Sir Alex Ferguson.

How Sir Alex boosted United's staff

Saturday 20 March 2021 07:00

There was a pleasant surprise for Manchester United’s employees when our all-staff meeting this week featured a special interview with Sir Alex Ferguson.

Not only was it wonderful to see our former manager looking so well but his ability to engage and inspire was certainly the talking point of our department afterwards, and no doubt throughout the club.

The theme was resilience, a term that he could be the dictionary definition of, and the words of advice and encouragement may have seemed quite simple when broken down but they resonated and certainly struck a chord with me.

It is easy to see why players would run through brick walls for Sir Alex. He has this innate ability to engender team spirit and make everybody feel part of the same cause and his lengthy chat with Stewart Gardner was a source of great motivation.

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I am fortunate in so much as I managed to enjoy several one-to-one interviews with Sir Alex during his time as manager and it is probably reasonable to say one will forever remain my career highlight, as he discussed the Olympics and Usain Bolt in his office in the way a couple of pals would converse at a pub.

A simple ‘well done’ from him at the end of the informal interviews made you feel like you’d succeeded in the job when, in reality, it was just an absolute privilege and honour to be able to spend some time in his company.

It has been a tough year for everybody in all walks of life due to the pandemic and extended lockdowns. Manchester United has realised this and looked out for the staff throughout, with this meeting just one example.

One of the most satisfying things about working for the club I have always supported is merely feeling part of it. I admit the experience of travelling with the squad for European matches and seeing my name just tagged with ‘Manchester United’ when checking in at the hotels somehow awakens a distant child-like spark.

It wasn’t quite the way a seven-year-old me would have hoped to represent the Reds. That particular dream died a long time ago but this is clearly the next-best thing, something Sir Bobby Charlton once said to me. He felt if he did not make it as a footballer (as if that would ever be the case!) then he would have liked to report on it instead.

Yet this feeling of being part of the club has been more difficult at a time when most of us are being forced to work remotely. I am sure that is the case for everybody in all professions where the camaraderie of office life has been lost and those Zoom calls and Teams chats are just not quite the same.

What Sir Alex managed to do was remind us all that we are part of a great worldwide institution. That we should be proud to work for United, which is undoubtedly the case. That when you tell anybody, maybe someone you bump into at a bar (when they’re back open) who you work for, their response is almost always one of awe and admiration.

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So enjoy your job, was his message. Always enjoy it. For our team in particular, how can you not enjoy talking about football all day every day? Writing about it. Speaking to the coaches and players. Expressing your opinion. Best of all, watching the Reds play, even a select few of us still get to share that privilege due to work, despite the games being behind closed doors and desperately missing the supporters as much as they miss attending.

It galvanised me and provided encouragement that better days are ahead, when we are all together and feeling even closer to this great club again. I await Sir Alex’s upcoming documentary ‘Never Give In’ with relish, knowing watching it will provide further inspiration and respect for somebody whose personality and presence transcends sport.

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So thank you to Sir Alex for giving up the time to speak to us. And thank you to those who organised it, as it has provided a real lift, not just for me, but for all of us who work for Manchester United.

The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.