"The minute a Manchester United player thought he was bigger than the manager, he had to go."
Sir Alex Ferguson defining the controlling and autocratic style he adopted throughout his unrivalled career at Manchester United.
However big the name, whether it was Roy Keane or David Beckham, the moment his authority was challenged, Ferguson showed them the door.
It is a mantra repeated throughout Ferguson’s autobiography – almost mirroring the sinister modus operandi of a 1940s New York gangster!
In this excerpt of an interview with ITV News presenter Mark Austin, Ferguson says that Roy Keane "overstepped his mark":
Ruthless? Absolutely. But is it good management? Were these the actions of a strong leader or the refuge of a man unable or unwilling to search beyond instant termination for a solution?
For many neutral observers, good management comprises of plotting a path through difficulties and, along the way, conjuring the best from the sometimes dispirited characters in your charge.
To simply neutralise a problem would be interpreted in some business manuals as a weakness; clever management would be to turn that potentially destructive influence into a willing and loyal lieutenant again.
Imagine if your boss fired everyone who challenged them? Most workplaces in the country would be half full and companies everywhere would be knee deep in constructive dismissal lawsuits.
But then football is not like any other business and Ferguson was operating within unique parameters which he exploited brilliantly most of the time. After all, professional footballers are commodities with a sell-by date.
Ferguson’s luxury was his club. When you’re in charge at Manchester United and you get shot of Beckham, say, there’s always a classy replacement like Ronaldo ready and eager to fill the gap. United has that universal appeal. United also has a fat wallet.
But ask yourself how would Ferguson have fared at Palace, Bolton or Wigan? Would he or could he have behaved in the same dictatorial way? And what level of success would he have had moulding a squad of lesser talents?
A delicious prospect but, of course, we will never know.