Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has described Sir Alex Ferguson as the best manager of all time.
Bruce’s Black Cats outfit face Manchester United on Saturday in an encounter which gives the 49-year-old another opportunity to go head-to-head against Ferguson, who managed him as a player.
Manchester United travel to the Stadium of Light on the back of an impressive midweek Champions League triumph away at La Liga leaders Valencia, and they will be looking to peg back the points deficit between themselves and Chelsea at the top of the Premier League, but face a Sunderland side who have started the season well.
Ahead of his managerial touchline duel with his former employer, Bruce recalled his successes as a central defender at Manchester United, where he won three Premier League titles.
“He was a wonderful manager to work for, had us all in the palm of his hand, and has proved to be arguably the best manager there’s been, and certainly to work under him and see how he works I can understand how he’s done it,” Bruce told Absolute Radio.
“He used to bark a lot at me, he used to bark at myself and every one of us. The biggest thing I can say is that he brought me there and made me captain of one of the biggest clubs in the world, and for that I’ll always be grateful."
Despite learning a lot from his time under the Scot, Bruce admits he has had to create his own management style when handling his group of players to avoid being “found out.”
“I think in management, one thing you’ve got to do is handle it in the way you think is best, so I wouldn’t try to copy Sir Alex on anything at all, because I think if you try and copy anybody you get found out," he added.
“You’ve got to do it from where you think it comes from yourself and make your own decision on that, and that’s one thing, whether you handle players off the field.
“The hardest part of the game is you’re looking after 25-35 young men, wealthy young men, and the one thing you can do is you can guide them and try and educate them and help them, but you can’t live their life, but there’s got to be a respect if you possibly can and try and do it your way.”
In to his second campaign as the Black Cats' boss, Bruce has established Sunderland as a Premier League force once again following last season’s 13th placed finish. The club, Bruce believes, are making good progress as they prepare to lock horns with the Red Devils.
“I think the squad is better equipped, I hope it is. We had a good start last year, we’ve played very, very well this year. I hope that we’re making progress, I think we are, time will tell."
The Sunderland manager also withheld special praise for striker Darren Bent, whose goals since his move from Tottenham Hotspur last summer have earned him England recognition and a comparison to ex-Liverpool forward Ian Rush, according to Bruce.
“He’s played 48 times for the club and scored 32 goals, which is quite a remarkable achievement for somebody in a club like ours which finished midway in the Premier League,” he said.
“Of course you can identify him to Ian Rush if you like at Liverpool or some fantastic goal-scorers, but these goal-scorers are playing for a huge, big club who probably make more chances than what we do for him, but he’s had a huge impact on Sunderland.”
As well as Bent, Bruce believes a glut of young, English talent at the club will attract the attention of England manager Fabio Capello.
“We’ve got some very, very good young players, and he’ll be aware of it. Kieran Richardson at left-back for one has been playing exceptionally well.
“I suppose the big one for everybody is we’ve got two England under-21s playing. One’s not ours, Danny Welbeck’s on loan from Manchester United of course, and the other one that everybody’s talking about in the game is Jordan Henderson, which I’m sure Mr Capello will know all about.”
Recalling his side's 2-2 draw last season at Old Trafford, Bruce admitted his team will need to play at their very best if they are going to go one better this time round.
“We certainly got a fantastic draw at Old Trafford last year, played very, very well, could have pinched it, could have won it. We were 2-1 up with a minute to go, got pegged back, one of the eight times last year we got pegged back in the last minute. So we hope we can go one better,” he said.
“One thing is for certain, we’ll have to play at our best, if we play at our best and play with the intensity like we have done over the last few weeks I’m convinced we can give them a game, and let’s hope that it’s our turn to beat them. It doesn’t happen very often, let’s keep our fingers crossed.”
Listen to Sunderland vs Manchester United on Saturday October 2 on Absolute Radio extra - on DAB Digital Radio, 1215AM and online in the UK from 1.30pm. For more go to www.absoluteradio.co.uk
By Stuart Applebycomments