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· Breaking into the first team
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Heres another article that might interest you.

In an exclusive interview, the Manchester United manager offers candid reflections on his remarkable career - and sets his retirement date

It is one of Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest strengths. When the chips are down – and, boy, were they down at 1.34am in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on May 22 – the Manchester United manager retains an almost superhuman ability to project an aura of invincibility.

Just as he had looked unflappable on the touchline at the Nou Camp in Barcelona nine years earlier, when his first Champions League final entered stoppage time with United trailing Bayern Munich 1-0, so Ferguson was a picture of Buddhist calm when John Terry stepped up to take the penalty that, if converted, would have allowed Chelsea to lift the European Cup.

So, was that expression born of the unwavering self-belief that the tables would be turned again? “No, I thought we were done,†Ferguson says, shaking his head as if he still cannot comprehend the situation. “I thought we were done.â€

But you looked so defiant, so confident. “I think that's true,†he says. “But when they took their second-last penalty I clasped my hands and I prayed. He nearly saved it, [Edwin] Van der Sar. But once the ball went in I said to myself, ‘Don't ever pray again.'

“Because when I was in my first cup final as manager of Aberdeen we were 1-0 up, and Rangers scored two goals in the last two minutes of injury time. . . I had prayed as well, that day, and I thought I would never do it again. They beat us 2-1, even though I had prayed to God.â€

Ferguson doesn't open up to the media much these days. Press briefings are kept to a minimum, journalists are banned with almost comical regularity, one-on-one interviews are as rare as silverware is for Manchester City and just about everyone is left wanting more; which is why it always seems such a treat when the greatest British manager of his generation – possibly ever – lowers his guard long enough to offer an insight into one of sport's more extraordinary minds.

One of the accusations that has been levelled at the United manager in the past is that he is a bully. So is he? “Absolutely not,†Ferguson says. “I did look up ‘bully' in the dictionary once. And as I remember, it said a bully is somebody who preys on the weak – where weak is defined as somebody weaker than they [the bully] are.

“If you look at some of the people I have stood up to over the years, as a manager – and I have had dust-ups with all sorts of people in that dressing-room – generally speaking they are much, much bigger than me. There is nothing bullying about that.â€

OK, so what, if anything or anybody, scares you? “Er . . . there were one or two footballers who were . . . †Ferguson pauses. “Fear is a funny thing, isn't it?†he continues. “I think when you drive, you have a fear. In heavy traffic. When it's going quickly.â€

Brilliant. The image of Ferguson quivering behind the wheel of his Audi A8 as other cars bomb past on the motorway must surely be one of the most unlikely imaginable. That, presumably, must be why he usually employs a chauffeur.

But surely there is somebody who has put the frighteners up you? “Well, the Celtic defender John McNamee, mainly,†Ferguson says. “I phoned him up to tell him I was mentioning him in Managing My Life [his 1999 autobiography], and he was killing himself laughing. He was a daunting figure.â€

McNamee's footballing philosophy was summed up during a visit by Chelsea to St James' Park in the late1960s. Minutes into the game, Alan Birchenall, the Chelsea midfield player, embarked on a mazy run from the right flank. McNamee, by then a hero at Newcastle United, ordered his full back to swap places and proceeded to belt Birchenall on to the cinder track.

· Breaking into the first team
644 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·

“And if you come back into this half again, son, you'll get the full treatment,†McNamee bellowed as he leaned over his poor victim. Birchenall spent the rest of the game operating just in front of Chelsea's back four.

Another challenge reared its head in the summer when Luiz Felipe Scolari took over as manager at Chelsea. If some wondered why, after more than 30 years, Ferguson had not got bored of management, the clues were in his reaction to a preseason issue of the Racing Post that trumpeted the Brazilian's abilities over his own.

“Every analyst in there was tipping Chelsea for the title,†Ferguson recalls. “One guy wrote: ‘The reason is Scolari is in town.' He said Scolari will not be intimidated by me. He suggested that Wenger, Mourinho and Avram Grant couldn't ‘handle me'. The paper mentions me as having ‘had a go' at Chelsea by saying that a team [with players] over 30 can't win the league, which is absolute rubbish. I never said that. What I did say was that a team over 30 doesn't improve a lot. But Chelsea, given their performance last season, don't have to improve a lot to win it.

“Then, the same writer argues that Scolari is a better manager than me. I am not so arrogant as to believe that is impossible. Scolari may be a better manager than I am. But how can a sensible writer say that about a guy who has never managed in England? If you look at Scolari's CV, he has managed about 17 teams.â€

Maybe the desire to be the best has given way, in part, to a wish to be loved, but the Glaswegian shipbuilder's son in him may never admit it publicly. Ferguson grew up in a tenement in Govan and is from the same west Scotland working-class stock as Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Jock Stein. So what is it about that part of the world that produces such great managers?

“I think people in the west of Scotland, grow up in a different climate,†Ferguson says. Culturally? “Literally. It's wet, damp, unforgiving. Have you ever stood on the harbour front in Fraserburgh [Aberdeenshire] on a February morning? Beautiful! Fraserburgh is cold, but it's dry.

“When I worked as a toolmaker in the middle of winter,†Ferguson, who was a shop steward at the Remington Rand typewriter factory, adds, “I remember touching the steel first thing in the morning. It's absolutely freezing. You can burn yourself it's so bloody cold. And yet these people built the best ships in the world. You can overromanticise these things, but they do have a real part to play in forging a person's character.â€

Giving them what? “Determination. Then you think of the miners; men such as Stein and Shankly. I remember Stein saying something I think was fantastic. We were driving to Glasgow during the miners' strike [in the mid1980s] and they were shipping coal in from Belgium, these scab drivers. Big Jock stopped them. He looked at them, and said: ‘I hope you're proud of yourselves. You're doing people out of a living.' None of them said a word. Then he said to me: ‘This is an absolute bloody disgrace. You go down that pit shaft, a mile underground. You can't see a thing. The guy next to you, you don't know who he is. Yet he is the best friend you will ever have.' †Ferguson pauses for a moment. “All of these things congeal in your character. And they never leave you.â€

Listening to Ferguson talk in this manner, you wonder how he can tolerate the behaviour of some of the modern-day footballers, but perhaps, in one sense, it is because the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Eric Cantona seem so far removed from life on the south banks of the Clyde that the United manager is drawn to them. It also helps to explain why he regrets failing to sign Paolo Di Canio, another foreigner with a petulant streak.

“Di Canio would have been capable of becoming a truly great player at Manchester United,†Ferguson says. “I mean, he was a great player. But when you have a player like Di Canio, who expresses himself as an individual, like [George] Best and Cantona did, and [Ryan] Giggs, [Wayne] Rooney, Ronaldo and [Dimitar] Berbatov do . . . we make heroes quickly here. Di Canio could have been in that category.â€

If Ronaldo was a hero in the eyes of United supporters last season, his 42 goals helping the club to a seventeenth league title and third European Cup, he became a villain over the summer with his brazen flirting with Real Madrid. “That saga is over now,†Ferguson says. “It's finished.†But while he can understand the Portugal forward's reasons for having his head turned, he can't resist taking a dig at the Spanish club and Sepp Blatter, who likened the player's contractual situation at Old Trafford to slavery.

“I think Sepp Blatter is in danger . . . or has reached a point now, where he is being mocked within the game,†Ferguson says of the 72-year-old Fifa president. “Whether he's getting too old, I don't know. But things can happen to people in power. Look at some of the despots in Africa.†Surely you are not comparing Blatter to Robert Mugabe? “That would be ridiculous. All I'm saying is that, from a position of great power, he has uttered so many ridiculous statements that he is in danger of seriously damaging his credibility.

“So when he came out with that stuff it created a furore and rightly so, the year after the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery.†But were you not more disappointed by all that vaudeville from Real? “It was different for me because I knew it was coming,†Ferguson says. “So I wasn't surprised.

“When we sold Gabriel Heinze to Real Madrid [the previous summer], we knew it was going to happen, because Ronaldo was very close to Heinze. I knew what they were doing. I don't believe they were interested in Heinze – good player though he is. The endgame was to get Ronaldo.

· Breaking into the first team
644 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·

“What made it really obscene was that Madrid, as General Franco’s club, had a history of being able to get whoever and whatever they wanted, before democracy came to Spain.”

If Ronaldo should follow anybody’s example, Ferguson would love it to be Cantona’s. He told the Portuguese as much during their summit meeting in Lisbon in July. Not Cantona’s kung fu kicking, but the connection the flamboyant Frenchman felt with United.

“British fans have a special appreciation for loyalty when it comes from a great foreign player,” Ferguson says.

“That’s the reason Eric Cantona is still so revered here, isn’t it; because he not only understood, but bonded to Manchester. He cherished the club and the company of his teammates.

“If there was ever a player in this world who was made for Manchester United, it was Cantona. I think he had been searching all his life for somebody who looked at him and made him feel that a place was his home. He had travelled around so many countries; there is a wee bit of the gypsy about some people. But when he came here, he knew: this is my place.

“Gary Neville told me, ‘Occasionally we’d have a night out and hide it from you. We’d all say, ‘Don’t tell anybody about where, or at what time, we are meeting.’ ’ Then at training Cantona would say, ‘Right! I’ll see all of you later! This evening! At nine! In such and such a place.’ They were all going, ‘Shut up! The boss is here!’

“The point was that he was excited to have nights out with the boys. Even though he wasn’t a big drinker, Cantona. A beer. A glass of wine. He just loved being part of that culture, which he’d never experienced in France. “[When Cantona shakes your hand and looks you in the eye] . . . it’s daunting. And yet, as different as they are, probably the most underrated virtue Ronaldo has, on the pitch, is his bravery.” Courage? “Absolutely. Courage in football, as in life, comes in many forms. But the courage to continue, no matter how many times he is going to be kicked, identifies Ronaldo. Very few players have that level of courage. Some believe the greatest courage in football is the courage to win the ball.

“The other kind of courage – and it’s a moral courage – is the courage to keep the ball. That’s what Ronaldo has. All the great players had it. Best had it, Charlton had it, Cantona. ‘I’ll take the kick. I’ll take the injury. But I will keep the ball. I’ll beat the bully.’ ”

One of the best was Sir Bobby Charlton, and it is on the subject of the former United captain that the discussion turns back to Moscow and, in turn, Peter Kenyon, the Chelsea chief executive. One of the defining moments of the night was the sight of Kenyon, a self-proclaimed lifelong United fan who defected to Chelsea in 2004, slipping a runners-up medal over the jacket of his designer suit while Charlton, when he was offered a winners’ medal, declined to wear it.

“Charlton was saying: look, this is not my night,” Ferguson says. “This is the players’ night. There would have been a lot of understanding if he had worn the medal because, 50 years on from the Busby Babes, he had every right. But he was thinking of the players and the football club. And that is Bobby Charlton.” Was Kenyon’s departure, and the knowledge of the inner workings of United that he took with him to Stamford Bridge, not a hammer blow, though? “No. Definitely not. Peter Kenyon? He wasn’t a loss,” Ferguson says. “The best thing that has happened recently has been [his replacement] David Gill.”

It is Gill who will be charged with the daunting task of finding Ferguson’s successor. Ferguson, who is 67 on December 31, has said that he will have retired as United manager come the end of next season, and while that prospect terrifies him, he is confident the handover will be a smooth one.

“There will be no problem,” he says. “The foundation is here. The morale is here. I am not responsible for everything. It’s a funny thing, though; the older I get, the more frightened I get of retiring. But there will come a time when I clear my desk and someone else will take over.” Quite important, that someone, isn’t it? “It is,” Ferguson says. “I hope and expect that they will be a formidable person. Because this job, believe me, is not easy.” Formidable – like you? “No,” he says. “This job can’t be done the same way twice. Which is a good thing.”

Sorry about it being too long, but its optional if you want to read it. :)

And im also sorry about not being on regulary, My grandad is in hospital in Critical Care, so u know.. :<
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