Think how you feel on the day of an exam, a job interview, the first time you sit behind the wheel, or even the driving test itself. Add all those together and multiply them several times and you have the nerves that greet you when you realise Sir Alex Ferguson will be at the end of your questions in a filmed interview.
When I sat down with the newly appointed UEFA Coaching Ambassador last Friday, it was the fourth meeting with Sir Alex in my career. The fact I was equally apprehensive as the first time shows how ideal he is for his new role. Never having sat in a dressing room with him, never having taken instructions on a field or a training ground, it is still impossible to feel anything other than a desperate desire to get things right, to be meticulous in research and as 'match-fit' as possible in preparation for our interview. If he has that effect on me, then for coaches past, present and future, he should be the perfect motivator.
Our first interview was in March 2011, as his Manchester United FC team were getting set to take on Chelsea FC in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. In what was to become a constant feature of our encounters, he was on time almost to the second, courteous and engaging about the history of European football.
His first musings on the subject gave a great illustration of how important detail is to a man who twice took Europe's premier club trophy back to Old Trafford. His eyes also lit up at the mention of 11 May 1983, when Real Madrid CF were outgunned by his Aberdeen FC side in the Gothenburg final of the European Cup Winners' Cup. That came some 23 years after the Spanish outfit had ignited his passion for continental competition by winning the European Champion Clubs' Cup for a fifth time. Ferguson, then only 18, had to leave Hampden Park early in order to catch the bus home.
Detail is the recurring theme. He recalls the finer points of each match with unerring accuracy, speaks with an infectious excitement and a cheery glow. Not only that – his command of history away from football is hugely impressive.
Still, there are nerves until the end because, like many of the players who played for him, you wish to be the best that you can be and have a determination to see it through to the proverbial full-time whistle with as few mistakes as possible. The big challenge is to listen to what the interviewee is saying at the same time as preparing yourself for the next question. Sometimes, the material is too interesting and keeping focus can be tough.
At the end of the first interview, the only indicator that the right balance had been struck was to feel a strong, purposeful handshake and to hear the words "well done". Sir Alex was once quoted as inferring that although the world was full of superlatives, those were the words that meant the most.
Hearing them from somebody you respect is a great fillip and that is why Sir Alex Ferguson will be the ideal UEFA Coaching Ambassador. Even those who have not worked with him every day want to perform to the best of their ability and to be told "well done".
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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