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Hunger is back at Barca

Barcelona
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By ESPN Staff

Patience still the key to success, insists Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson begins his 23rd season as Manchester United manager against Newcastle on August 17; the living embodiment of how valuable patience in football can be.

It has been well documented how close Ferguson came to the sack in 1990, clinging on to his job by virtue of a victory over Nottingham Forest at the City Ground and an FA Cup triumph at Wembley.

Ferguson has never been entirely convinced of the argument, claiming he had been assured by Sir Bobby Charlton his tenure did not rest on that trip to the east midlands.

Given the way league results went after that day, it is hard to escape the feeling he would have been out of a job. Equally difficult, given the way chairmen have become so trigger happy in recent years, is it to see how Ferguson would have lasted even that long in the modern era.

Yet while he freely accepts the game has changed markedly in the past two decades, Ferguson is not certain the route to success is all that different.

Season after season he sees rivals axed without being given a chance to prove themselves.

Last year Sammy Lee managed barely a dozen games at Bolton. It was the same with Chris Hutchings at Wigan. As both men were attempting to replace long-serving and successful figures in Sam Allardyce and Paul Jewell, the man chosen to succeed Ferguson should be pretty fearful.

But if there is one piece of advice Ferguson will impart on the Old Trafford board when the time of his departing draws near, it will be to keep the faith.

'Nowadays, you have this knee-jerk reaction when a team loses a game,' he observed. 'It is a very emotional game and I think I understand that.

'But changing a manager after just a few games does not guarantee success. You get success through continuity and consistency. I think that is proven in the case of myself and the likes of Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest.'

Ferguson might have added Allardyce and Jewell, or David Moyes and Arsene Wenger, with whom he has embarked on so many personal duels down the years.

Indeed, Chelsea's Achilles heel this term may not be their age. It may be requiring players to understand the workings of a third manager in 12 months following Luiz Felipe Scolari's appointment after the exits of Avram Grant and Jose Mourinho.

'I just wish there was more patience from the press and from boardrooms in relation to how you react to defeat,' said Ferguson. 'It is not easy. No-one likes to lose a game of football.

'But you need to give a person time to develop his own vision about how his team should play. Also he needs time to develop a youth programme and bring in a continuity of players.

'These are important aspects of a club and I think Manchester United epitomise these beliefs.'

It certainly provides Ferguson with the best possible base from which to challenge for honours.

He may have got through the first part of pre-season without strengthening his Champions League-winning squad but Ferguson will not leave it like that when the meaningful action starts.

The Scot is acutely aware that Super Cup and World Club Championship commitments mean an extra three games, while Euro 2008 and Olympic action is bound to take its toll at some point.

These concerns will be addressed, probably in the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov, although it could be argued Ferguson will have pulled off his biggest summer coup by persuading Cristiano Ronaldo to stay. He also requires an assistant to replace Carlos Queiroz, although the appointment looks increasingly likely to come from within, possibly encompassing a double promotion for Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen.

Then the major focus can shift to the pitch and an 11th title - to match Ryan Giggs shirt number - and back-to-back Champions League wins, a feat that has proved too much for any side since Europe's most prestigious competition was revamped in 1992.

'It can be done,' said Ferguson. 'It is a challenge for us but there is nothing wrong with challenges. They are good for you.

'I am not dismissing anyone but I feel that the top four clubs will remain as they are. And if we are number one I will be absolutely delighted for everyone.'

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