Though he’s not been at the forefront of the game for some years now, Sir Alex Ferguson is still a hugely revered figure in the world of football.
His haul of trophies in the 26 years he was at the helm of Manchester United will stand the test of time, and it’s no wonder that when he speaks, people listen.
Former Arsenal manager, Unai Emery, recounted a conversation during his Villarreal unveiling via MARCA and cited by Football Espana whereby he took the Scot’s words of encouragement and used them as motivation.
“A few years back I spoke to Ferguson at a coaching convention, and he was of course used to competing in the Champions League,” he said.
“I explained to him how much the Europa League had helped me grow and develop as a coach, but Ferguson replied: ‘Sure, but would you not rather be in the Champions League?’
“And I agreed that would be preferable, but the Europa League is another fantastic opportunity for coaches and for clubs, especially those who are not able to compete with those at an elite level for titles – it is a place for them to become champions.
“The Europa League has grown a lot from the UEFA Cup and the early days of the Europa League, it is a fantastic opportunity for us.
“I have manged to win it three times and it means a lot to me, to experience those titles.
“I want to enjoy that, but as Ferguson said – I would rather be in the Champions League and that is my aim here.”
As a manager in Spain Emery has generally done well, and his legacy at Sevilla in particular, whilst not quite matching Ferguson’s at Man United, will ensure his continuing popularity in Andalusia.
Villarreal supporters will surely be hoping that Emery can win the Yellow Submarine their first European trophy, having gone close on a handful of occasions in the recent past.
If he takes Sir Alex’s advice, then it will be the Champions League he aims for.