How to build a sporting dynasty
Sir Alex Ferguson is the most successful manager in British football.
In 22 years in charge at Manchester United the 67-year-old has won 10 Premier League titles, the FA Cup five times, the Champions League twice and countless other honours. Before that he won several honours - notably the the Uefa Cup Winners' Cup - with Aberdeen.
He has rebuilt his United team time and again, continually striving for and achieving success, and in the process become a modern managerial legend.
Meet Wayne Bennett, his rugby league equivalent in Australia.
Bennett was appointed coach of the Brisbane Broncos in 1988, the year they were formed, and built them into one of the greatest sides in the world, winning six premierships, before leaving at the end of last season for a new challenge at St. George Illawara Dragons.
The 59-year-old has also coached Australia, the Queensland State of Origin side and was an integral part of the backroom team as New Zealand pulled off a sensational victory at last year's World Cup.
The parallels between the men and the philosophies that have allowed them to succeed at the very top level over such a long period are undeniable.
At the core of it all is the belief that the team comes before everything else. And, for Bennett, if it means making decisions that upset people or make him unpopular, even with his friends, so be it.
"A lot of things I have had to do in my life are totally opposite to the person inside me," Bennett told me in a rare and candid interview.
"But the one underlying thing that has always got me across the line is doing what is right - doing the right thing by the team. It is a difference between the successful and the unsuccessful coaches."
According to Bennett, if coaches shy away from making difficult, perhaps even ruthless, decisions they will not last. Yet it is obvious he cares deeply about his players.
Legendary Australian half-back Alfie Langer spent a considerable portion of his career playing for Bennett and puts their relationship like this: "He's not only a father figure, I think I class him as one of my best friends."
Bennett adds. "My bond with my players is what I value most of all. They are never far from your thoughts and you are always there for them."
Which must make it hard when he decides it is in the best interests of the club to move a few of them on.
Bennett puts it this way: "I liken myself to a headmaster at school. They might be with you four or five years but a time comes when they have to move on. There is a kid in grade eight and he or she wants the opportunity you gave the other person."
To be successful over a long period of time teams have to be rebuilt and after Bennett had been in charge at Brisbane for a few years he knew he had to make some changes.
His side steadily improved after their debut season in 1988 but did not win their first premiership until 1992 - and by that stage Bennett had remodelled his team.
"I had to acknowledge how to sustain this, how to stay ultra competitive," he says. "I studied other clubs and saw how they made mistakes; they had been great but held on to players for too long."
Bennett reckons he built five different teams at the Broncos, learning how to strike the balance between retaining ageing players and talented youngsters coming through.
"You have a 20-year-old who is not as good as your 30-year-old pro but you know that he is going to be, he has got all the right attributes, so you take a short-term loss for a long-term gain," said Bennett.
A natural introvert - a definite contrast from Ferguson - Bennett says he does not find it easy breaking bad news to players but points out that if you make tough decisions consistently and fairly over a period of time, it becomes part of the culture at a club.
"In the end players become accepting of that," he said.
Ferguson has been accused in the past of jettisoning players too early. The sales of Mark Hughes and Paul Ince in 1995 spring to mind, yet their departures allowed home-grown players such as David Beckham and Gary Neville to emerge and succeed.
Bennett is aware of the similarities between himself and Ferguson. He has a lot of admiration for the Scot and has observed his career with interest.
"Ferguson can make the hard decisions when he realises someone is starting to pull apart from the team and do all the other things that go with keeping a group of men together," said Bennett.
"It is probably the difference between him and a lot of other managers.
"I watched Dimitar Berbatov play at Tottenham and I thought he was a wasted talent. He has turned up at Man Utd and he is producing. That is what the best managers do - they get the best out of a guy."
How to succeed is something that Bennett, who speaks in a straightforward and honest way while displaying a dry wit, has obviously thought long and hard about during his career.
He lays great stock on having the trust of his players and believes that, in part, is a product of being honest with them.
"Honesty is a part of who I am," he told me.
"You cannot deal with men and you cannot lead if you cannot be honest - it just doesn't work."
You rarely read an article about Bennett with phrases such as super-coach, master coach and coaching guru appearing before his name. Yet Bennett is one of those people who looks incredibly unhappy in front of the media, with whom he has a testy relationship, and he is known during games for his expressionless demeanour that portrays neither joy nor sorrow.
But read either of his two books and a different person is revealed. The first, Don't Die With The Music in You, is all about realising your potential and became a publishing sensation in Australia. His second, The Man in the Mirror, has recently come out down under. In it, Bennett talks with great honesty and clarity about his shortcomings as a man while examining how he has had to overcome these to succeed in his profession.
One of the things that really struck me when reading Bennett's latest book was his admission that he had often known early in a season that it would not be Brisbane's year. Some ingredients were missing from the squad; they lacked that desire to get over the line.
It is an almost instinctive understanding, partly the product of experience; it tells him it is time for change. It is a quality that has helped to sustain Ferguson as well.
And both men recognise that although their respective games evolve and change certain core principles remain the same.
"Things that would have won you games 20 years ago still win today and you keep driving those things," said Bennett.
"You are still dealing with people, you have to get them organised, get self-belief and confidence into them and send them all in the same direction."
But if you want to be in your job at the sharp end of professional sport for more than two decades then there is one final ingredient that you need.
It might sound obvious, perhaps even a touch facetious, but as I talked with Bennett about building a winning culture, recognising potential, developing management systems and rebuilding teams, he pointed out the one ingredient that cannot be ignored.
"The other common denominator for us all in long-term jobs is that you still have to be winning," said Bennett, a former Australian winger.
"You can have all the persona and everything else but you are still expected to get results - it might not be about winning the Premiership every year but you are still expected to be up there."
There are no signs of declining standards at Old Trafford as Ferguson's team pursue a historic quintuple. Bennett meanwhile has moved on from Brisbane and, at close to 60, is unlikely to remain at his new club for decades but don't be surprised if they start to discover the winning habit.