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Expert comment on Sir Alex Ferguson


By Andy Lane, Professor of Sports and Exercise Psychology at the University of Wolverhampton. Andy is accredited by the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) for scientific support and research as well as being a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society. He has authored more than 100 peer refereed journal articles and edited two books.

"So Sir Alex Ferguson has retired. We’ve had “Fergie time", “hairdryers", the “Beckham’s boot”, and rows with other managers – Kevin Keegan and Rafa Benitez being the most memorable spats. When it’s all said and done however he leaves Manchester United as champions for a record 20th time. So what comes next?

We are in shock at the moment; numbness and the realisation of what this means has not sunk in. When it does, people will start thinking, what next? What will happen?

Manchester United staff will start thinking about who is coming in next. In soccer, its common practice for the new manager to clear out a great deal of the existing structures; re-structuring and re-appointing. Soccer players are usually adaptive to change; however, long-term Manchester United players are used to Sir Alex. Rio Ferdinand and England come to mind. How many players will start considering their options, then? We might assume the big-name players are confident of their place in the team, but at big clubs like Manchester United, such players can be substitutes.

As I write, we can see that stories have already begun to emerge about the future of Wayne Rooney at the club. “Once bitten, twice shy” United fans might think about this one – it’s not the first time the Scouse striker has messed the club around over contracts.

There will be nervousness and anxiety at the club, from the players and the staff. Those feeling such emotions might thus try to change these emotions.

Some might try to say “It’ll be ok; Sir Alex is in the boardroom” and as such try to re-appraise the situation. However, what happens when they lose a couple of games? Manchester United lost at home to Chelsea at the weekend; would the incoming manager be booed off with calls for Sir Alex to come back ringing in his ears? Roy Hodgson found it hard at Liverpool with the legendary Kenny Dalglish in a managerial position, and the fans made their point clear. Hodgson, as good a manager as he is, didn’t last long.

Change brings nervousness and how these nerves are managed will be interesting times. It appears, at the time of writing, that David Moyes will be the next manager. The size of his job is incalculable. Making sure that the mental attitudes of the players are spot on is just the first challenge of many that he faces…"

Andy Lane


This is taken from the University of Wolverhampton's Academic Blog.

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