Van Persie: Sir Alex had one 'main thing'

Robin van Persie says that Sir Alex Ferguson's knack of bringing “happiness” to his Manchester United squad was perhaps the legendary manager's key attribute.

The Dutchman played under the serial Scottish title-winner for just one season – which ended in an unprecedented 20th top-flight championship for the Reds – before working under subsequent United bosses David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.

And the striker explained that a noticeable difference between Ferguson and his successors was that Sir Alex chose to delegate many of the training and tactical responsibilities normally associated with the role, instead preferring to concentrate on controlling the atmosphere and culture within the dressing room.

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Van Persie explained his theory in the latest episode of UTD Podcast, and cited the gaffer's response to a derby defeat to Manchester City in April 2013, which cut our lead at the top of the Premier League table to 12 points with seven to play.

“What I like about Ferguson is that after one defeat – I think it was against City – he really, really trained us hard in the next couple of days,” the 36-year-old remembered.

“You could call it a punishment. But after that, he had a short meeting and he said: ‘Okay, listen. I had these couple of sessions with you done, [because] we lost the game. But now we have to forget it and we have to look forward.’

“And that is a very important point as well,” continued the former Netherlands star. “Because if you lose... you know, it happens. It can happen. But it all depends on how you react. If you stay unhappy, if you stay disappointed, then Ferguson always believed that your chance of winning the next game would be smaller, and I do believe so too. 

“You have to, at one point, sooner rather than later, you have to give it a place and you have to move on. You have to learn from it. Okay, perfect, but now he just wanted everyone to chat to each other, to be happy, to make jokes and just for everyone to be themselves. He didn't want a bad vibe for too long after defeat.

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Later in the podcast, Robin mentioned that Ferguson's treatment of Brazilian midfielder Anderson was a good example of his astute brand of man-management.

“Fergie's main thing was to keep everyone happy. Ferguson kept Ando happy, as well!” said van Persie.

“Ando, sometimes, can be in his own world. He's like a free bird, you know what I mean? He wants to be free, he wants to dance, he wants to sing, he wants to do this, he wants to do that... which is fine. But Fergie accepted that, and he let him be himself. He let him free sometimes. He let him make maybe sometimes a little bit of bad joke, whatever. It's fine. Fergie accepted everyone for the person he was, and made sure everyone was on the same page, but mainly [that] everyone was happy.”

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When the 71-year-old Ferguson announced his retirement shortly before the end of van Persie's hugely successful debut campaign, the former Arsenal forward confessed that he was disappointed, but later simply appreciated having had the chance to play under the great man.

“It wasn’t part of the plan,“ he admitted, “but it’s football, these things happen: players move on, people retire. His reason I did fully get, it was a private matter – that’s why he stopped. 

“He gave 26 years to the club, he did an unbelievable job. I was disappointed, but that’s it. After that, you move on. I was thankful to have worked for him for a year.”

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