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Sir Alex Ferguson: Players are softer these days but my desire is just the same

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26 Dec 2010 00:28:05

Sir Alex Ferguson: Players are softer these days but my desire is just the same

Sir Alex Ferguson may have a trophy cabinet full of silverware but hewill lead an unbeaten team out on Boxing Day today for the very first time. Yet while it is a source of great pride that his Manchester United side have not lost in the Premier League since April, there is also frustration that too many draws means they have not been able to take advantage of the inconsistencies of Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham to pull away at the top. 'If someone had the guts to go out and win 10 games in a row now, they'd win the league,' he said, in what was a clear challenge to his players ahead of today's home game with Sunderland. Still hungry: Sir Alex Ferguson wants to win another title 'We've done it in the past and we hope that we've cut out the stupid mistakes we were making early season. We've had some good performances but it has been interspersed with some ordinary football, like away at Sunderland.' Ferguson will turn 69 on New Year's Eve and he now look odds-on to carry on longer than Sir Bobby Robson, who was 71 when he was sacked by Newcastle in 2004. It appeals to Sir Alex that elder statesmen appear to be back in vogue. It is possible that four of this season's top-six Premier League managers will be over 60 - Arsene Wenger, 61, Harry Redknapp, 63, Roy Hodgson, 63, and Ferguson. This week, as if to drum home the point, the FA appointed 67-year-old David Bernstein as chairman. 'There was a time when the trend was to take great players and throw them straight into Premier League management without them having the chance of building up knowledge in management,' he said. Difficult time: Trevor Francis didn't find the transfer to football management easy Trevor Francis is one that springs to mind. Now there's definitely an emphasis on more experienced managers. 'I started at East Stirlingshire, St Mirren, then Aberdeen, before I came to Manchester United. You're dealing with trying to get players for £100, £200, amounts like that. It was a long time ago but dealing with it, with no money, having to scan through the free list looking for players, training facilities, it all helps you cope with different situations. One of my jobs was making sure the laundry worked, that the players had clean kits. 'At some clubs, they'd throw all the laundry in the middle of the floor and the players would have to dive in, they might come out with one white sock, and one black sock. The game has changed since those days but that experience has helped me.' That experience made him possibly the only manager who could have turned around the drama surrounding Wayne Rooney earlier in the season. United's star player publicly questioned the club's long-term plans, yet Ferguson was able to manage the situation so that the striker signed a new contract and also ensured there was no lasting resentment by fans. 'You have to understand the change in players, and people in general,' he said. 'It's the same with my kids at then club. You do more for them than my father did for me because it's a different financial environment we're in. The education and the access to information youngsters have now is different. 'You try to improve their life but you also have to accept that by doing that you're dealing with a more fragile individual. The players are brought up much softer, much easier than I was brought up. That's a fact. You are dealing with more fragile people. You use your experience.' Early days: Alex Ferguson just after taking over at Manchester United It means the hairdryer has to come out less frequently, but Ferguson is also aware basic professionalism among modern players is also higher than it used to be. 'Our training sessions are always good. The players always commit themselves fully. The players' behaviour off the pitch has changed, they're different animals in that respect now. 'Two things have created that. The money they're paid means they can't afford to live differently. They have a dedication to the game. Secondly, bringing in European players and foreign players has helped. Very few foreign players drink and I've never had any situations with one of them drinking. 'What hasn't changed one bit are my standards and discipline. My training philosophy has not changed in terms of the workload they have. The other thing that's different is sports science and that changes the type of work they do, that's different to 20 years ago.' The desire to win has not changed either. Ferguson has led United to 11 Premier League titles, but there is no let-up in his pursuit of a 12th. 'We are unbeaten but we've had a few draws,' he added. 'We won't be unbeaten forever but, hopefully, a defeat won't come until the last day when we're five points clear!'  Michael Owen won't leave Manchester United, insists FergiePatrick Collins: From the fall of Wayne Rooney... to the rise of Graeme McDowellReview of the sporting year - June: Month-by-month guide to the stories that had us gripped in 2010MANCHESTER UNITED FC


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