Sir Alex Ferguson: What Makes Manchester United's Manager Truly Great?

Brad SimkuletSenior Analyst IAugust 14, 2008

There can be no denying that Sir Alex Ferguson is a great manager.

During his career, which stretches from St. Mirren to Manchester United, he has won 14 domestic titles, 20 domestic cups (including England’s Community Shield 8 times), and seven European or International Cups.

That total puts his greatness beyond all debate.

But what is it in Alex Ferguson that has driven him to such outrageous success? Many would say there are too many reasons to be counted, and they might be right. But I say it all boils down to one factor—his ability to make audaciously risky decisions and stick by them no matter what fans, pundits, and his players think.

The man trusts himself, and that makes him the ultimate managerial winner.

Yes, he’s a solid tactician. Yes, he’s got an eye for talent and the pocketbook to bring them to Old Trafford. Yes, he’s a heck of a motivator. Yes, he’s as intimidating to other managers and teams as the Red Devils' stadium. And yes, he’s a man you wouldn’t want to cross.

But, all of these things are a testament to Fergie's belief in himself and his decisions.

Who else would have supported Rio Ferdinand during his year-long drug test suspension? No one. Who else would have sent Beckham packing at the height of his talent? No one. Who else would have cut off his right hand after using him and his infamous mouth to instill fear in his younger, arrogant players? No one.

Who else would have brought in an aging Swede for a title push for only half a season? No one (at least not in the Premiership). Who else would have thrown Ole Gunner Solskjær in at the end of a Champion’s League Final? Maybe a few, but I doubt it.

What is glaringly obvious about each of these moments is that Fergie acts the way Fergie believes will work—and it almost always does.

In most cases, like sticking by Rio or sending Beckham to Madrid and Keane out the door, his decisions are calculated for the long-term and precisely weighted. They leave us scratching our heads, but they always turns out to be sound.

In other cases, like the addition of aging Henrik Larsson or the use of Solskjær, the decisions are short-term or instant, more a product of Fergie’s gut, and they also turn out to be entirely valid.

And these are only a recent handful of his risky decisions. He’s been taking these kind of risks for his entire career.

Don’t believe me? Well, you should. You can’t take Aberdeen to European glory without taking risks. Just ask Don's fans.

And how else do you explain Fergie's second love, horse racing? You can't love the ponies if you don't love taking chances.

Simply put, Sir Alex Ferguson is a risk taker. The ultimate football risk taker. And, wouldn’t it be beautiful to see him taking those risks for the combined British team in the 2012 Olympics?

If he does, you can be sure that Gold will be coming to the UK.

Next up: Jose Mourhino

On Deck: Fabio Capello