Gary Neville: How Sir Alex Ferguson instructed players to gain advantages over opponents

Manchester United Press Conference

Sir Alex Ferguson will forever be remembered as one of the greatest managers - if not *the* greatest manager - in football history.

The legendary Scottish coach enjoyed unprecedented success during his glittering 26-year spell in charge of Manchester United.

Ferguson won 38 trophies with the Red Devils, in total, making him the most successful British manager in the history of football.

Several United legends spent their entire professional careers playing under Ferguson.

Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville - three members of the famed ‘Class of ’92’ - started their careers with Ferguson as their manager, and ended their careers with Ferguson as their manager.

Neville, who has established his reputation as the leading football pundit on British television since hanging up his boots in 2011, appeared on the ‘Quickly Kevin’ football podcast this week and revealed fascinating details of how Fergie would instruct his players to gain small - but sometimes crucial - advantages over their opponents on match days.

Manchester United v Portsmouth - FA Community Shield

“When the handshakes were introduced, he used to say ‘make sure you look into the eyes of every single player you shake hands with when you walk down that line. Hold it strong and look right into their eyes.’” Neville explained.

“He said: ‘Do you know something? One or two of them will fold’ because there’s a sternness there, there’s a message in it, it’s a challenge thing.

“He had those little things, techniques that maybe didn’t work all of the time but he was always looking for that advantage. When you think about him pointing towards his watch - all that sort of stuff he did was all around the edges of winning.”


Looking into the eyes of every opponent during the pre-match handshakes in order to gain a psychological advantage isn’t something 99 per cent of managers would even think about.

But Ferguson was always thinking of ways to increase his team’s chances of winning - and this is what made him the best.


Neville also revealed how Ferguson would try to get into the heads of opposition players and the match officials before kick-off.

“He would always try to gain an advantage,” Neville said. “He used to stand in the tunnel, outside the dressing room, before every single game and shake every single one of our players’ hands.

“But I didn’t realise until I was captain, what he was doing was looking down the tunnel so that the opposition players saw him and the referee saw him. So, every player on the opposition saw him, as well. It’s a bit of intimidation because he was an overpowering figure.

Manchester United v Swansea City - Premier League

“This idea about winning [the game] inside the tunnel before you’ve even gone out onto the pitch, there was an element of that with him in terms of the psychology.”

Further proof, if ever it was needed, that Fergie was a managerial genius.

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