arise.

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Manchester United: An Analysis

Alex Ferguson in the books is presented as one of the most successful managers in the English Premier League (Hughes, 2014). He has various trophies both in local and European leagues. His success can be attributed to the kind of management that he brought to Manchester United. He is a leader that loved what he did and the people he did it with. According to Manning and Curtis (2014) a good leader loves his roles and cares about the people who ensure he achieves his goals. Before the appointment of Sir Alex Ferguson as the new manager of Manchester United, the club was hit by woes that can be attributed to a plane crash in Munich in 1958 when several of its key players died (Elberse & Dye, 2012). It took about a decade to reconstruct the team again and to lead the club to win in the European cup in 1968. However, the departure of the manager who had reconstructed the team after the crash saw Manchester United go in a decline till it found itself in the relegation zone in the 1986-1987 season (Elberse & Dye, 2012). Exactly at this time Sir Alex Ferguson was given the power to manage the team.

Right after his arrival at Old Trafford, which was the stadium that the team plays in, Sir Alex Ferguson noted several urgent issues to be handled. First, the players lacked the fitness required for a team of such a high caliber (Elberse & Dye, 2012). It is crucial for players to have the right physique and fitness, especially in the English Premier League, which is one of the most requiring in the world. Moreover, the players had a pervasive drinking culture that could greatly affect the performance of a team. Lastly, the team’s star players did not perform as they were expected. Ferguson decides to revolutionize the team by establishing a serious youth program to put an investment on the youth. He introduced training sessions, embarked on improving the team’s discipline and made efforts to have a family atmosphere in the team to show that everyone’s input was valued. Ferguson became the longest serving Manchester United manager, and the success that he enjoyed at the club can be shown by the management style that he chose (Hughes, 2014). It is for this reason that many seek to apply the same principles both in football and business management.

As observed, after the accident in Munich, Manchester United was experiencing management woes. However, the problems were not considered at the time until the then manager resigned. After his resignation, the managers who came in were not able to handle the players in the right way. Players were unfit, no programs were applied to ensure the survival of the club, key players did not perform as per the standards they were expected, and the team had discipline issues. It is these football managerial problems that Sir Alex Ferguson chose to solve.

Managing a Game

Sir Alex Ferguson’s approach towards managing the team started with how well he managed each game. In a project, a game can be observed as a task that one needs to fulfill, which is the part of the general project. In Ferguson’s approach, each game is different and cannot be managed in the same way. There are tweaks that the manager performed to make his team in their best position to win a game. Days before the game, Ferguson ensured that the coaching staff had the right tactics for the game that they passed to the players (Elberse & Dye, 2012). Prior to the game, the team connected during lunch before Ferguson talked to the players. He then took a chance to talk to the team during half time to motivate them or review any tactics that needed to be discussed. A talk was also performed after the game. This shows the importance of teamwork as well as the motivation provided to the team by the manager.

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Managing a Season

Most of time, Manchester United played both local and games in the European league. As such, it is crucial that the manager knows the best way to engage the team. Managing a season means having to deal with issues during transfers or injuries within the squad. Sir Alex Ferguson adhered to the opinion that having consistency within the season defines whether the team win or lose. Tradeoffs exist if the team competes in several trophies meaning that Ferguson had to forgo some games that did not seem important so as to win the vital matches in the season (Elberse & Dye, 2012). Moreover, he had to ensure that the team during trainings was repeating the skills and the tactics they wished to employ to provide the better style of play. During the season, the manager dealt with different issues of the players revolving around discipline, personal improvement, and squad rotations.

Managing the Club

For a manager, managing weekly games and a season is not the main goal. Each manager seeks to build a foundation for a club to ensure that the club is sustainable for years to come. For Sir Alex Ferguson, the best way to do this was the Youth Program, that proved to be successful (Elberse & Dye, 2012). A structure through which a club is built is crucial to guarantee its survival over years. Sir Alex Ferguson invested in the Youth Program, which saw him mentor the young players with the experienced players. This made several young players join and play with the rest of the team. Having a successful Youth Program, Alex Ferguson always had a replacement for the players who either became injured, sought transfers, or decided to retire. Through the program, the youth players replaced the old ones while other members were recruited into the Youth Program. The key to a successful Youth Program is finding a balance during the mentorship period. Ferguson would start from a few members of the youth team learning from the experienced players, which ensured that a squad was always available when needed.

The path chosen by Sir Alex Ferguson has several strengths and weaknesses. The first strength is that it provides a foundation for the survival of the team by the creation of the Youth Program. Another strength is that younger members of the team are able to learn from the experienced individuals. However, such a program takes years for results to be seen, and short-term remedies need to be sought additionally.

Call to Action

For football clubs such as Manchester United, the approach taken by Sir Alex Ferguson should be emulated. First, football clubs need to develop a strong structure for their teams. As in the case of Sir Alex Ferguson who invested in the Youth Program that saw Manchester United survive due to the service of the young players, other football managers should also do the same. This works as the long-term strategy. Moreover, Manchester United should seek ways to improve the Youth Program already established by Sir Alex Ferguson. For the short-term strategy, teams such as Manchester United should buy players from other clubs to deliver better opportunities for the club. The medium-term strategy should be involving the players already in the academy to be mentored by the experienced players in the squad.

Recommendation

Creating a strong foundation and structure for a club is not only possible by establishing a strong youth program but also investing in scouting programs. Football scouts explore the world seeking to find talented individuals while they are still in their young age. Investing in scouting programs can ensure that a club is able to sustain its survival by tapping on individual’s talent before other teams find them. This can also bring profits to such a team since after scouting for talented individuals and signing them, the teams can train the individuals and sell them to other clubs at a later date. Therefore, such an investment in scouting and youth programs is crucial for a team like Manchester United that seeks to continue its previous success. This can define the best team among others. However, this recommendation requires financing, and most of the football teams do not have the required resources to develop such vibrant youth or scouting programs.

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Conclusion

Football is one of the sports watched by individuals worldwide. It has also become a business venture for different investors. For clubs to be successful, they need talented managers who control the internal structure of the team. Sir Alex Ferguson is one of the most celebrated football managers in the world today. This is due to the success that Ferguson achieved as a manager competing for both the English and European trophies. His success can be attributed to the management style that he decided to apply to the team. These include changing tactics depending on the game, ensuring discipline within the team, and developing structures such as the youth program to guarantee the club survives over time among others. Such management principles should be sought after and applied in the business sector, especially in cases where one is dealing with teamwork to ensure that each team player is appreciated as the part of the team.