Sir Alex Ferguson's top tips for press conferences and media relations

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has emphasised the importance of good media relations and the power of the press conference while promoting his latest book.

During his 27-year spell in charge of Manchester United, Ferguson used press conferences as a tool to help intimidate opponents and take pressure off his team. 

Since retiring, Ferguson has continued to take an interest in the media side of football, telling attendees at his book launch that he watches press conferences every week as a "hobby".

Here are some of Ferguson's tips for media relations - and other keys to his many years of success.

Do not underestimate the power of a press conference

"For a manager, no matter the result, at a press conference you need to come out as the winner," he told attendees at the launch earlier this week.

"You can kill yourself in a press conference... It’s an important part of your job."

One of the best examples of Ferguson using a press conference to his advantage came after England's Wayne Rooney had made it clear that he wanted to leave Manchester United, and put in a transfer request.

Instead of trying to resolve the issue privately, Ferguson used the media to his advantage. He called a press conference where he candidly explained the situation and publicly expressed his desire for his star player to remain. This was soon rewarded when Rooney signed a contract extension to stay at the club.

A good example of what not to do is found in the infamous Rafa Benitez 'facts' press conference in January 2009, in which the Liverpool manager of the day targeted Ferguson.

In his autobiography, former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard called it a cringeworthy performance by his boss. "I could not believe what I was hearing. I was grabbing the couch, digging my fingers into the arms, feeling embarrassed for him," Gerrard wrote. "When I met up with England, all the Manchester United players told me Fergie was just laughing at Rafa, saying: ‘I’ve got him. I’ve got him.’"

Tha press conference was seen as a pivotal moment in the 2008/09 season - United eventually won the Premier League ahead of runners-up Liverpool.

Show you care

Talking to the BBC, Ferguson revealed that he has given advice to various Premier League managers including former Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson and current Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew on facing the media.

He said that he felt Pearson was being "a little bit too casual", and said: "His team were bottom of the league. You’ve got to show your anger a little bit. The fans want to see you care. And I think he improved - he was good after that, and his team were fantastic."

Don’t appear tense

In his book, Ferguson revealed that he used to vigorously rub his face moments before heading out in front of the cameras, a tip given to him by Paul Doherty, the head of sports of Granada TV. Ferguson writes that this was "so that I appeared bright and cheery and did not display a hint of tension."

Retain control

There were many reasons for Ferguson's longevity and he points out that a key part was to always ensured his authority was never challenged. "That explains why I sold players who tried to undermine my control… everyone is disposable," he wrote.

Ferguson was no stranger to using firm tactics to asset authority over the media, including banning journalists from press conferences.

Work hard

A typical working day for Ferguson involved him arriving at the Manchester United training ground at 7am, and staying until 9pm.

On Wednesdays, he would finish later because he would either be at a midweek game with the first team, watching the reserves or scouting players.

Know your value

After Rooney signed a deal at Manchester United to earn £250,000 a week in 2010, Ferguson was quick to renegotiate his own pay packet.

"I told them I did not think it fair that Rooney should earn twice what I made," Ferguson says in his book.

"[United co-chairman] Joel Glazer said: 'I totally agree but what should we do?' It was simple. We just agreed no player should be paid more than me."

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