sport

I'm available for Rafa - Fergie

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson's phone is always available for fellow managers who need some advice - even Rafael Benitez.

Reading boss Brian McDermott has become the latest to reveal he sought the Manchester United boss' advice over a managerial issue, picking up the phone earlier in the year when he was masterminding the Royals promotion-winning campaign.

It is just one of countless examples where the 70-year-old Scot has given his time for others who have far less job security than him.

"You do get phone calls from younger managers and I'm happy to help them because I know how difficult a job it is," said Ferguson.

"We have a lot of coaches coming here for a couple of days at a time, we've always been open to that type of thing.

"It's no problem for me to take phone call or call a younger manager - it's only 10 or 15 minutes out of my day."

It was then that the subject of Benitez was raised, given the troubles he has experienced in his first week as Chelsea manager.

"To be honest with you, we are all subject to pressures as managers," said Ferguson. "We get used to it."

Then asked whether Benitez, with whom Ferguson has such a spiky relationship and whom last week the United boss described as a 'lucky' manager, might be tempted to ask for advice, the Scot couldn't resist a wide smile.

"You never know," he said.

Yet, whilst the game has changed considerably from the one Ferguson knew when he took over at East Stirling in 1974, the bottom line remains.

"The one thing that hasn't changed since I started at the age of 32 is you have to win games," said Ferguson.

"It's a results industry.

"The type of owners in the game has changed. Nonetheless, you couldn't go five or 10 games without winning back in 1974 without some sort of pressure."

There are other issues to contend with, though.

High finance, massive media interest and a seemingly insatiable need for assessment via social media has made the manager's job much harder, and demanding owners have become more inclined to make knee-jerk decisions.

"The things that have changed since I started are the intensity of journalism, which has become more severe," said Ferguson.

"Agents have come to the fore, freedom of contract has gone - when I first started you had contracts that controlled players which is unfair but it was there.

"And society has changed as well.

"As I said sometime ago, there in the book 'United Unlimited' there is a photograph of Manchester United and Leeds players in the middle of the pitch scrapping, jerseys torn.

"The crowd is completely passive. There is no reaction from the fans.

"You don't get that now.

"All these things have created massive changes in management.

"The thing I did was integrate into each stage to the position I'm in now."