The Great Manager and the … Not So Great!


Well congratulations to the Divs for winning the English Premier League this season – as a long time United fan it grieves me to see it but Guardiola’s team have been exceptional  and illustrate the gulf in managerial class between the him and his noisy neighbour!

Don’t get me wrong – I was born just outside Manchester and am a lifelong United fan but some years ago I wrote a piece that illustrated the difference between Ferguson and Mourinho then but similar parallels can be drawn between Guardiola and Mourinho now – unfortunately it is Guardiola who is more Ferguson-like.  They are managers with  completely different approaches to football and man management.  Unfortunately, today Mourinho, the directive and controlling manager is in charge at United, who seems to make it more about himslef than the team, while Guardiola, like Ferguson, focuses on the team.

One of the  illustrations of difference is in Mourinho’s reaction after United’s loss to West Brom on Sunday, compared to Guardiola, after recent losses to Liverpool and United.  This week numerous newspapers and websites carried headlines along the lines of ‘Mourinho blasts players’.  In contrast, Guardiola, after losses to Liverpool in the Champions League and United in the Premier League, when interviewed talked about the joy of managing such a talented group of players,  He also described it as a learning experience for the team.  Ferguson, as United manager, never criticised his players in public – that was saved for the privacy of the dressing room.

There is a potentially critical impact on the psychology of the players – Gary Neville, former United captain under Ferguson, in a recent BBC interview, talked about how he’s found the world of business different to sport, while building his business empire.

“In both you have to have motivated people, and they have to enjoy what they do,” he says. “Also, in football and business you have to work the hardest you can every single day, and make sure you never give in.”

However, Neville says, in business – unlike in football – it can sometimes be difficult to achieve the “peer group analysis” he encountered in the high-pressure Old Trafford dressing room, where players would instantly acknowledge responsibility for mistakes.

“It can be difficult in an office for people to admit they didn’t do very well, or have fallen below standards,” observes Neville.

Ferguson, with his approach, bred an us against the world mentality, providing a bonding in which peer group feedback was the norm in the dressing room and players took accountability.  When the manager criticises the players in public it can lead to the players becoming defensive, feeling they may not have the complete backing of the manager and not readily accepting accountability for their performance when it is sub par.  Directive managerial behaviour exacerbates this.

When we see a lack of accountability in our teams we should look at the leaders or managers and how they behave, as well as ourselves.

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