Sir Alex Ferguson

Week 15 (14 - 20 December 2013)

Sir Alex Ferguson's acceptance speech after receiving a special Diamond Award at the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year ceremony last Sunday was a perfect piece of public speaking and showed the humility which Manchester United's former manager has maintained throughout his life, steering his career through incredible highs, and – as Ferguson hinted at – some lows in the early days at Old Trafford.

The BBC rolled out the red carpet for Ferguson, who won 38 trophies during his 27 years at Old Trafford, by arranging a reception party of United players past and present and a serenade from opera singer Russell Watson. Ferguson thanked all of them individually with a handshake and a quick word – forcing Watson to find the full extent of his lung capacity to ensure his tribute didn't end prematurely. Even away from the football field, it seems Ferguson manages to bring out the best in people's performances.

His words after picking up his award followed a similarly respectful theme and in a short, two-minute speech, Ferguson expressed his gratitude to those who gave him the chance at Manchester United, such as Sir Bobby Charlton, his respect for the players he managed, and his appreciation of football fans' passion – and geographic loyalties.

His speech had a touch of humour about it too:

"Listen. I'm going to say this now: Leeds, and get a welcome like that - fantastic, thank you. I'm used to you booing me when I come down here!"

Cue booing from the back of the First Direct Arena in Leeds.

"You didn't let me down!" came Ferguson's response.

As a manager, Ferguson was famed for deflecting media criticism from his players onto himself – and he showed his canny communication skills on the night to support new United manager David Moyes.

Ferguson's first words on accepting his award were:

"First of all Sir Bobby, thank you. Sir Bobby is one of the reasons that I existed as long as I did in the early days at Manchester United because he believed in me."

It's no secret that Ferguson didn't win a trophy at Manchester United until his fourth season, nor that the club, currently, lie eighth in the English Premier League, a position they were not used to occupying for the majority of Ferguson's reign.

Given that the BBC Sports Personality of the Year is a vast media platform – the hotly contested 2012 event attracted 10.3m viewers – it was great opportunism.

Overall, the abiding impression of Ferguson from his speech was that he was merely the man lucky enough to be the boss at an incredibly committed club – from the players to the backroom staff to the board of directors – and that he genuinely feels that he would never have achieved anything without all their hard work and support.

It was an excellent message for sport all round.


Photo: BigStockPhoto