Leadership - Fergie's recipe

Sir Alex Ferguson and Gordon Brown Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Alex Ferguson says he was closer to Brown than Blair

Loyalty, control, discipline. Those are the ingredients of leadership.

So says the man who I once teasingly described as "the greatest living Briton".

Sir Alex Ferguson was launching his new autobiography today. I went along to Fergie's news conference to ask the man known simply as "the boss" whether the qualities that make a great leader on and off the pitch can be transferred to other fields and, in particular, to politics.

What leaders have to do, he told me, was to create loyalty in their staff, transmit their philosophy and exert control and discipline. Leadership, he says, is a quality which allows your personality to transfer to everyone.

Interestingly his book, though largely about football, does include a revelation about his involvement in politics.

He denies a claim made in Tony Blair's memoirs that he had advised the former prime minister to sack Gordon Brown. Ferguson's recollection is that while Blair asked him how to handle superstars and not Brown in particular.

The advice was clear and is a theme of this book - "the minute they threaten your control, you have to get rid of them".

Fergie describes himself as being "on the left" of the Labour party, "closer to Brown (than Blair) in principle" but accepting that "Blair's more populist way was the route to get elected".

Today the questions all focussed on the big footballing names Sir Alex struggled to control or to compete with - Beckham, Keane, Mourinho and the rest.

There are many more I would love to ask about how a leader inspires loyalty, maintains control and instils discipline.

My colleague David Bond's interview with Sir Alex will run soon.