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No-one worked harder than Alex Ferguson, the true special one at Manchester United, says brother Martin


Glory trail: Sir Alex Ferguson with the European Cup after Manchester United’s Champions League victory in 1999

Glory trail: Sir Alex Ferguson with the European Cup after Manchester United’s Champions League victory in 1999

Glory trail: Sir Alex Ferguson with the European Cup after Manchester United’s Champions League victory in 1999

Close your eyes and the voice is unmistakeably Ferguson. You would think you were listening to the gravelly Govan tones of Sir Alex, British football's most successful manager. Instead this is Martin, his younger brother, who also enjoyed a wonderful, if much less heralded, career at Manchester United as the club's chief European scout.

He is speaking in Lurgan as part of an evening organised by former United, Wigan and Northern Ireland defender Pat McGibbon to raise awareness about coaching kids and looking after their mental health and well being.


Man United's ex-manager Sir Alex Ferguson with his brother Martin Ferguson. Photo: Ian Hodgson

Man United's ex-manager Sir Alex Ferguson with his brother Martin Ferguson. Photo: Ian Hodgson

Ian Hodgson/ANL/REX/Shutterstock

Man United's ex-manager Sir Alex Ferguson with his brother Martin Ferguson. Photo: Ian Hodgson

While Sir Alex is one of the most respected and revered figures in world sport, Martin (74) is rarely mentioned.

He started scouting for United in 1997 after a career that saw him play for Partick Thistle, Greenock Morton, Barnsley and Doncaster, manage Waterford, East Stirling and Albion Rovers and coach at St Mirren and Hibernian.

Apart from the obvious family connection, what bonds the brothers is retirement and a fervent hope that Manchester United will excel again.

The self-styled Special One, Jose Mourinho, is in charge at Old Trafford today, but in Martin's eyes no one will ever be as special as his 'big brother Alex' who, in 26 years as United boss, won 38 trophies including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns. Before that at Aberdeen he won a mountain of silverware at home and abroad.

Three-and-a-half years on from Ferguson exiting the hotseat, and three managers later in David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho (four if you count interim boss Ryan Giggs), United fans hanker for 'Fergie time' and the exhilarating, entertaining football that went with it.

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Martin Ferguson loved being along for the ride with the boy he grew up with on the streets of Glasgow playing football any chance they got.

"He is my brother and I love him and he deserves everything that he has got because he has put his life into it. He made a lot of sacrifices with his family because he was away so much. He spends more time with his grandchildren now than he did with his children but that's because he was so dedicated, determined and single-minded," says Martin.

"He was also a great listener, which is such an important quality to have. If his players were straight with him, he would be straight with them. I wouldn't say he was always loved by the players but he was respected by the players.

"You may say I am biased with him being my big brother but there is no doubt that Alex was something special. To be special you have to work hard and there is nobody who worked harder than Alex.

"As a young man Alex always had determination. I was always a bit more easy going. He was so determined. He could be a bit of a rascal at times as well but he had that energy about him and I loved spending time with him when we were young. I still do. He is a special person.

"He was clever, too, because I know when he was coaching with Scotland and Jock Stein they used to sit up for hours talking football and Alex was smart enough to learn from that.

"Alex always liked playing attacking football and playing with style. He also had a disciplined regime at the club and always believed in young footballers - these are all the things that made Manchester United."

History would have been different had Alex, 75 tomorrow, and Martin's dad Alexander taken a different turn.

"Most of my dad's family emigrated to Canada but he wouldn't go with them because he wanted to give Alex and I a chance with the football," revealed Martin who believes that football will never see the likes of his brother and the success he achieved as manager again.

"It is going to be very difficult for anyone in the future to achieve what Alex has achieved.

"Following him at United was never going to be easy. I think David Moyes was unlucky. He never really got the chance. He did make mistakes but he probably didn't get long enough.

"Van Gaal obviously in his day was a very good coach but, back then, his philosophy and the Dutch philosophy was different to everybody else's. What has happened over the years is that a lot of clubs play the same type of football, keeping possession of the ball and making the other team work.

"Teams are better coached now than when Van Gaal was in his prime. When he was in charge of United, teams just retreated and let United have the ball in their own half because they were never going to score from there.

"The average teams were nicking a point at Old Trafford whereas, under Alex, if the opposition retreated United would always find a way to win.

"Teams would panic in the last four or five minutes because Alex would come down from the dug-out pointing to his watch shouting 'Hey ref, come on' and invariably United would get winning goals.

"We had belief then and belief comes from good man-management, positive thinking, team spirit, encouragement and good players.

"Now we have Mourinho and I think he has been left with a difficult job. Hopefully we will be able to buy some players in the window to improve the team.

"I think Mourinho will know what he needs.

"He is not stupid and has been in the game a long time.

"He will know where his weaknesses are and where he will need to improve and will be out looking for players. I just hope we get the right players. It won't be easy for him because players who can play for Manchester United don't grow on trees. I just want to see United winning consistently again."

On other managers in the Premier League, Martin believes Liverpool now have a special character of their own.

Ferguson says: "There are managers at other clubs who I think have done great like Arsenal's Arsene Wenger. His teams are always attractive to watch.

"Then you have young managers coming through. I like Eddie Howe at Bournemouth and Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham while Jurgen Klopp has done a fantastic job at Liverpool.

"He has brought the enthusiasm in there and they are going strong."

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