By Scott Grayston 

Sir Alex Ferguson is arguably the greatest football manager of all time, but few people know that he has also made an impact on the golf scene by guiding and mentoring Paul McGinley during his 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy for Europe. 

“I didn’t have all the answers when I was made Ryder Cup Captain so I liked the idea of having some mentors around me for advice because managing elite players is not easy,” says McGinley. “I looked around and Sir Alex Ferguson had just retired from Manchester United and I’d played golf with him 10 years previously so I thought he would be a guy that I could do with having on my shoulder.

“Even if we only met up for two or three times over the two-year period, I could ask him some questions and that’s what I did.

“We had lunches and two or three meetings and I would get all my data out and have some specific questions prepared for him that I wanted to get his insight on. For example one of them was, I’d played in three Ryder Cup teams myself and I was always 6 to 12 in the team and never one of those elite players.

“Therefore, how do you manager the superstars? How did he manage Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes? How do I manage Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood – those kinds of players because they are on a different level to what I was.

“I understood how to manage a rookie such as Stephen Gallacher that came into the team because I was that kind of solider myself! They were the kinds of things I was looking for.”

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are huge Manchester United fans so the decision to get ‘Fergie’ involved in the 2014 team made an emphatic impact on them.

“Rory was happy with the decision!” McGinley adds. “Sir Alex came up to speak to the players on the Tuesday night around some principles that I knew we were going to be facing so I asked him to do some talks on it. He gave us a lot of good insights and it was a fun evening.

“He had dinner with us that night and it was a good bit of craic because not everybody is a Manchester United fan! Caddies like Billy Foster were giving him a bit of stick because he’s a Leeds United fan and was not happy with Sir Alex stealing Eric Cantona the way he did! It was all good fun.”

Ferguson went back to Manchester to watch the Ryder Cup on the television for the first two days of action and texted McGinley on the Saturday night with the advice: ‘not to be complacent – that’s your biggest enemy now’ after they had built a four-point lead going into the final day.

Fergie travelled to Gleneagles on the Sunday with his son to see Team Europe lift the trophy after they defeated Tom Watson’s USA team 16.5 to 11.5 points.

“Sir Alex came into our team room after the victory and had a nice glass of wine before hitting the road back to Manchester,” recalls McGinley. “We were happy to have him involved and he was an important part of our team. The players all enjoyed being around him and felt very comfortable around him.

“He certainly wasn’t intimidating and didn’t take over the room. He wanted to make sure that it wasn’t all about him and he wanted to be in the background. It was nice to have him in our corner and there to help me with any questions that I knew I’d be facing.”

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