Sale Sharks have tapped into Sir Alex Ferguson’s revered motivational powers ahead of the Gallagher Premiership final against Saracens.
The former Manchester United manager visited Sale’s Carrington training base on Tuesday, where he addressed the squad.
Ferguson oversaw two Champions League triumphs and 13 Premier League title successes during a remarkable and lengthy spell as United boss.
And the 81-year-old Scot became Sale’s latest keynote contributor after rugby league great Jamie Peacock spoke to the players ahead of their play-off victory over Leicester earlier this month.
Sale have reached their first Premiership final since 2006, when they won the title at Tigers’ expense and were inspired by the likes of Jason Robinson, Charlie Hodgson and Sebastien Chabal.
Saracens now await at Twickenham on Saturday, with the highest-placed teams following the regular Premiership season going head-to-head.
Asked how Ferguson’s visit materialised, Sale rugby director Alex Sanderson joked: “We’ve got a special Man United red phone like the bat phone in the corner of the office for emergencies.
“No, I got a call from Ged (Sale part-owner Ged Mason) asking about it and it fell into place. They are good friends with a shared investment with racehorses.
“We thought we would try and wring a little bit of gold out of Sir Alex – and he didn’t disappoint.
“He had the lads on the edge of their seats and he came up with some real good bits of advice – not new stuff, but when it comes from Sir Alex’s mouth, it is gospel, isn’t it?
“It is small percentages of what you can add, an increased feeling of how special this week is. It was good to have him in and good to have him in our corner.”
Sale centre Manu Tuilagi had already been inspired by Ferguson ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, when he was invited by then England boss Eddie Jones to speak with the squad.
Tuilagi said: “It was amazing seeing him again. We met him in 2019 just before the World Cup. He is a legend of the world.
“He said a few words and gave us some wisdom to take into the weekend. He has been at the top of his game, he knows what he is doing.
“You learn from people like that who have been there and done it.”
And Sale number eight Jono Ross, who plays his final game before retirement on Saturday, added: “Obviously a few of us – including myself – are very much in awe of Sir Alex, but he is a fantastic man and it was really nice just to take little bits and bobs off him.
“It is pretty special when someone of that magnitude walks into the building and as you can expect, the boys were glued to his every word.
“He achieved so much within the game and the way he speaks, you turn your head and listen.
“Sir Alex spoke about a few things that worked for him. He said he definitely remembers the losses more than the wins, so don’t lose, basically!”
Sale captain Ben Curry, meanwhile, was due to undergo surgery on Tuesday after suffering a serious hamstring injury during the play-off game.
“He should be back in time for the start of the World Cup, but that’s being fit,” Sanderson said.
“He would have done all of the prep and none of the lead-in, so it would be wholly on (England head coach) Steve Borthwick’s shoulders to see fit whether or not he is worthy of being included.
“He (Curry) has been very much involved – he’s been getting good luck messages in from Man United players. He has been upbeat, despite the fact he might miss the World Cup and he will miss the (Premiership) final.”