Congratulations to Sir Alex Ferguson, who has now been manager of Manchester United for a remarkable 25 years. The nearest challenger in terms of longevity is the Johnny-come-lately, Arsene Wenger, who has been manager for a mere 15 years at Arsenal. Beyond that the longest serving manager is, as you all know, John Coleman, who has served in the slightly less pressurised environment at Accrington Stanley for 12 years…

Part of Sir Alex’s secret is no doubt his skillful use of negotiation in the man management of his players and in the transfer market. This is a man who persuaded Ronaldo to stay for an extra year when Ronaldo had decided to go to Real Madrid, and who then sold Ronaldo for a world-record transfer fee which even money-bags Manchester City have yet to match. This is the man who persuaded Wayne Rooney to stay after the player had announced he was leaving, and the man who has coaxed consistent excellence out of the mercurial Eric Cantona and the apparently ageless Ryan Giggs.

This kind of man management requires considerable negotiation skills. He is known for his “hairdryer” technique, but there must be more to the man than that. He seems instinctively to know when to kick someone up the backside, when to praise them, when to put an arm around the shoulder, when to criticise and when to simply stay silent.

All great negotiators know that you need to use different negotiating behaviours on different occasions with different personalities. Sometimes you need to “push” people by stating expectations or using incentives and pressures. Sometimes you need to “pull” and listen or look for common ground. Sometimes you need to “join” and visualise positive joint outcomes, and sometimes you need to use “parting” behaviour and take your energy out of a negotiation.

Sir Alex Ferguson has done all of this successfully with hundreds of players over the years at Man Utd. Oh, and he’s a reasonably promising coach as well….