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About the Author


Sir Alex Ferguson was born in 1941 in Govan, Scot land. A goal-scoring cent re-forward, he was
lat er t ransferred t o Rangers, t he club he support ed from boyhood, for a Scot t ish record fee of
Ent ering management in 1974, he served East St irlingshire and St Mirren before guiding
Aberdeen t o vict ory in t he 198283 Cup Winners Cup. Arriving at Manchest er Unit ed in 1986,
he brought t hem 38 t rophies, including t he Club World Cup, t wo Champions Leagues, 13
Premier Leagues and five FA Cups. His overall haul of 49 t rophies made him t he most
successful Brit ish manager of all t ime.
Knight ed in 1999, Sir Alex announced his ret irement in 2013, when Unit ed were again crowned
Premier League champions. At t he age of 71, he cont inues t o serve Unit ed as a direct or.
Paul Hayward is t he Daily Telegraphs Chief Sport s Writ er. He was t wice named Sport s Writ er
of t he Year in t he Brit ish Press Awards and is t he current Sport s Journalist of t he Year in t he
Sport s Journalist s Associat ion (SJA) cat egory. He has covered most of t he worlds major
sport ing event s. In 2004 he co-wrot e t he aut obiography of t he foot baller Michael Owen and a
year lat er worked wit h Sir Bobby Robson on his life st ory, Farewell but not Goodbye.
First published in Great Brit ain in 2013 by Hodder & St ought on
An Hachet t e UK company
Copyright Sir Alex Ferguson 2013
The right of Sir Alex Ferguson t o be ident ified as t he Aut hor of t he Work has been assert ed by
him in accordance wit h t he Copyright , Designs and Pat ent s Act 1988.
All right s reserved. No part of t his publicat ion may be reproduced, st ored in a ret rieval syst em,
or t ransmit t ed, in any form or by any means wit hout t he prior writ t en permission of t he
publisher, nor be ot herwise circulat ed in any form of binding or cover ot her t han t hat in which it
is published and wit hout a similar condit ion being imposed on t he subsequent purchaser.
A CIP cat alogue record for t his t it le is available from t he Brit ish Library
ISBN 9781848948631
Hodder & St ought on Lt d
338 Eust on Road
London NW1 3BH
To Bridget ,
Cat hys sist er, rock and best friend
About the Author
Title Page
1. Reflect ions
2. Glasgow Root s
3. Ret irement U-Turn
4. A Fresh St art
5. Beckham
6. Rio
7. Lean Times
8. Ronaldo
9. Keane
10. Out side Int erest s
11. Van Nist elrooy
12. Mourinho The Special Rival
13. Compet ing wit h Wenger
14. The Class of 92
15. Liverpool A Great Tradit ion
16. A World of Talent
17. One Night in Moscow
18. Psychology
19. Barcelona (200911) Small Is Beaut iful
20. The Media
21. Unit eds 19t h Tit le
22. Man Cit y Champions
23. Family
24. Rooney
25. The Last Campaign
Career Record
Picture Section
Photographic Acknowledgements
THERE are a number of people I want t o t hank for t heir help in put t ing t oget her t his book.
First ly, I must pay t ribut e t o Roddy Bloomfield, my edit or, and his assist ant Kat e Miles.
Roddys wealt h of experience, along wit h his support , was a godsend t hroughout . Combined
wit h Kat es diligence, t hey make a formidable t eam.
Paul Hayward was remarkably easy t o work wit h and a real professional. He kept me on
t rack and I feel he has done a great job of collect ing my t hought s and present ing t hem in a
way t hat I am more t han happy wit h.
Phot ographer Sean Pollock capt ured a number of images over a four year period, and has
done a fant ast ic job. His laidback manner and discret ion ensured t hat he got what he want ed
wit hout being int rusive in any way.
Les Dalgarno, my lawyer, gave sound guidance over t he course of producing t he cont ent ; he
is t he most t rust ed and loyal of advisers and a great friend.
Overall, t here were a large number of people who put in many hours in order t o get t o t his
point . Their effort s have been much appreciat ed by me and it has been a pleasure t o have had
such a t alent ed t eam behind me.
SEVERAL years ago I began gat hering my t hought s for t his book, making not es in t he spare t ime
my job allowed me. It was always my plan t o assemble a st ory t hat people inside and out side
t he game would find int erest ing.
So, alt hough my ret irement t ook t he indust ry by surprise, t his aut obiography has been in my
head for many years. It complement s Managing My Life, an earlier volume. And t herefore, while
briefly reflect ing on my yout h in Glasgow and life-long friends made in Aberdeen, it focuses on
my magical years in Manchest er. An avid reader myself, I was eager t o writ e a book t hat
explained some of t he myst eries in my line of work.
In a lifet imes journey in foot ball, you will have dips, lows, defeat s and disappoint ment s. In my
early years at Aberdeen and Manchest er Unit ed, I decided right away t hat in order t o build
t rust and loyalt y wit h t he players, I had t o give it t o t hem first . That is t he st art ing point for t he
bond on which great inst it ut ions t hrive. I was helped by my abilit y t o observe. Some people
walk int o a room and dont not ice anyt hing. Use your eyes; it s all out t here. I used t his skill in
my assessment of players t raining habit s, moods and behaviour pat t erns.
Of course Ill miss t he bant er of t he dressing room and all my opponent s in management :
t hose wonderful charact ers of t he old school who were t he great s of t he game when I came
down t o Unit ed in 1986. Ron At kinson showed no bit t erness aft er leaving t he club and had
not hing but praise for us. Jim Smit h is a fant ast ic charact er and a good friend. His hospit alit y
would keep you t here all night . When I did get home, my shirt would be speckled wit h cigar ash.
Big John Sillet t , who managed Covent ry Cit y, was anot her great companion, and I can never
forget t he lat e John Lyall, who guided me t hrough my early years and was so generous wit h his
t ime. My first encount er wit h Bobby Robson was in 1981 when Aberdeen knocked out Ipswich
in t he UEFA Cup. Bobby came int o our dressing room and shook every players hand. Sheer
class, and his valued friendship was never forgot t en. He was a big loss t o our lives.
There were ot hers of t he old school who were survivors because t hey had a work et hic you
had t o admire. If I went t o a reserve game, John Rudge and Lennie Lawrence would be t here,
along wit h one of t he big personalit ies of t he game whose Oldham t eams brought a freshness
t hat would never be replaced. I mean big Joe Royle. Oldham gave us some scary moment s.
Yes, Ill miss all t hat . Harry Redknapp and Tony Pulis are ot her great charact ers of my
generat ion.
I was blessed t o have had wonderful, loyal st aff at Unit ed. Some of t hem worked for me for
over 20 years. My P.A. Lyn Laffin, has followed me int o ret irement and is st ill my P.A., in my new
office; Les Kershaw, Dave Bushell, Tony Whelan and Paul McGuinness. Kat h Phipps on
recept ion, who also ran my aft er-mat ch lounge at Old Trafford, has worked at Unit ed for over
40 years. Jim Ryan, who has now ret ired, my brot her Mart in who scout ed abroad for 17 years (a
very difficult job), and Brian McClair.
Norman Davies: what a man. A loyal friend who passed away a few years ago. His
replacement as kit man, Albert Morgan, is also a big personalit y who never wavered in his
loyalt y. Our doct or, St eve McNally, our head physio Rob Swire and all his st aff, Tony St rudwick
and his energet ic bunch of sport s scient ist s, our laundry girls, all t he kit chen st aff; t he general
office of John Alexander, Anne Wylie and all t he girls. Jim Lawlor and all his scout ing st aff. Eric
St eele, goalkeeping coach. Simon Wells and St eve Brown of t he video analysis t eam. Our
ground st aff, led by Joe Pembert on and Tony Sinclair. Our maint enance t eam, wit h St uart ,
Graham and Tony: all hard-working men. There are maybe one or t wo Ive missed, but Im sure
t hey know I respect ed t hem all.
Assist ant s and coaches helped me great ly down t he years. Archie Knox, a real ally t o me in
my early years, Brian Kidd, Nobby St iles, Eric Harrison, a t ruly wonderful yout h coach. St eve
McClaren, a very innovat ive and energet ic coach. Carlos Queiroz and Ren Meulenst een t wo
magnificent coaches and my assist ant manager, Mick Phelan, a really shrewd, observant ,
t rue foot ball man.
The foundat ion of my longevit y lies wit h Bobby Charlt on and Mart in Edwards. Their biggest
gift t o me was t he t ime t o build a foot ball club, rat her t han a foot ball t eam. Their support was
followed by t he great bond I had wit h David Gill over t he last decade.
There was plent y of ground t o cover in t his book. I hope you enjoy ret racing t he st eps wit h
NEARLY t hree decades before t his moment , I had walked t hrough t hat t unnel and ont o t he pit ch
for my first home game, feeling nervous and exposed. I had waved t o t he St ret ford End and
been int roduced from t he cent re circle as Manchest er Unit eds new manager. Now, I st rode
ont o t he same pit ch, full of confidence, t o say goodbye.
The cont rol I was able t o exert over Manchest er Unit ed was a privilege few managers will be
lucky enough t o know. However sure I felt of my abilit ies on t he move sout h from Aberdeen in
t he aut umn of 1986, t here could have been no way of knowing it would t urn out t his well.
Aft er t he farewell in May 2013, t he pivot al moment s filled my t hought s: winning t hat FA Cup
t hird-round t ie against Not t ingham Forest in January 1990, in which a Mark Robins goal sent us
on our way t o t he final when my job was supposedly on t he line; going t hrough a whole mont h
wit hout winning a game, which gnawed away at my confidence.
Wit hout t he FA Cup vict ory over Cryst al Palace nearly four years aft er my arrival, grave
doubt s would have been raised about my suit abilit y for t he job. We will never know how close I
was t o being sacked, because t he decision was never forced on t he Unit ed board. But wit hout
t hat t riumph at Wembley, t he crowds would have shrivelled. Disaffect ion might have swept t he
Bobby Charlt on would have opposed any move t o dismiss me. He knew t he work I was doing,
t he ground we were making up on t he yout h development side, t he graft I was put t ing in, t he
hours I spent reforming t he foot ball operat ion. The chairman Mart in Edwards knew it t oo, and it
reflect s well on t hose t wo men t hat t hey had t he courage t o st ick by me in t hose dark days.
Mart in would have received plent y of angry let t ers demanding t hat I be cast aside.
Winning t he 1990 FA Cup allowed us breat hing space and deepened my sense t hat t his was
a wonderful club wit h which t o win t rophies. To win t he FA Cup at Wembley made t he good
t imes roll. But on t he morning aft er our vict ory, one newspaper declared: OK, youve proved
you can win t he FA Cup, now go back t o Scot land. I never forgot t hat .
IF I needed a result t o epit omise what Manchest er Unit ed were about it came t o me in game
No. 1,500: my last . West Bromwich Albion 5 Manchest er Unit ed 5. Crazy. Wonderful.
Ent ert aining. Out rageous.
If you were on your way t o wat ch Manchest er Unit ed you were in for goals and drama. Your
heart was in for a t est . I could have no complaint s about us t hrowing away a 52 lead against
West Brom wit hin nine minut es. I st ill went t hrough t he mot ions of expressing my annoyance
but t he players could see right t hrough it . I t old t hem: Thanks boys. Bloody great send-off
youve given me!
David Moyes had already been named as my successor; as we sat in t he dressing room aft er
t he mat ch Ryan Giggs t eased: David Moyes has just resigned.
Despit e our defensive frailt ies t hat day I was proud and relieved t o be delivering t his fine
group of players and st aff int o Davids care. My work was done. My family were t here, in t he
Regis Suit e, at West Broms ground, and a new life st ret ched out before me.
It was one of t hose days t hat unfold like a dream. West Brom handled it wit h real class and
looked aft er me perfect ly. Lat er t hey sent me t he t eam-sheet s signed by bot h set s of players.
Most of my family were wit h me: t hree sons, eight grandchildren and one or t wo close friends. It
was a joy t o me t o have t hem t here, and for us all t o experience t his final inst alment t oget her.
Our family marched out as one.
Descending t he st eps of t he t eam bus out side West Broms ground, my int ent ion was t o
savour every moment . It was not hard for me t o let go because I knew t he t ime was right . The
night before t he game t he players let it be known t hat t hey want ed t o make a present at ion t o
mark my ret irement . Their most special gift was a beaut iful 1941 Rolex from t he year I was
born, wit h t he t ime set at 3.03 p.m., t he minut e of my emergence int o t he world, in Glasgow, on
31 December 1941. They also handed me a book of phot ographs encapsulat ing my t ime at
Unit ed, wit h t he grandchildren and family on t he cent re-spread. Rio Ferdinand, a wat ch
ent husiast , was behind t he main gift idea.
Aft er t he book and wat ch were handed over and a round of applause spread round t he room
I not iced a part icular look on some of t he players faces. It was a moment some werent sure
how t o handle because t hey had always had me wit h t hem; some for 20 years. I could see a
vacant expression t hat seemed t o say: what s it going t o be like now? Some had known no
ot her manager but me.
There was st ill one game t o play and I want ed it t o be handled properly. We were t hreenil
up wit hin half an hour but West Brom were in no mood t o give me an easy send-off. John
Sivebaek scored t he first Unit ed goal of my t ime in charge, on 22 November 1986. The last was
regist ered t o Javier Hernndez on 19 May 2013. At 52 t o us it could have finished 202 in our
favour. At 55 we might have lost 205. Defensively we were a shambles. West Brom scored
t hree goals in five minut es, wit h Romelu Lukaku running up a hat -t rick.
Despit e t he lat e avalanche on our goal, it was all light -heart ed in t he dressing room. Aft er
t he final whist le we st ayed on t he pit ch t o wave t o t he Unit ed end. Giggsy pushed me forward
and all t he players held back. I was alone in front of a mosaic of happy faces. Our fans spent
t he ent ire day singing and chant ing and bouncing. I would love t o have won 52 but in a way
55 was a fit t ing sign-off. It was t he first 55 draw in Premier League hist ory and t he first of my
career: one last slice of hist ory in my final 90 minut es.
Back in Manchest er a deluge of post landed in my office. Real Madrid sent a beaut iful gift : a
solid silver replica of La Plaza de Cibeles, home t o t he fount ain in Madrid where t hey celebrat e
league t it le wins, wit h a lovely let t er from Florent ino Prez, t he Real president . Anot her present
arrived from Ajax and one from Edwin van der Sar. Lyn, my P.A., worked her way t hrough heaps
of correspondence.
For t he home game against Swansea Cit y t he previous weekend, my last at Old Trafford, I
had no idea what t o expect , beyond a guard of honour. By t hen we were at t he end of an
int ense week of t elling family, friends, players and st aff t hat I had chosen t o move on t o a new
phase of my life.
The seeds of my decision t o st ep down had been plant ed in t he wint er of 2012. Around
Christ mas-t ime t he t hought became sharp and clear in my head: Im going t o ret ire.
Why are you going t o do t hat ? Cat hy said.
Last season, losing t he t it le in t he last game, I cant t ake anot her one like t hat , I t old her. I
just hope we can win t he League t his t ime and reach t he Champions League or FA Cup final. It
would be a great ending.
Cat hy, who had lost her sist er Bridget in Oct ober, and was st ruggling t o come t o t erms wit h
t hat bereavement , soon agreed it was t he right course. Her t ake was t hat if I want ed t o do
ot her t hings wit h my life I would st ill be young enough. Cont ract ually I was obliged t o not ify t he
club by 31 March if I was going t o st and down t hat summer.
By coincidence David Gill had called me one Sunday in February and asked if he could come
t o see me at home. A Sunday aft ernoon? I bet hes resigning as chief execut ive, I said. Eit her
t hat or youre get t ing sacked, Cat hy said. Davids news was t hat he would be st anding down
as chief execut ive at t he end of t he season. Bloody hell, David, I said. And I t old him t hat I had
reached t he same decision.
In t he days t hat followed, David rang t o t ell me t o expect a call from t he Glazers. When it
came I assured Joel Glazer t hat my decision had not hing t o do wit h David relinquishing day-t o-
day cont rol. My mind had been made up over Christ mas, I t old him. I explained t he reasons.
Cat hys sist er dying in Oct ober had changed our lives. Cat hy felt isolat ed. Joel underst ood. We
agreed t o meet in New York, where he t ried t o t alk me out of ret iring. I t old him I appreciat ed
t he effort he was making and t hanked him for his support . He expressed his grat it ude for all my
Wit h no prospect of a change in my t hinking, t he discussion t urned t o who might replace me.
There was a unanimous agreement David Moyes was t he man.
David came over t o t he house t o discuss his pot ent ial availabilit y. It was import ant t o t he
Glazers t hat t here was no long period of speculat ion when my ret irement became official. They
want ed t he new man in place wit hin days.
A lot of Scot s have a dourness about t hem: a st rong will. When t hey leave Scot land it t ends
t o be for one reason only. To be successful. Scot s dont leave t o escape t he past . They move
away t o bet t er t hemselves. You see it all over t he world, in America and Canada especially.
Leaving t he homeland creat es a cert ain resolut ion. It s not a mask; it s a det erminat ion t o get
t hings done. The Scot t ish dourness ot hers t alk about somet imes applied t o me as well.
The Scot sman abroad doesnt lack humour. David Moyes is not short of wit . In t heir jobs,
t hough, t he Scot s are serious about t heir labours, an invaluable qualit y. People oft en said t o
me, I never see you smile during a game. I would reply, Im not t here t o smile, Im t here t o win
t he mat ch.
David had some of t hese t rait s. I knew his family background. His fat her was a coach at
Drumchapel, where I played as a lad. David Moyes senior. They have a good family feel about
t hem. Im not saying t hat s a reason t o hire someone but you like t o see good foundat ions in
someone appoint ed t o such high office. I left Drumchapel in 1957 when David senior would
have been a young boy, so t here was no direct crossover, but I knew t heir st ory.
The Glazers liked David. Right away t hey were impressed by him. The first point t hey will
have not iced is t hat he is a st raight -t alker. It s a virt ue t o be st raight forward about yourself.
And t o put one concern t o bed, t here is no way I would get in Davids way. Aft er 27 years as
manager, why would I want t o involve myself on t he foot ball side? This was my t ime t o leave
t hat part of my life behind. Equally David would have no t rouble embracing our t radit ions. He
was a fine judge of t alent and laid on some marvellous foot ball at Evert on when he was
allowed t o sign a higher class of player.
I t old myself I would have no regret s about ret iring. That wont change. In your sevent ies it s
easy t o go downhill fast , physically and ment ally. But I was busy from t he moment I st epped
aside, t aking on project s in America and beyond. There was no risk of me lapsing int o idleness. I
was looking for new challenges.
One great difficult y, in t he days around t he announcement , was t elling t he st aff at
Carringt on, our t raining ground. I part icularly remember ment ioning t he changes in my life and
Cat hys sist er dying, and hearing a sympat het ic, Aaah. That really broke t hrough my barriers. I
felt a real jab of sent iment .
Rumours had begun circulat ing t he day before t he official st at ement . At t hat point I had st ill
t o t ell my brot her Mart in. It was a difficult process t o manage, especially from t he New York
St ock Exchange point of view, so t he part ial leaking of t he news compromised me in relat ion t o
some of t he people I want ed t o confide in.
On t he Wednesday morning, 8 May, I had all t he foot ball st aff in t he video analysis room, t he
main st aff in t he cant een and t he players in t heir dressing room. The moment I walked int o t he
dressing room t o t ell t he squad we made t he announcement via t he club websit e. No mobile
phones were allowed. I didnt want anyone communicat ing t he news before I had been given
t he chance t o t ell everyone at t he t raining ground. Wit h t he rumours, t hough, t hey knew
somet hing big was coming.
I t old t he players: I hope I havent let some of you down, because you may have joined
t hinking I would st ay. We had t old Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, for example, t hat I
would not be ret iring any t ime soon, which was correct at t he point I said it .
Things change, I cont inued. My wifes sist er dying was one dramat ic change. Also, I want t o
go out a winner. And Im going out a winner.
Shock could be seen in some of t heir faces. Go t o t he races t oday and enjoy it , I said. See
you on Thursday. I had already given t he players t he Wednesday aft ernoon off t o go t o
Chest er. And everyone knew t hat . It was part of t he plan. I didnt want people t hinking t he
players were being heart less by at t ending Chest er races on t he day I brought t he curt ain
down, which is why I made a point t he week before of confirming t hey would go.
Then I went upst airs t o t he foot ball st aff and t old t hem. They all applauded. Glad t o get rid
of you, one or t wo remarked.
Of t he t wo main groups t he players were t he more dumbst ruck. Immediat ely in t hose
circumst ances quest ions will have filled t heir minds: Will t he new manager like me? Will I st ill be
here next season? The coaches would be t hinking: This could be t he end for me. The t ime
was approaching for me t o ret reat from t he scene of all t his announcing and explaining and
gat her my t hought s.
I had decided in advance t o go st raight home because I knew t here would be a seismic
react ion in t he media. I didnt want t o be leaving Carringt on t hrough a swarm of press and
flashing light s.
At home I locked myself in. Jason, my lawyer and Lyn sent t ext s simult aneously at t he point
t he announcement was made. Lyn would have been sending t ext s consecut ively for 15
minut es. Apparent ly 38 newspapers in t he world carried t he news on t he front page, including
t he New York Times. There were 10- and 12-page supplement s in t he Brit ish papers.
The range and dept h of t hat coverage was flat t ering. I had my run-ins wit h t he writ t en press
down t he years but I never held grudges. I know journalist s are under a lot of pressure. They
have t o t ry t o beat t elevision, t he int ernet , Facebook, Twit t er, many t hings, and t hey may have
an edit or on t op of t hem all t he t ime. It s a hard indust ry.
The coverage proved also t hat t he media held no grudges against me, despit e all our
conflict s. They recognised t he value of my career and what I had brought t o press
conferences. They even made a present at ion: a cake wit h a hairdryer on t op and a lovely
bot t le of wine. It was well received.
For t he Swansea game t he st adium announcer played Sinat ras My Way and Nat King
Coles Unforget t able. We won it t he way we did so many of t he 895 mat ches in which my
t eams prevailed: wit h a lat e goal, in t he 87t h minut e, from Rio Ferdinand.
My speech on t he pit ch was all off t he cuff. I had no script . All I knew was t hat I was not
going t o praise any individual. It was not about t he direct ors, t he support ers or t he players: it
was about Manchest er Unit ed Foot ball Club.
I urged t he crowd t o get behind t he next manager, David Moyes. Id like t o remind you t hat
weve had bad t imes here, I said over t he PA. The club st ood by me. All my st aff st ood by me.
The players st ood by me. So your job now is t o st and by our new manager. That is import ant .
Had I not ment ioned David, people might have asked: How about t hat , I wonder whet her
Ferguson want ed Moyes? We needed t o show our uncondit ional support for him. The club has
t o keep on winning. That was t he wish t hat bound us all. Im a direct or of t he club. I want t he
success t o go on as much as anyone. Now I can enjoy games t he way Bobby Charlt on has
been able t o since he ret ired. You see Bobby aft er a vict ory and his eyes are blazing, hes
rubbing his hands. He loves it . I want t hat . I want t o be able t o at t end European t ies and t ell
people: Im proud of t his t eam, t his is a great club.
In t he event I found myself picking out Paul Scholes. I knew he would hat e it but I couldnt
st op myself. Paul was ret iring as well. I also wished Darren Flet cher all t he best in his recovery
from a colonic illness, which few picked up on.
At an airport a few days lat er, a guy walked up t o me wit h an envelope, saying: I was going
t o post t his t o you. It was an art icle from an Irish paper arguing t hat I had left t he club t he way I
had managed it : on my t erms. Typical Ferguson, t he aut hor wrot e. I enjoyed t hat piece. That
was how I saw my t ime in charge of Unit ed and I was proud t o see it described t hat way.
As I slipped out of t he pict ure, David brought in t hree of his own st aff St eve Round, Chris
Woods and Jimmy Lumsden. He also added Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville, which meant t hat
Ren Meulenst een, Mick Phelan and Eric St eele lost t heir jobs. It was Davids call. I t old him t hat
if he kept my st aff I would be delight ed, but it was not for me t o int erfere or prevent him
bringing in his own assist ant s.
Jimmy Lumsden had been wit h David a long t ime. I knew him from my Glasgow days. Jimmy
was born about a mile from me, in t he next dist rict along from Govan. He is a good wee lad and
a fine foot ball man. It was just a disappoint ment t hat good men lost t heir jobs, which happens
in foot ball. But it was handled well. I t old t he t hree of t hem how sorry I was t hat t hey would not
be st aying. Mick, who was wit h me for 20 years, t old me I had not hing t o apologise for, and
t hanked me for all t he great t imes we had shared t oget her.
As I looked back I focused not only on t he t riumphs but also t he defeat s. I lost t hree FA Cup
finals, t o Evert on, Arsenal and Chelsea. I lost League Cup finals t o Sheffield Wednesday, Ast on
Villa and Liverpool. And t wo European Cup finals t o Barcelona. That is part of t he t apest ry of
Manchest er Unit ed t oo: t he recovery. I always kept in mind t hat it was not all vict ories and
open-t op parades. When we lost t he FA Cup final t o Evert on in 1995 I said: That s it , Im
making changes here. And we made t hem. We brought in t he young players, t he so-called
Class of 92. We couldnt hold t hem back any longer. They were a special group of lads.
Losing foot ball mat ches at Manchest er Unit ed resonat es wit h you. Mulling it over for a while
and t hen carrying on in t he same old way was never an opt ion for me. When you lose a final it
affect s you deeply, especially if you have 23 shot s on goal and t he opposit ion have t wo, or you
end up losing a penalt y shoot -out . My first t hought was always: Think quickly about what you
should be doing. My mind went st raight t o t he business of improvement and recovery. It was
an asset for me t o be able t o make quick calculat ions when it would have been easier just t o
be disheart ened.
Somet imes defeat s are t he best out comes. To react t o adversit y is a qualit y. Even in your
lowest periods you are showing st rengt h. There was a great saying: It s just anot her day in t he
hist ory of Manchest er Unit ed. In ot her words fight ing back was part of our exist ence. If you are
lackadaisical about defeat s you can be sure t here will be more t o come. Oft en we would drop
t wo point s in a game by t he opposit ion equalising wit h t he last kick of t he ball and t hen go on a
six- or seven-game winning run. It was no coincidence.
For t he fan t here is a cult ure of going t o work on t he Monday assailed by emot ion from t he
weekends game. A guy wrot e t o me in January 2010 and said: Can you please refund me t he
41 I paid for my t icket on Sunday? You promised me ent ert ainment . I did not get
ent ert ainment on Sunday. Can I have my 41 back? That was a fan. My idea was t o writ e
back saying: Can you please debit t he 41 from my profit over t he last 24 years?
You win all t hese games against Juvent us and Real Madrid and someone asks for t heir
money back aft er a slight ly quiet Sunday. Is t here any club in t he world t hat can give you more
heart -st opping moment s t han Manchest er Unit ed? In any set of programme not es I might
have warned t he support ers: if were losing 10 wit h 20 minut es t o go, go home, or you might
end up being carried out . You could finish up in t he Manchest er Royal Infirmary.
I hope no one will disagree when I say: nobody was short -changed. It was never dull.
THE mot t o of t he Ferguson clan in Scot land is: Dulcius ex asperis or, Sweet er aft er difficult ies.
That opt imism served me well t hrough 39 years in foot ball management . Over t hat t ime, from
East St irlingshire for four brief mont hs in 1974, t o Manchest er Unit ed in 2013, I saw beyond
adversit y t o t he success on t he ot her side. The act of cont rolling vast change year aft er year
was sust ained by a belief t hat we would prevail over any challenger.
Years ago, I read an art icle about me t hat said: Alex Ferguson has done really well in his life
despit e coming from Govan. Spot t he offending phrase. It s precisely because I st art ed out in
t he shipbuilding dist rict of Glasgow t hat I achieved what I did in foot ball. Origins should never
be a barrier t o success. A modest st art in life can be a help more t han a hindrance. If youre
examining successful people, look at t heir mot her and fat her, st udy what t hey did, for clues
about energy and mot ivat ion. A working-class background wasnt a barrier for many of my
great est players. On t he cont rary, oft en it was part of t he reason t hey excelled.
In my t ime in t he dug-out , I advanced from managing East St irling players on 6 a week t o
selling Crist iano Ronaldo t o Real Madrid for 80 million. My St Mirren squad were on 15 a
week and were left t o fend for t hemselves in t he summer because t hey were part -t ime. The
maximum any Aberdeen first -t eam player earned in my eight years at Pit t odrie was 200 a
week, t he ceiling set by Dick Donald, my chairman. So t he financial journey for t he t housands of
men I managed in nearly four decades was from 6 a week t o 6 million a year.
I have a let t er on file from a chap who said t hat in 195960 he worked in t he dry docks in
Govan and used t o visit a part icular pub. He remembers a young agit at or coming int o t his
est ablishment wit h a collect ing t in for t he apprent ices st rike fund and delivering a firebrand
speech. The only t hing he knew about t his boy was t hat he played for St Johnst one. His let t er
ended wit h a quest ion: Was t hat you?
At first I had no recollect ion of t his visit t o t he polit ical arena, but t he not e jogged my memory
and event ually I recalled going round t he pubs in our area t o raise money for t he st rike. I was
not audit ioning for a role in polit ics. To call my shout ing a speech would embellish it wit h
orat orical qualit ies it almost cert ainly lacked. I remember rant ing on like an idiot aft er being
asked t o just ify my request for money. Everyone would have been nicely lubricat ed and in t he
mood t o hear t he young fundraiser explain t he cause he was advancing.
Pubs were a large part of my early experiences. My earliest business idea was t o use my
modest income t o ent er t he licensed t rade, as securit y for t he fut ure. My first est ablishment
was at t he junct ion of Govan Road and Paisley Road West and was populat ed by dockers.
Pubs t aught me about people, t heir dreams and frust rat ions, in a way t hat complement ed my
effort s t o underst and t he foot ball t rade, t hough I was not t o know t hat at t he t ime.
In one of my pubs, for example, we had a Wembley Club, int o which cust omers would pay for
t wo years so t hey could get t o t he England v. Scot land mat ch at Wembley. I would double
what ever was in t he kit t y and off t hey would go t o London for four or five days. Or, t hat was
t he t heory. I would join t hem on t he day of t he game it self. My best mat e, Billy, would head off
t o Wembley on t he Thursday and come back seven days lat er. Inevit ably, t his unscheduled
ext ension of t he t rip would cause ruct ions wit h his family.
One Thursday, aft er a Sat urday game at Wembley, I was at home when t he phone rang. It
was Anna, Billys wife. Cat hy, go and ask Alex where Billy is, Anna said. I pleaded ignorance.
Maybe 40 of our cust omers would make t he t rip t o t he Twin Towers and I had no way of
knowing why Billy was absent wit hout leave. But for t he working men of my generat ion, a big
foot ball mat ch was a sacred pilgrimage, and t hey loved t he camaraderie as much as t he game.
The pub we had on Main St reet , Bridget on was in one of Glasgows biggest Prot est ant
dist rict s. The Sat urday before t he Orange walk, big Tam t he post man would approach me t o
say: Alex, t he boys are asking what t ime youre opening next Sat urday morning. For t he walk.
Were going down t o Ardrossan, which is on t he west coast of Scot land. The buses leave at
t en oclock, says Tam. All t he pubs are open. Youll need t o open.
I was flummoxed. Well, what t ime should I open?
Tam says: Seven.
So t here I was at 6.15 a.m., wit h my dad, and my brot her Mart in, and a wee It alian barman we
employed. Were well equipped because Tam has t old me: Get st ocked up, youll need plent y
of drink in. I open at 7 a.m. The pub is soon full of Orangemen in full voice and t he police are
walking by, not saying a word.
Bet ween 7 a.m. and half past nine I t ook four grand. Double vodkas, t he lot . My dad sat
shaking his head. By 9.30 we were hard at work get t ing t he place ready for t he rest of our
client ele. Scrubbed t he place, we did. But t here was four grand in t he t ill.
Running pubs was hard work. By 1978 I was ready t o escape t he onerous responsibilit ies
t hat came wit h running t wo wat ering holes. Managing Aberdeen left no t ime for wrest ling wit h
drinkers or st aying on t op of t he books. But what good st ories t hose years left in my memory.
You could writ e a book just about t hose. They would come in on Sat urday morning t he
dockers wit h t heir wives, having been paid on t he Friday night and deposit ed t he money wit h
me behind t he bar in t he night safe. On a Friday night you felt like a millionaire. You didnt know
whet her t he cash in t he safe or t he t ill was yours or t heirs. In t he early days Cat hy would count
it on t he carpet . On t he Sat urday morning t he money would be away again when t hese men
came t o collect it . The record of t hese t ransact ions was called t he t ick book.
A female regular by t he name of Nan was especially vigilant in t racking t he movement s of
her husbands money. She had a t ongue like a docker. Do you t hink were all daft ? she would
say, fixing me in her sight s.
What ? I said, buying t ime.
Do you t hink were all daft ? That t ick book, I want t o see it .
Oh, you cant see t he t ick book, I said, improvising. It s sacrosanct . The t axman wouldnae
let you do t hat . The t axman examines it every week. You cant see t hat .
Nan t urns t o her man, subdued now, and says: Is t hat right ?
Er, Im not sure, says her man.
The st orm had passed. If I find out my mans names in t here Im never coming back, Nan
These are last ing memories of a young life spent around people of great charact er and
resilience. Tough people, t oo. Somet imes I would come home wit h a split head or black eyes.
That was pub life. When it became t oo exuberant or fight s broke out , it was necessary t o jump
in t o rest ore order. You would t ry t o separat e t he prot agonist s but oft en t ake one on t he chin.
Yet I look back and t hink what a great life it was. The charact ers; t he comedy.
I always remember a man called Jimmy West wat er coming in, unable t o breat he. Grey, he
was. Christ , are you all right ? I asked. Jimmy had wrapped himself in Shant ung silk t o creep out
of t he docks wit hout being caught . A whole bale of Shant ung silk. But hed wrapped himself so
t ight ly in it , he could hardly draw breat h.
Anot her Jimmy, who I employed, and who kept t he place immaculat e, t urned up one night in
a bow t ie. One of my regulars was incredulous: A bow t ie in Govan? You must be joking. One
Friday night I came back t o find someone selling bags of birdseed by t he bar. In t hat part of
Glasgow, everyone kept pigeons.
What s t his? I asked.
Birdseed. Like it was t he most obvious answer in t he world.
An Irish lad called Mart in Corrigan prided himself on his abilit y t o meet any domest ic need.
Crockery, a cant een of cut lery, a fridge anyt hing you like. Anot her guy walked in and
announced: Want a pair of binoculars? Im skint . Out came a beaut iful pair of binoculars,
wrapped in greaseproof paper. A fiver, he says.
One condit ion, I said. A fiver as long as you drink in here. Dont go over t o Baxt ers. He was
a nice guy wit h a speech impediment . So I get t he binoculars and he immediat ely spends 3
across t he bar.
When I brought purchases home, Cat hy would go crackers. I can remember coming back wit h
a nice It alian vase t hat Cat hy lat er saw in a shop for 10. The problem was t hat I had paid 25
for ours over t he bar. One day I swaggered in wit h a new suede jacket t hat really looked t he
part .
How much? says Cat hy.
Seven quid, I say, beaming.
So I hang it up. Two weeks lat er we are going t o her sist ers for a wee part y. On goes t he
jacket , and Im st anding in front of t he mirror admiring t he cut . You know how a man gives t he
t wo sleeves a t ug t o get it t o sit just right ? That s what I did and t he t wo sleeves came right
off in my hands. There I st ood wit h a sleeveless jacket .
Cat hy was rolling about while I was shout ing: Ill kill him! There wasnt even a lining in t he
jacket .
On a wall in my snooker room hangs a pict ure of Bill, my best mat e. He was some lad, Billy.
Couldnt even make a cup of t ea. Back at his house one day, aft er we had been out for a meal,
I t old him, Get t he ket t le on. Off he went . But Billy was gone about 15 minut es. Where t he hell
was he? He was on t he phone t o Anna, his wife, asking: What do you do wit h t he t ea?
Anna left a st eak pie in t he oven one night , while Billy wat ched t he movie, The Towering
Inferno. Anna came back t wo hours lat er t o find smoke spewing from t he kit chen.
Christ , did you not t urn t he oven off? Look at t he smoke, she puffed.
I t hought it was coming from t he t elly, Billy cried. Hed t hought it was a special effect from
t he burning t ower.
Everyone congregat ed at Billys house. They were mot hs t o his light . He wasnt known as
Billy, t hough. Everyone called him McKechnie. His t wo boys, St ephen and Darren, are a credit t o
him and Anna, and are st ill very close wit h my sons. Billy is no longer wit h us. But I st ill
remember him for all t he fun we shared.
I have a hardcore of friends from t hat t ime. Duncan Pet ersen, Tommy Hendry and Jim
McMillan were at nursery wit h me from four years of age. Duncan was a plumber who worked
for ICI at Grangemout h and ret ired very early. He has a nice wee place in Clearwat er, Florida,
and t hey like t o t ravel. Tommy, who had some heart t rouble, was an engin-eer, as was Jim. A
fourt h one, Angus Shaw, is looking aft er his ill wife. John Grant , who Im also very close t o,
moved t o Sout h Africa in t he 1960s. His wife and daught er run a wholesale business.
When I left Harmony Row as a lad, it creat ed a big division bet ween me and t he Govan boys.
They t hought I was wrong t o leave t he t eam and go t o Drumchapel Amat eurs. Mick McGowan,
who ran Harmony Row, never spoke t o me again. He was int ransigent . Mick One-Eyed
McGowan. He was an incredible ent husiast for Harmony Row and just blanked me when I left .
But t he Govan boys and I would st ill go dancing up t o t he age of 19 or 20. We all st art ed wit h
girlfriends around t hat t ime.
Then came t he separat ion bet ween us, t he drift . I married Cat hy and moved up t o Simshill.
They all married t oo. The friendships seemed t o fall apart . Cont act was int ermit t ent . John and
Duncan had played wit h me at Queens Park, in 195860. In management you have lit t le t ime
for anyt hing beyond t he demands of t he job. At St Mirren I cert ainly didnt . But our bonds were
not complet ely severed. About t wo mont hs before I left Aberdeen in 1986, Duncan phoned and
said it was his 25t h wedding anniversary in Oct ober. Would Cat hy and I like t o come? I t old him
we would love t o. It was a t urning point in my life. All t he lads were t here and it brought us back
t oget her. Our families were est ablished; we were mat ure men. I moved t o Unit ed t he following
mont h and weve remained close ever since.
When you get t o t hat age, around 19 t o 20, t here is a gent le part ing of t he ways, but t hey all
kept t oget her. It was only me who had a different t ype of life. It was not avoidance in any way.
It was just t he way my life unfolded. I was running t wo pubs and was manager of St Mirren.
Then came t he Aberdeen job in 1978.
Those friendships sust ained me at Manchest er Unit ed. They would all come t o our house in
Cheshire for a buffet and a singsong and wed put all t he old records on. They were all good
singers. By t he t ime my t urn came, t he wine would have infused me wit h an exaggerat ed
sense of my own crooning abilit ies. It would be neck and neck bet ween me and Frank Sinat ra.
There would be no doubt in my mind t hat I could t reat my audience t o a fine rendit ion of Moon
River. Two words in, I would open my eyes t o find t he room empt y. You come and eat my food
and t here you are wat ching t elly in t he next room while Im singing, I would complain.
Were no list ening t o t hat . It s crap, came t he reply. They are good solid people. Most have
been married over 40 years. God, t hey give me st ick. They pummel me. They get away wit h it
because t hey are so like me; t hey are t he same st ock. They grew up wit h me. But t hey were
also support ive. When t hey came down we t ended t o win. But if we lost a game t hey might
say, sympat het ically, That was hard work. Not , That was rubbish, but That was hard work.
My friends in Aberdeen remain close. The t hing I learned about Scot land is t hat t he furt her
nort h you go, t he quiet er people are. They t ake longer t o forge friendships, but when t hey do
t hose t ies run deep. Gordon Campbell goes on holiday wit h us, my lawyer Les Dalgarno, Alan
McRae, George Ramsay, Gordon Hut cheon.
As I became more ent renched in t he job at Unit ed, my social life diminished. I st opped going
out on a Sat urday night . The foot ball was exhaust ing for me. Get t ing away from t he ground
aft er a 3 p.m. kick-off, I wouldnt ret urn home unt il quart er t o nine. That was t he price of
success: 76,000 people all going home at t he same t ime. The urge t o go out weakened. But I
developed some st rong friendships: Ahmet Kurcer, t he manager of t he Alderley Edge Hot el,
Sot irios, Mimmo, Marius, Tim, Ron Wood, Pet er Done, Pat Murphy and Pet e Morgan, Ged
Mason, t he wonderful Harold Riley, and my st aff, of course, who were loyal t o me. James
Mort imer and Willie Haughey were t wo old pals from my home t own, t here was Mart in
OConnor and Charlie St illit ano in New York and Eckhard Kraut zun in Germany, all good people.
When we did summon up t he energy, we had good night s out .
In my early years in Manchest er I grew friendly wit h Mel Machin, who was manager of Cit y,
and who was fired not long aft er t hey beat us 51. The reason given, I seem t o recall, was t hat
Mel didnt smile enough. I would have been sacked a long t ime ago had t hat logic applied at
Unit ed. John Lyall, t he manager of West Ham, was a rock t o me in t hose days. I didnt know all
t he players in England and wasnt sure of t he scout ing depart ment at Unit ed. I would phone
John oft en and he would send me report s on players t o supplement my own. I could t rust him
and confided in him a lot . As a way of t elling me Unit ed werent playing well, he would say: I
dont see Alex Ferguson in t hat t eam.
Jock Wallace, t he fiery former Rangers manager, also said t o me in a hot el one night : I dont
see Alex Ferguson in t hat t eam. Youd bet t er get Alex Ferguson back in t here. Those men
volunt eered t heir advice, knowing t hat friendship was at t he base of t heir observat ions. I call
t hose t he best friendships. Bobby Robson was manager of England, so t hat was a different
relat ionship at first , but we t oo became close. Lennie Lawrence was anot her friend from t hat
t ime, and st ill is.
Bobby Robson and I re-est ablished close cont act at Eusbios t est imonial in Port ugal when
he was coaching t here wit h Port o and Sport ing Lisbon. Eric Cant ona made his debut in t hat
game. Bobby came t o our hot el and I will always remember him seeking out St eve Bruce t o say:
St eve, I made a mist ake wit h you. I should have given you an England cap and I want t o
apologise for t hat . In front of all t he players.
So much of what I knew at t he end of my career I learned in t hose early days, somet imes
wit hout realising t he lessons were sinking in. I learned about human nat ure long before I
headed sout h t o Unit ed.
Ot her people dont see t he game or t he world t he way you do, and somet imes you have t o
adjust t o t hat realit y. Davie Campbell was a player I had at St Mirren. He could run like a deer
but couldnt t rap a rabbit . I was int o him at half-t ime when t he door opened t o reveal his fat her.
Davie, youre doing brilliant son, well done! t he dad announced, t hen disappeared.
We were at Cowdenbeat h one day wit h East St irling and made t he mist ake of not checking
t he weat her. The pit ch was brick hard. So we went int o Cowdenbeat h t o buy 12 pairs of
baseball boot s. We had no rubber soles in t hose days. We were down t hree-not hing at half-
t ime. In t he second half I feel a t ap on my shoulder from Billy Rent on, a former t eam-mat e of
mine. He says: Alex, I just want t o int roduce you t o my son.
I say: For Gods sake, Billy, were get t ing beat t hree-not hing.
That same day, Frank Connor, a lovely man wit h a hellish t emper, wat ched a decision go
against him and t hrew t he bench on t he pit ch. I said: Bloody hell, Frank, youre winning t hree-
not hing.
It s a disgrace, t hat , Frank fired back. These were t he passions swirling all around me.
A st ory comes back t o me of Jock St ein and his bat t les wit h Jimmy Johnst one, t he brilliant
player and legendary carouser. One aft ernoon, Jock t ook Jimmy off in a game as punishment
for Jimmy not want ing t o play in a European away game. As Jimmy came off he said: You big
one-legged bast ard, you, and t ook a kick at t he dug-out . Jimmy runs up t he t unnel and big
Jock get s aft er him. Jimmy locks himself in t he dressing room.
Open t hat door, shout s Jock.
No, youll hurt me, replies Jimmy.
Open t hat door! repeat s Jock. I warn you.
Jimmy opens t he door and jumps st raight int o t he bat h, which is red hot .
Jock shout s: Come out of t here.
No, Im not coming out , says Jimmy. Out side, on t he pit ch, t he game is st ill going on.
Foot ball management is a never-ending sequence of challenges. So much of it is a st udy in
t he frailt y of human beings. There was an occasion when a number of Scot land players, aft er a
night of liquid ent ert ainment , decided t o jump in rowing boat s. This ended wit h Jimmy
Johnst one, wee Jinky, having t he oars t aken off him and t he t ide t aking him out , while he was
singing away. When t he informat ion got back t o Celt ic Park, Jock St ein was informed t hat Jinky
had been rescued by t he coast guard from a rowing boat in t he Firt h of Clyde. Jock joked:
Could he not have drowned? Wed have given him a t est imonial, wed have looked aft er
Agnes, and I would st ill have my hair.
Jock was hilarious. In our t ime t oget her wit h Scot land, I recall us beat ing England 10 at
Wembley in May 1985 and t hen flying out t o Reykjavik t o face Iceland, where we were feeling
pret t y pleased wit h ourselves. On t he night of our arrival, t he st aff sat down t o a banquet of
prawns, salmon and caviar. Big Jock never drank, but I leaned on him t o t ake one glass of whit e
in celebrat ion of our vict ory over t he English.
In t he game against Iceland, we scraped a 10 win. The performance was a disast er. And
aft erwards Big Jock t urned t o me and said: See t hat ? That s you and your whit e wine.
Despit e having all t his experience t o draw on, I felt my way in t he early years at Manchest er
Unit ed. Having a quick t emper helped, because if I lost my rag my personalit y came t hrough.
Ryan Giggs has a t emper, but a slow one. Mine was a useful t ool. I just weighed right in. It
helped me t o assert my aut horit y. It t old t he players and st aff I was not t o be messed about .
There are always people who want t o t ake you on, defy you. When I st art ed, even in my first
days at East St irling, I had a defining confront at ion wit h t he cent re-forward, who was t he son-
in-law of one of t he direct ors, Bob Shaw.
I was informed by one of my players, Jim Meakin, t hat his whole family went away for a
weekend in Sept ember. It was a t radit ion.
What do you mean? I said.
You know, Ill not be playing on Sat urday, Jim says.
Well, Ill t ell you what , I said, dont play on Sat urday and t hen dont bot her coming back.
So he played, and st raight aft er drove down t o join his family in Blackpool.
On t he Monday I receive a phone call: Boss, Ive broken down. In Carlisle, I t hink it was. He
must have t hought I was st upid. Quick as a flash I said, I cant hear you very well, give me your
number, Ill call you back.
Dont come back, I said.
Bob Shaw, t he direct or, was deeply unhappy wit h me. This went on for weeks and weeks.
The chairman was saying. Alex, please, get Bob Shaw off my back, get Jim back playing.
I said: No, Willie, hes finished. Are you t elling me I can do my job wit h guys deciding when
t heyre going t o go on holiday?
I underst and t he problem, but is t hree weeks not enough? he said.
The next week he followed me int o t he t oilet s at Forfar, st ood beside me, and groaned:
Please, Alex, if t heres any Christ ian underst anding in your body.
Aft er a pause I said: All right .
And he kissed me. What are you doing, you silly old sod, I said. Youre kissing me in a public
t oilet .
In Oct ober 1974, in t he next st age of my apprent iceship, I went t o work for St Mirren. First
day, a phot ograph in t he Paisley Express. In t he print I not iced t he capt ain making a gest ure
behind my back. The following Monday I called him in and said: Youve got a free t ransfer if you
want it . Theres no place for you here. Youll not be playing.
Why? he says.
For a st art , doing a V-sign behind a manager doesnt t ell me youre an experienced player, or
t hat youre a mat ure person. If Im looking for a capt ain Im looking for mat urit y. That was a
childish schoolboy t rick. You have t o go.
You have t o make your mark. As Big Jock said t o me about players: Never fall in love wit h
t hem, because t heyll t wo-t ime you.
At Aberdeen I had t o deal wit h all sort s of t ransgressions. I caught plent y out . Aft erwards
you kill yourself laughing at t heir react ions.
Me? t hey would say, wit h t he most brilliant ly wounded expression.
Aye, you.
Oh, I went t o see a mat e.
Oh did you? For t hree hours? And ended up pissed? Mark McGhee and Joe Harper would
t est me plent y. Then t here was Frank McGarvey, at St Mirren. One Sunday in 1977 we t ook
15,000 fans t o a cup game at Fir Park but lost 21. Mot herwell kicked us off t he park and I was
report ed t o t he SFA for saying t he referee had not been st rong enough.
That Sunday night my home phone rang. My mat e John Donachie said down t he line: I didnt
want t o t ell you before t he game because I knew you would go off your head, but I saw
McGarvey in t he pub, pissed, on Friday night . I phoned his house. His mot her answered. Is
Frank in?
No, she said, hes in t own. Is t here anyt hing I can help you wit h?
Can you ask him t o phone me when he comes in. Ill st ay up. Im not going t o bed unt il Ive
spoken t o him. At 11.45 p.m. t he phone went . Pips sounded, so I knew it was a pay phone. In
t he house, Frank said. But t hat s pips, I said. Yeah, weve got a pay phone in our house, says
Frank. That much was t rue, but I didnt believe he was ringing from t here.
Where were you on Friday night ?
I cant remember, he says.
Well, Ill t ell you. You were in t he Wat erloo bar. That s where you were. Youre suspended for
life. Dont come back. Youre out of t he Scot land Under-21s. Im wit hdrawing you. Youll never
kick anot her ball in your life. And I put t he phone down.
The next morning, his mot her rang me. My Frank doesnt drink. Youve got t he wrong man. I
t old her: I dont t hink so. I know every mot her t hinks t he sun shines out of t heir sons backside,
but you go back and ask him again.
For t hree weeks I had him suspended for life and t he players were all mut t ering about it .
A League decider against Clydebank was approaching and I t old my assist ant , big Davie
Provan: I need him back for t his one. The club do was at t he t own hall in Paisley t he week
before t he Clydebank game. I walked in t here wit h Cat hy, and suddenly Frank jumped out from
behind one of t he pillars, begging: Just give me one more chance. This was a gift from heaven.
There was me wondering how I could bring him back int o t he fold wit hout losing face and he
jumps out from behind a pillar. I t old Cat hy t o walk in while I maint ained my st ernest t one wit h
Frank: I t old you, youre finished for life. Tony Fit zpat rick, who had been wat ching, st eps
forward: Boss, give him anot her chance, Ill make sure he behaves.
Talk t o me t omorrow morning, I barked. This is not t he right t ime. I ent er t he hall t o join
Cat hy, t riumphant . We won t he Clydebank game 31, and Frank scored t wo.
Wit h young people you have t o t ry t o impart a sense of responsibilit y. If t hey can add great er
awareness t o t heir energy and t heir t alent s t hey can be rewarded wit h great careers.
One asset I possessed when I st art ed as a manager was t hat I could make a decision. I was
never afraid of t hat , even as a schoolboy picking a t eam. I was inst ruct ing players even t hen:
You play here, you play t here, I used t o t ell t hem t hen. Willie Cunningham, one of my early
managers, would say: You know, youre a bloody nuisance. I would t alk t act ics at him and ask:
Are you sure you know what youre doing?
Nuisance, t hat s what you are, he would answer.
The ot her players would sit t here list ening t o my int ervent ions and assume I was about t o
be killed for insubordinat ion. But it was just t hat I could always make a decision. I dont know
where it comes from, but I know t hat as a boy I was an organiser, an inst ruct or, a picker of
t eams. My fat her was an ordinary working man, very int elligent , but not a leader of any
descript ion, so I was not copying a parent al example.
On t he ot her hand t here is a part of me, I know, t hat is solit ary, cut off. At 15, playing for
Glasgow schoolboys, I came home aft er scoring against Edinburgh schoolboys t he great est
day of my life t o be t old by my fat her t hat a big club want ed t o t alk t o me. My response
surprised us bot h: I just want t o go out . I want t o go t o t he pict ures.
What s t he mat t er wit h you? he said.
I want ed t o separat e myself. I dont know why. To t his day I dont know why I did t hat . I had
t o be on my own. My fat her had been so proud and delight ed and my mot her was dancing,
saying, It s so great , son. My gran was going off her head. Scoring against Edinburgh
schoolboys was a big deal. Yet I had t o escape int o my own wee vacuum, you know?
From t here t o here is such a vast dist ance. When I st art ed at Manchest er Unit ed in 1986,
Willie McFaul was t he manager of Newcast le Unit ed. Manchest er Cit y had Jimmy Frizzell and
George Graham was in charge at Arsenal. I like George: good man, great friend. When I was
having problems wit h Mart in Edwards over my cont ract , Sir Roland Smit h was t he chairman of
t he Plc. The Plc could cause complicat ions at t imes. You would have t o wait for issues t o be
addressed. One day Sir Roland suggest ed t hat Mart in, Maurice Wat kins, t he club solicit or, and I
should go over t o t he Isle of Man t o sort out my new deal. George was on double my salary at
Ill give you my cont ract , if you like, George said.
Are you sure you dont mind? I said.
So over t o t he Isle of Man I went , wit h Georges cont ract . Mart in was a good chairman for me.
He was st rong. The problem was, he t hought every penny was his. He paid you what he
want ed t o pay you. Not just me everyone.
When I showed him Georges cont ract , he wouldnt believe it . Phone David Dein, I
suggest ed. So he did, and David Dein, t he Arsenal chairman, denied t hat George was being
paid t he sum on t he cont ract . It was a farce. George had given me his document at ion, signed
by David Dein. Had it not been for Maurice and Roland Smit h I would have left t he job t hat day.
I was close t o leaving anyway.
There was a moral t here, as in all of my 39 years on t he front line. You have t o st and up for
yourself. There is no ot her way.
ON t he sofa t hat night of Christ mas Day 2001, I had nodded off while wat ching t elevision. In t he
kit chen a mut iny was brewing. The t radit ional assembly room of our family home was t he
scene for a discussion t hat would change each of our lives. The chief rebel came in and kicked
my foot t o wake me. In t he frame of t he door I could pick out t hree figures: all my sons, lined up
for maximum solidarit y.
Weve just had a meet ing, Cat hy said. Weve decided. Youre not ret iring. As I weighed t his
announcement I felt no urge t o resist . One, your healt h is good. Two, Im not having you in t he
house. And t hree, youre t oo young anyway. Cat hy did all t he early t alking. But our sons were
right behind her. The gang was unit ed. Youre being st upid, Dad, t he boys t old me. Dont do it .
Youve got a lot t o offer. You can build a new t eam at Manchest er Unit ed. That ll t each me t o
nod off for five minut es. It ended wit h me working for 11 more years.
One of t he reasons I had decided t o st and down in t he first place was in react ion t o a remark
Mart in Edwards had made aft er t he 1999 European Cup final in Barcelona. Mart in had been
asked whet her t here would be a role for me aft er I surrendered t he managers job and had
replied: Well, we dont want a Mat t Busby sit uat ion. I wasnt impressed by t hat answer. The
t wo periods could not be compared. In my era, you needed t o fact or in t he added complicat ions
brought on by agent s, cont ract s, t he mass media. No sensible person would want t o be
embroiled in t hose act ivit ies once he had finished serving his t ime as manager. There was not
t he slimmest chance I would want t o be involved in t he games t hemselves or t he complexit ies
of t he foot ball t rade.
What else made me int end t o ret ire in t he first place? There was always a sense aft er t hat
magical night in Barcelona t hat I had reached t he pinnacle. Previously my t eams had fallen
short in t he European Cup and I had always chased t hat end of t he rainbow. Once youve
achieved your lifes ambit ion, you ask yourself whet her you can achieve such a high again.
When Mart in Edwards made his remark about avoiding t he Mat t Busby syndrome, my first
t hought was Nonsense. My second was: Sixt y is a good age t o walk away.
So t hree fact ors wormed away in my mind: t he disappoint ment of Mart in raising t he Mat t
Busby spect re, t he imponderable of whet her I could win a second European Cup, and t hat
number, 60, which assumed a haunt ing qualit y. I had been a manager from 32 years of age.
Reaching 60 can have a profound effect . You t hink youre ent ering anot her room. At 50, a
pivot al moment has arrived. Half a cent ury. But you dont feel 50. At 60, you say: Christ , I feel
60. Im 60! You come t hrough t hat . You realise it s a not ional change, a numerical alt erat ion. I
dont feel t hat way now about age. But back t hen, 60 was a psychological barrier in my head. It
was an obst acle t o me feeling young. It changed my sense of my own fit ness, my healt h.
Winning t he European Cup enabled me t o feel I had complet ed t he set of dreams and could
now st ep away fulfilled. That was t he cat alyst in my t hinking. But when I saw Mart in cast ing me
as an annoying ghost on t he shoulder of t he new manager, I mut t ered t o myself, What a joke.
It was a relief t o me, of course, t o perform a full U-t urn, but I st ill had t o argue t he
pract icalit ies wit h Cat hy and t he boys.
I dont t hink I can reverse it . Ive t old t he club.
Cat hy said: Well, dont you t hink t hey should show you some respect in t erms of allowing
you t o change your mind?
They may have given it t o someone by now, I said.
But wit h t he job youve done dont you t hink t hey should give you t he chance t o go back
on it ? she persist ed.
The next day I phoned Maurice Wat kins who laughed when I t old him about my U-t urn. The
head-hunt ers were due t o meet a candidat e t o succeed me t he following week. Sven-Gran
Eriksson was t o be t he new Unit ed manager, I believe. That was my int erpret at ion, anyway,
t hough Maurice never confirmed it . Why Eriksson? I asked him, lat er.
You may be wrong, you may be right , Maurice said.
I remember asking Paul Scholes one day: Scholesy, what s Eriksson got ? but Scholesy could
shed no light . Maurices next move was t o make cont act wit h Roland Smit h, t he t hen chairman
of t he Plc, whose response t o me when we spoke was: I t old you. Didnt I t ell you how st upid
you were? We need t o sit down t o discuss t his.
Roland was one of t hose wise old birds. He had lived a rich life, a complet e life. All kinds of
int erest ing experiences had passed his way and he could unfurl a marvellous array of st ories.
Roland t old us a t ale of Margaret That cher being at a dinner wit h t he Queen. Her Majest y
want ed t he royal plane t o be refurbished. Roland came rolling along and not iced t he t wo of
t hem wit h t heir backs t o one anot her.
Roland, called t he Queen, will you t ell t his woman I need some work doing on my plane?
Maam, said Roland, Ill at t end t o it right away.
That s what I needed him t o say about my change of heart . I needed him t o at t end t o it right
away. My first point t o Roland was t hat I needed a new cont ract . My exist ing deal would expire
t hat summer. We needed t o move fast .
The moment I made t he announcement specifying t he dat e of my depart ure, I knew I had
made an error. Ot hers knew it t oo. Bobby Robson had always said: Dont you dare ret ire.
Bobby was a wonderful charact er. We were sit t ing in t he house one aft ernoon when t he phone
went .
Alex, it s Bobby here. Are you busy?
Where are you? I said.
Im in Wilmslow.
Well come round, I t old him.
Im out side your door, he said.
Bobby was such a refreshing man. Even in his sevent ies he st ill want ed t he Newcast le job
back, aft er losing it early in t he 200405 season. It was never in Bobbys nat ure t o embrace
idleness, and he refused t o accept t he Newcast le post had suddenly moved beyond his
capabilit ies. That defiance st ayed wit h him t o t he end and showed how much he loved t his
Once I had decided I would be st anding down, I st opped planning. The minut e I reversed t hat
policy, I st art ed plot t ing again. I t old myself: We need a new t eam. The energy came back. I
st art ed t o feel t hat t hrust about myself again. To t he scout s I announced, Let s get cracking
again. We were mobilising once more and it felt good.
I had no physical ailment s or impediment s t hat would have st opped me carrying on. In
management you are fragile, somet imes. You wonder whet her you are valued. I remember my
friend Hugh McIlvanneys Arena TV document ary t rilogy on St ein, Shankly and Busby. A t heme
of Hughs st udy was t hat t hese men were t oo big for t heir clubs and each, in his own way, had
been cut down t o size. I remember big Jock saying t o me about club owners and direct ors:
Remember, Alex, we are not t hem. We are not t hem. They run t he club. We are t heir workers.
Big Jock always felt t hat . It was us and t hem, t he landowner and t he serf.
What t hey did t o Jock St ein at Celt ic, apart from being dist ast eful, was ridiculous. They
asked him t o run t he pools. Twent y-five t rophies wit h Celt ic, and t hey asked him t o run t he
pools. Bill Shankly was never invit ed t o join t he Liverpool board and as a consequence a
resent ment grew in him. He even st art ed t o come t o Manchest er Unit ed games, or wat ch
Tranmere Rovers. He appeared at our old t raining ground, The Cliff, as well as Evert ons.
No mat t er how good your CV, t here are moment s when you feel vulnerable, exposed; t hough
in my last few years wit h David Gill, t he base in which I operat ed was first -class. Our
relat ionship was excellent . But t here is a fear of failure in a manager t he whole t ime, and you
are on your own a lot . Somet imes you would give anyt hing not t o be alone wit h your t hought s.
There were days when I would be in my office, in t he aft ernoon, and no one would knock on my
door because t hey assumed I was busy. Somet imes Id hope for t hat rap on t he door. I would
want Mick Phelan or Ren Meulenst een t o come in and say: Do you fancy a cup of t ea? I had
t o go and look for someone t o t alk t o; ent er t heir space. In management you have t o face t hat
isolat ion. You need cont act . But t hey t hink youre busy wit h import ant business and dont want
t o go near you.
Unt il around 1 p.m. t here would be a const ant st ream of people coming t o see me. The
yout h academy guys, Ken Ramsden, t he secret ary, and first -t eam players, which was always
grat ifying because it meant t hey t rust ed you, oft en wit h family problems. I always adopt ed a
posit ive approach t o players confiding in me, even if it was t o ask for a day off t o deal wit h
fat igue, or t o address a cont ract problem.
If a player asked me for a day off, t here had t o be a good reason, because who would want
t o miss a t raining session at Unit ed? I would always say yes. I would t rust t hem. Because if you
said, No and why do you want one anyway? and t hey answered, Because my grandmot her
has died, t hen you were in t rouble. If t here was a problem I would always want t o help t o find a
solut ion.
I had people who were 100 per cent Alex Ferguson. Examples would be Les Kershaw, Jim
Ryan and Dave Bushell. I brought Les in in 1987. He was one of my best -ever signings. I hired
him on t he recommendat ion of Bobby Charlt on. Because I didnt know t he English scene t hat
well, Bobbys t ips were invaluable. Les had worked at Bobbys soccer schools and scout ed for
Cryst al Palace. He had also worked wit h George Graham and Terry Venables. Bobbys view
was t hat Les would love t o work for Manchest er Unit ed. So I hooked him in. He was
effervescent . So ent husiast ic. Never st ops t alking. He would call me at 6.30 p.m. every Sunday
night t o updat e me wit h all t he scout ing report s. Cat hy would come t hrough aft er an hour t o
say, Are you st ill on t hat phone?
The moment you int errupt ed Les, he would accelerat e. What a worker. He was a professor
of chemist ry at Manchest er Universit y. Dave Bushell was a headmast er who ran English
schools Under-15s and I t ook him when Joe Brown ret ired. Jim Ryan was t here from 1991. Mick
Phelan was a player for me and became my valued assist ant , apart from t he spell when he left
us in 1995 and rejoined in 2000 as a coach. Paul McGuinness was wit h me from when I joined
t he club. He was t he son of former Unit ed player and manager Wilf McGuinness, and had been
a player himself. I made him an academy coach.
Normally a manager brings an assist ant and t hat assist ant st ays wit h him. Unit ed are a
different proposit ion because my assist ant s acquired a high profile and became t arget s for
ot her clubs. I lost my assist ant , Archie Knox, t o Rangers, t wo weeks before t he 1991 European
Cup Winners Cup final, and in Archies absence I t ook Brian Whit ehouse t o Rot t erdam for t he
game and made sure all t he backroom st aff were involved.
Lat er I went scout ing for a No. 2. Nobby St iles said: Why dont you promot e Brian Kidd?
Brian knew t he club and had t ransformed t he local scout ing net work, bringing in a lot of his old
pals, Unit ed men and schoolt eachers who knew t he local area. That was t he best work Brian
ever did. It was a t errific success. So I gave Brian t he job. He did well in t he sense t hat he
became very friendly wit h t he players and put on a good t raining session. He had been t o It aly
t o wat ch t he Serie A t eams and brought a lot of t hat wisdom home.
When he left t o go t o Blackburn in 1998, I t old him: I hope you know what youre doing.
When a coach leaves, t hey always ask: What do you t hink? Wit h Archie I couldnt get Mart in
Edwards t o mat ch t he Rangers offer. As for Brian, I didnt feel he was suit ed t o management .
St eve McClaren: management mat erial, no doubt about t hat . What I t old St eve was: you
should make sure you get t he right club, t he right chairman. Essent ial. Always. West Ham and
Sout hampt on were t he ones who want ed him at t his st age.
From nowhere, St eve t ook a call from St eve Gibson, t he chairman of Middlesbrough, and my
advice was, Absolut ely no doubt , t ake it . Bryan Robson, t hough he had lost his job t here,
always spoke highly of St eve Gibson, who was young, fresh, and always willing t o put his
money in. They had a great t raining ground. That s your job, I t old St eve.
Organised, st rong and always looking for new ideas, St eve was made for management . He
was effervescent and energet ic wit h a good personalit y.
Carlos Queiroz, anot her of my No. 2s, was brilliant . Just brilliant . Out st anding. An int elligent ,
met iculous man. The recommendat ion t o hire him came from Andy Roxburgh, at a t ime when
we were beginning t o look at more sout hern-hemisphere players and perhaps needed a coach
from beyond t he nort hern European nat ions, and one who could speak anot her language or
t wo. Andy was quit e clear. Carlos was out st anding. He had coached Sout h Africa, so I called in
Quint on Fort une one day for his opinion. Fant ast ic, said Quint on. To what level, do you t hink?
Any, said Quint on. Well, I t hought , t hat will do me.
When Carlos came over t o England in 2002 t o speak t o us, I was wait ing for him in my
t racksuit . Carlos was immaculat ely dressed. He has t hat suaveness about him. He was so
impressive t hat I offered him t he job right away. He was t he closest you could be t o being t he
Manchest er Unit ed manager wit hout act ually holding t he t it le. He t ook responsibilit y for a lot of
issues t hat he didnt have t o get involved in.
I need t o t alk t o you. Carlos had rung me one day in 2003 as I was holidaying in t he sout h of
France. What could it be? Who was aft er him? I just need t o t alk t o you, he repeat ed.
So he flew int o Nice and I t ook a t axi t o Nice Airport , where we found a quiet corner.
Ive been offered t he Real Madrid job, he said.
Im going t o say t wo t hings t o you. One, you cant t urn it down. Two, youre leaving a really
good club. You may not last more t han a year at Real Madrid. You could be at Man Unit ed for a
lifet ime.
I know, Carlos said. I just feel it s such a challenge.
Carlos, I cant t alk you out of t hat one. Because if I do, and in a years t ime Real Madrid are
winning t he European Cup, youll be saying I could have been t here. But Im just t elling you,
it s a night mare job.
Three mont hs lat er, he was want ing t o quit Madrid. I t old him he couldnt . I flew out t o Spain
t o meet him at his apart ment and we had lunch. My message was: you cant quit , see it
t hrough, and rejoin me next year. That season I didnt t ake an assist ant because I was sure
Carlos would come back. I co-opt ed Jim Ryan and Mick Phelan, t wo good men, but I didnt want
t o dive in wit h an appoint ment , knowing Carlos might be ret urning. I had int erviewed Mart in Jol,
a week or so before Carlos called t o say it wasnt working out in Madrid. Mart in had been
impressive and I was inclined t o give him t he job, but t hen came t he call from Carlos, which
obliged me t o go back t o Mart in and say: Look, Im going t o leave it for t he t ime being. I
couldnt t ell him why.
Assist ant manager at Manchest er Unit ed is a high-profile posit ion. It s a plat form wit hin t he
game. When Carlos left t he second t ime in July 2008, his homeland was pulling on his
heart st rings, so I could underst and him want ing t o go back t o Port ugal. But he was smashing,
Carlos. He had most of t he qualit ies t o be t he next Manchest er Unit ed manager. He could be
an emot ional man. But of all t he ones who worked alongside me, he was t he best , no doubt
about t hat . He was t ot ally st raight . He would walk in and t ell you direct ly: Im not happy wit h
t his, or t hat .
He was good for me. He was a Rot t weiler. Hed st ride int o my office and t ell me we needed
t o get somet hing done. He would sket ch t hings out on t he board. Right , OK, Carlos, yeah, I
would say, t hinking, Im busy here. But it s a good qualit y t o have, t hat urge t o get t hings done.
The st ruct ure of t he t eam was st rong in t he year I decided t o rescind my ret irement plans,
t hough we had lost Pet er Schmeichel and Denis Irwin. Now t here was a player, Denis Irwin. We
always called him eight out of t en Denis. So quick and nimble: quick-brained. Never let you
down. There was never any bad publicit y wit h him. I remember a game at Arsenal, when Denis
allowed Dennis Bergkamp t o score lat e in t he mat ch, and t he press said: Well, youll be
disappoint ed wit h Denis, and I replied: Aye, well, hes been wit h me for eight or nine years and
hes never made a mist ake. I t hink we can forgive him one.
The biggest challenge was in t he goalkeeping posit ion. From t he minut e Schmeichel left t o
join Sport ing Lisbon in 1999 and having missed out on Van der Sar I was t hrowing balls in
t he air, hoping one would land in t he right place. Raimond van der Gouw was a t errific, st eady
goalkeeper, and a very loyal and conscient ious t rainer, but he wouldnt have been t he No. 1
choice. Mark Bosnich was, in my opinion, a t errible professional, which we should have known.
Massimo Taibi just didnt work out and he ret urned t o It aly, where he rejuvenat ed his career.
Fabien Bart hez was a World Cup-winning goalkeeper, but it s possible t hat t he birt h of his child
back in France affect ed his concent rat ion, because he was going back and fort h a lot . He was
a good lad, a fine shot -st opper and a good fielder of t he ball. But when a keeper loses his
concent rat ion, hes in t rouble.
When t he t eam t hought I would be leaving, t hey slackened off. A const ant t act ic of mine
was always t o have my players on t he edge, t o keep t hem t hinking it was always a mat t er of
life and deat h. The must -win approach. I t ook my eye off t he ball, t hinking t oo far ahead, and
wondering who would replace me. It s human nat ure, in t hose circumst ances, t o relax a bit , and
t o say: Im not going t o be here next year.
Unit ed were so used t o me being around it wasnt clear what t he next chapt er was going t o
be. And it was a mist ake. I knew t hat by t he previous Oct ober in 2000. By t hat st age I was
want ing t he season t o be over wit h. I couldnt enjoy it . I cursed myself: Ive been st upid. Why
did I even ment ion it ? There wasnt t he same performance level on t he pit ch. I was st art ing t o
have doubt s about my own fut ure. Where would I go, what would I do? I knew I would miss t he
consuming nat ure of t he Unit ed job.
The 200102 season was a fallow year for us. We finished t hird in t he League and reached
t he semi-finals of t he Champions League, losing t o Bayer Leverkusen, but t here were t o be no
t rophies in t he year of my U-t urn. This aft er a run of t hree st raight Premier League t it les.
That summer we spent heavily on Ruud van Nist elrooy and Juan Sebast in Vern. Laurent
Blanc came in, t oo, aft er I sold Jaap St am an error, as I have admit t ed many t imes since. My
reasoning wit h Blanc, as I said at t he t ime, was t hat we needed a player who would t alk t o and
organise t he younger players. The early part of t hat campaign was most memorable for Roy
Keane t hrowing t he ball at Alan Shearer (and being sent off) in t he 43 defeat at Newcast le,
and our incredible 53 vict ory at Spurs on 29 Sept ember 2001, in which Tot t enham scored
t hrough Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christ ian Ziege before we mount ed one of t he
great comebacks.
It is such a vivid memory. As t hey t raipsed int o t he dressing room, t hree goals down, t he
players were braced for a rollicking. Inst ead I sat down and said: Right , Ill t ell you what were
going t o do. Were going t o score t he first goal in t his second half and see where it t akes us.
We get at t hem right away, and we get t he first goal.
Teddy Sheringham was t he Tot t enham capt ain and, as t he t eams emerged back int o t he
corridor, I saw Teddy st op and say: Now dont let t hem get an early goal. Ill always remember
t hat . We scored in t he first minut e.
You could see Spurs deflat e while we puffed ourselves up. There were 44 minut es left in t he
half. On we went and scored four more. Just incredible. Tot t enhams st anding in t he game
imbued t hat vict ory wit h more lust re t han a five-goal comeback at , say, Wimbledon. To beat a
great foot ball club in t hat manner has hist orical ramificat ions. Our dressing room aft erwards
was some place t o be: players rolling t heir heads, not quit e believing what t hey had done.
Teddys warning t o t he Tot t enham t eam t hat day reflect ed our success in fright ening
opponent s wit h well-t imed ret aliat ory goals. There was an assumpt ion (which we encouraged)
t hat scoring against us was a provocat ive act t hat would invit e t errible ret ribut ion. Most t eams
could never relax in front against us. They were always wait ing for t he count erpunch.
I t apped my wat ch in games t o spook t he ot her t eam, not encourage mine. If you want my
summary of what it was t o be Manchest er Unit ed manager I would direct you t o t he last 15
minut es. Somet imes it would be quit e uncanny, as if t he ball were being sucked int o t he net .
Oft en t he players would seem t o know it was going t o be hoovered in t here. The players would
know t hey were going t o get a goal. It didnt always happen, but t he t eam never st opped
believing it could. That s a great qualit y t o have.
I always t ook risks. My plan was: dont panic unt il t he last 15 minut es, keep pat ient unt il t he
last quart er of an hour, t hen go gung-ho.
Against Wimbledon in t he Cup one year, Pet er Schmeichel went up t o chase a goal and we
left Denis Irwin on t he halfway line against John Fashanu. Schmeichel was up t here for t wo
minut es. Wimbledon were kicking t he ball up t o Fashanu and wee Denis was nipping in front of
him and sending it back int o t he box. Great ent ert ainment . Schmeichel had a physical prowess.
He and Bart hez liked t o play out . Bart hez especially was a good player, t hough he t hought he
was bet t er t han he was. On t our in Thailand he kept on at me t o let him play up front , so I
relent ed for t he second half. The ot her players kept bat t ering t he ball int o t he corners and
Bart hez would come back wit h his t ongue hanging out aft er chasing t he ball. He was
No t eam ever ent ered Old Trafford t hinking Unit ed might be persuaded t o give in. There was
no comfort t o be gained from t hinking we could be demoralised. Leading 10 or 21, t he
opposit ion manager would know he faced a final 15 minut es in which we would go hell for
leat her. That fear fact or was always t here. By going for t he t hroat and shoving bodies int o t he
box, we would pose t he quest ion: can you handle it ? On t op of our own frant ic endeavours, we
would be t est ing t he charact er of t he defending t eam. And t hey knew it . Any flaw would widen
int o a crack. It didnt always work. But when it did, you got t he joy t hat came wit h a lat e
conquest . It was always wort h t he gamble. It was rare for us t o be hit on t he break while we
chased a game. We lost at Liverpool once when Luke Chadwick chased back and got sent off.
Everyone else was in t he box. Against us, t eams would have so many players back defending
t hat it would be hard for t hem break out .
At half-t ime at Spurs we had looked buried. But as I said at t he end of t hat season: In a crisis
youre bet t er just calming people down. We scored five t imes t o win t he game, wit h Vern and
David Beckham scoring t he last t wo. Around t hat t ime, however, we were having goalkeeping
problems. In Oct ober, Fabien Bart hez commit t ed t wo howlers. We also lost 21 at home t o
Bolt on and 31 at Liverpool, where Fabien came for a punch and missed. At Arsenal on 25
November, our French keeper passed st raight t o Thierry Henry, who scored, and t hen raced
out for a ball t hat he failed t o gat her. Henry again: 31.
December 2001 st art ed no bet t er, when we lost 30 at home t o Chelsea, our fift h League
defeat in 14 games. Things improved from t here. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer st ruck up a good
relat ionship wit h Van Nist elrooy (Andy Cole was t o leave for Blackburn in January), and we
went t op of t he t able early in t he New Year of 2002. In t he 21 win over Blackburn, Van
Nist elrooy scored for t he t ent h t ime in a row, and by t he end of January we were t op of t he
League by four point s.
Then came my announcement , in February 2002. I would not be st anding down aft er all.
Once t he ret irement issue was cleared up, our form picked up dramat ically. We won 13 of 15
games. I was desperat e t o make it t o Glasgow for t he 2002 Champions League final. I was so
sure we would get t here t hat I had scout ed t he hot els in t he cit y. I t ried t o play it down but t he
urge t o lead t he t eam out at Hampden Park obsessed me.
In t he semi-final against Bayer Leverkusen, we had t hree shot s cleared off t he line in t he
second game and went out on away goals aft er drawing t he t ie 33 on aggregat e. Michael
Ballack and Oliver Neuville had scored at Old Trafford. Also in t he Leverkusen side was a
young Dimit ar Berbat ov, who was lat er t o join us from Spurs.
But at least I st ill had my job. On New Years Day, for my birt hday, we had all been t o t he
Alderley Edge Hot el t he whole family. It was t he first t ime for a while we had all been
t oget her. Mark, who was usually in London, was t here, along wit h Darren, Jason and Cat hy. All
t he conspirat ors round a t able.
When t he players heard t he news I would be st aying on aft er all, I braced myself for t he
barbed comment s t hat would come my way. I couldnt have made an announcement of t hat
magnit ude wit hout paying a high price on t he bant er front .
Ryan Giggs was t he most skilful in his mockery. Oh, no, I cant believe t his, Ryan said. Ive
just signed a new cont ract .
AS t he new season dawned in 2002, I was burst ing wit h fresh energy. It felt like day one in a
whole new job. All t he doubt brought on by my int ended ret irement had cleared and I was
ready t o refresh t he squad aft er our first season wit hout a t rophy since 1998. Those phases of
seismic change excit ed me. I knew t here were solid foundat ions on which t o build a new t eam
of winners.
There had been a golden period, from 1995 t o 2001, when we had won t he League five
t imes out of six and secured t he first of my t wo Champions League t rophies. At t he st art of
t hat six-year spell, we had promot ed our homegrown lads t o t he first XI. David Beckham, Gary
Neville and Paul Scholes became regulars, despit e a 31 defeat by Ast on Villa t hat prompt ed
Alan Hansen t o say on t elevision: You cant win anyt hing wit h kids.
Aft er t hat hat -t rick of League t it les we made an error in let t ing Jaap St am go. I t hought
16.5 million was a good price and I believed he had slipped back in his game since his Achilles
operat ion. But it was a mist ake on my part . This is my chance t o nail once and for all t he myt h
t hat his cont ent ious aut obiography had anyt hing t o do wit h my decision t o sell him, even
t hough I called him in about t he book right away. It accused us of t apping him up, of
approaching him direct ly wit hout PSVs permission.
What were you t hinking of? I asked. But it played absolut ely no part in my decision. Not long
aft er t hat , an agent t old me t hat a represent at ive of Roma were t rying t o make cont act . They
were offering 12 million for Jaap. Not int erest ed, I said. The next week we received an
approach from Lazio. I had no int erest unt il t he offer reached 16.5 million. By t hat t ime Jaap
was 30 and we were concerned about his recovery from t he Achilles injury. Anyway, it proved a
disast rous episode. Having t o t ell him in a pet rol st at ion was agony, because I knew he was a
really decent man who loved playing for t he club, and who was adored by t he fans. It was one
of my senior moment s. I had t ried t o get hold of him at t he t raining ground t wo days before
deadline day. By t he t ime I reached him on his mobile, he was already on his way home. An
equidist ant point was a pet rol st at ion, off t he mot orway, so t hat s where our meet ing t ook
I knew I could get Laurent Blanc, on a free. I had always admired Laurent Blanc and should
have acquired him many years earlier. He was so composed and so good at gliding out from
t he back wit h t he ball. I t hought his experience could help John OShea and Wes Brown t o
develop. It was such a misjudgment on my part t o let Jaap go he ended up playing against
us, aged 36, in t he semi-finals of t he Champions League.
Cent re-backs were always a big part of my managerial planning and Rio Ferdinand was t he
big buy in t hat summer of 2002, when we really should have reached t he Champions League
final in my home t own of Glasgow. To me t hat would have been special, playing in my birt h
place against Real Madrid, t he place where I saw my first -ever European final, Real beat ing
Eint racht Frankfurt 73. I was in t he schoolboy enclosure t hat day because I played for
Queens Park at t he t ime, which ent it led me t o walk in t he front door and head for t hat part of
t he ground. I left t hree minut es before t he end of t he game t o get a bus home, because I was
working in t he morning, and of course missed all t he celebrat ions at t he end, which were
unusual in foot ball around t hat t ime. Real performed a big parade wit h t he cup and were
dancing about t he park. I missed out . The next morning, wit h t he papers laid out , I st udied t he
phot ographs and t hought : Damn, I missed seeing all t hat .
Hampden Park was packed wit h 128,000 souls. To beat t he huge exodus from big games,
we would run miles away from t he ground: sprint away from Hampden t owards t he t erminus,
and t ake a bus from t here. It was a t hree- or four-mile run t o t he st at ion, but at least we were
on t he bus. The queues at t he ground would be miles long. Miles long. Dads would pull up in
lorries and you would give t hem sixpence each and pile ont o t he wagon. That was anot her
rout e in and out . But it would have been unforget t able t o get t o Hampden for t hat 2002 final,
which Real Madrid won 21, t o send a Manchest er Unit ed side out ont o t hat sacred t urf.
Carlos Queiroz joining as my assist ant was anot her major init iat ive t hat year. Arsenal had
won t he Double t he previous season and Roy Keane had been sent home from t he 2002
World Cup, so t here was plent y t o occupy my mind as we set off on anot her journey. When
Roy was sent off aft er t angling wit h Jason McAt eer at Sunderland, I dispat ched him for a hip
operat ion, which removed him from t he pict ure for four mont hs. Soon aft er we st ruck a bad run
of form, losing at home t o Bolt on and away at Leeds. We managed only t wo wins from our first
six games and were nint h in t he t able when I t ook a minor gamble and sent a number of
players away for surgery in t he hope t hat t hey would ret urn t o energise us in t he second half
of our campaign.
In Sept ember 2002, t hough, t he knives were out for me. The nat ure of t he job is t hat t he
public will at t ack you when t hings seem t o be going wrong. Plus, Ive never been beholden t o
t he press and couldnt count on t hem for support . I never socialised much wit h t hem, didnt give
t hem st ories or mark t heir cards, wit h t he except ion occasionally of Bob Cass, of t he Mail
on Sunday. So t hey had no reason t o love me or support me t hrough hard t imes. Ot her
managers were more skilled at cult ivat ing relat ionships wit h t he press. It maybe bought t hem a
bit more t ime, but not indefinit ely. Result s det ermine whet her t he guillot ine st ays up or falls.
Media pressure is usually where it st art s. Whenever t here was a bad spell I would see t he
line: Your t imes up, Fergie; it s t ime t o go. The old line about shelf-life. You can laugh at it , but
you must nt get yourself in a t izzy, because hyst eria is t he nat ure of t he beast . There have
been so many favourable headlines about me over t he years, because t he press could hardly
avoid writ ing t hem, given t he success we had, but t o be called a genius you also need t o
accept t hat you are probably also going t o be called a fool.
Mat t Busby used t o say: Why read t hem when you have a bad result ? I never did. And he
lived in an era when t he press wasnt as pervasive as it is t oday. Mat t would always ride t he
waves of praise and condemnat ion wit hout bot hering t oo much about eit her.
What we did at all t imes, in success and adversit y, was make sure t he t raining ground was
sacrosanct . The work t here, t he concent rat ion, and t he st andards we maint ained never
dropped. Event ually t hat consist ency of effort will show it self on a Sat urday. That way, when a
Unit ed player has a couple of bad result s, he will hat e it . It becomes int olerable t o him. Even t he
best players somet imes lose confidence. Even Cant ona had bout s of self-doubt . But if t he
cult ure around t he t raining ground was right , t he players knew t hey could fall back on t he
group and t he expert ise of our st aff.
The only player I ever coached who was t ot ally unaffect ed by his mist akes was David
Beckham. He could have t he worst game possible and st ill not believe t hat he had under-
performed in any way. He would dismiss you, t ell you you were wrong. He was incredibly
prot ect ive of himself. Whet her t hat was developed by t he people around him, I dont know. But
he would never concede hed had a bad game, and never accept hed made a mist ake.
You had t o admire t hat . In a way it was a great qualit y. No mat t er how many mist akes he
would make (in my eyes, not his), he would always want t he ball. His confidence never suffered.
Ot herwise, dips of t hat kind are innat e t o all foot ballers, and plent y of managers. Public scrut iny
penet rat es t he body armour, whet her from t he public, press or fans.
The nadir was reached in November, wit h t he last derby game at Maine Road: a 31 vict ory
for Cit y, memorable for a mist ake by Gary Neville, who dawdled wit h t he ball and was
dispossessed by Shaun Goat er for Cit ys second goal. Aft erwards I quest ioned t he spirit of my
players, a nuclear opt ion I seldom employed. The dressing room is a horrible place t o be when
you lose a derby. Before t he game, Keit h Pinner, my old friend and a diehard Cit y fan, had said:
As it s t he last derby game at Maine Road, will you come up for a drink aft erwards?
Amused by t he audacit y of t his request , I said: If we win, aye.
So aft er wed lost 31, I was get t ing on t he bus when my phone went . Pinner on t he line.
Where are you? he said. Are you not coming up?
Go away, I replied, or words t o t hat effect . I never want t o see you in my life.
Bad loser, are you? laughed Pinner. Up I went for a drink.
At t he end of t hat season Gary Neville observed: That was a big crossroads for us. I t hought
t he fans would t urn on us t hat day.
Somet imes a manager has t o be honest wit h t he support ers, over and beyond t he players.
They are not st upid. As long as you dont crit icise individual players in public, admonishing t he
t eam is fine, not a problem. We can all share in t he blame: t he manager, his st aff, t he players.
Expressed properly, crit icism can be an accept ance of collect ive responsibilit y.
Under t he pressure of bad result s, we changed t he way we played. We moved t he ball
forward more and quicker rat her t han concent rat ing on possession rat ios. Wit h Roy Keane
present , keeping t he ball was never a problem. I said so from t he minut e he came t o t he club:
He never gives t he ball away, t his guy, I t old t he st aff and players. Ball ret ent ion is a religion at
Man Unit ed. But possession wit hout penet rat ion is a wast e of t ime. We were st art ing t o lack
t hat real penet rat ion. Wit h a player like Van Nist elrooy in our forward line we needed t o supply
him quickly. Early passes, in from wide, or bet ween defenders. That s where t he change had t o
We t ried Diego Forln off t he front , but we had been playing a lot wit h Vern, Scholes and
Keane in midfield. Vern was free and Scholesy could go int o t he box. Beckham wide right ,
Giggs wide left . We had fant ast ic t alent s t here. Our goal-scoring weapons were t he right ones.
Van Nist elrooy was relent less in his goal-scoring. Beckham would always get you around t en;
Scholes, above t hat .
Phil Neville was excelling in cent ral midfield as well. Phil was a dream. He and Nicky But t were
perfect allies for me. All t hey want ed was t o play for Man Unit ed. They never want ed t o leave.
The t ime t o let t hat t ype of player go is when you see t hat youre hurt ing t hem more t han
helping t hem by using t hem as subst it ut es or underst udies.
Those players end up t rapped bet ween ext reme loyalt y and a kind of sadness at not being
involved more in first -t eam games. That s hard for any man. Phil played a great role where we
needed st abilisat ion. He had great discipline. He was one of t hose players t o whom you could
say: Phil, I want you t o run up t hat hill, t hen come back and cut down t hat t ree.
And he would say, Right , boss, wheres t he chainsaw?
I had a few like t hat . Phil would do anyt hing for t he t eam. He would only t hink of t he t eam.
For t he most part , if he were t o play a limit ed part in t he successful funct ioning of t he side, he
would find a way t o be happy wit h t hat . In t he end, t hough, Gary came t o t alk t o me, t o see
how I felt about Phils diminishing role.
I dont know what t o do, hes such a great lad, I t old Gary.
That s t he problem, Gary said. He doesnt want t o come t o you. Phil lacked Garys
direct ness, you see.
I invit ed Phil out t o t he house for a t alk. He came wit h his wife Julie. At first I didnt not ice her
in t he car. Cat hy, go and bring Julie in, I said. But when Cat hy got out t here, Julie began crying.
We dont want t o leave Man Unit ed, she was saying. We love being at t he club. Cat hy t ook
her a cup of t ea, but she wouldnt come int o t he house. I t hink she was worried she might
break down and embarrass her husband.
My point t o Phil was t hat I was doing him more harm t han good wit h t he way I was using him.
He agreed. He t old me he needed t o move on. I left him t o work out how he would approach
t hat wit h his wife.
When t hey had left , Cat hy said: Youre not going t o let him go, are you? You cant let people
like t hat go.
Cat hy, I said, it s for his own good. Do you not underst and? It s killing me more t han it s
killing him.
I let him go cheaply, for 3.6 million. He was wort h double t hat , because he could play five
posit ions for you in eit her of t he full-back posit ions or all across t he midfield. He even played
cent re-half for Evert on, when Phil Jagielka and Joseph Yobo were injured.
Let t ing Nicky But t go was similarly t raumat ic, alt hough Nicky had no problem st anding up for
himself. Nicky was a cheeky sod. Gort on boy. Great lad. He would fight your shadow, would
He would come in and say: Why am I not playing?
That was Nicky. I loved t hat . And I would say, Nicky, youre not playing because I t hink
Scholes and Keane are bet t er t han you. Somet imes, away from home, I would put him in ahead
of Scholesy. In t he Champions League semi-final at Juvent us, for example, I played But t
inst ead of Scholes. Scholes and Keane were on t wo bookings and I couldnt afford t o risk t hem
bot h missing t he final, t hough in t he event bot h missed out t hrough suspension. I brought
Scholes on for But t when Nicky picked up an injury and Paul was booked. In t he end I sold
Nicky t o Bobby Robson at Newcast le for 2 million. What a great buy t hat was.
The clouds began t o clear in 2002 wit h t he 53 win over Newcast le at t he end of November.
Diego Forln, who had t aken 27 games t o score his first goal for us a penalt y against
Maccabi Haifa was a fact or in our 21 win at Liverpool, aft er Jamie Carragher had headed
t he ball back t o Jerzy Dudek and Forln had nipped in t o score. We t hen beat Arsenal 20 and
Chelsea 21, wit h Forln again scoring t he decisive goal. On t he t raining ground t hat wint er,
we worked int ensively on our defensive shape.
In February 2003 we lost an FA Cup fift h-round t ie 20 at home t o Arsenal. It was t he game
in which Ryan Giggs missed an open goal, lift ing t he ball over t he bar wit h his right foot , when
t he net was undefended. Well, Giggsy, I t old him, youve scored t he best -ever goal in t he FA
Cup, and now youve added t he best -ever miss. He had all t he t ime in t he world. He could have
walked t he ball int o t he net .
That game, which sent me int o a fury, was t o have more serious implicat ions for my
relat ionship wit h anot her graduat e of t he 1992 FA Yout h Cup winning side. A but t erfly plast er
was involved, but it couldnt heal t he wound. The boot I kicked in anger just happened t o fly
st raight at David Beckhams eyebrow.
Aft er losing t he Carling Cup final t o Liverpool, we ran int o anot her major rival from t hat period.
By t he end of my t ime as manager, Leeds Unit ed were nowhere t o be seen on t he list of
t hreat s, but in t he spring of 2003 t hey were a menace, alt hough we won t hat mat ch 21. I
should say a few words about our rivalry wit h Leeds, which was dist urbingly int ense.
When I first arrived in Manchest er I knew about t he derby games wit h Cit y and t he clashes
wit h Unit eds Merseyside rivals, Evert on and Liverpool. I knew not hing of t he animosit y
bet ween Unit ed and Leeds. In t he old first division, Archie Knox and I went t o see Cryst al
Palace beat Leeds.
It was 00 at half-t ime. The second half was all Leeds. Wit h 20 minut es t o go, Leeds had a
penalt y t urned down and t he crowd were going crackers. A Leeds fan began shout ing at me:
You, you Manc bast ard.
What s t hat all about , Archie? I said.
No idea, Archie replied.
So I looked for a st eward. The direct ors box at Leeds is small and t he fans are all around
you. Palace went t o t he ot her end and scored. That s when t he crowd really lost it . Archie
want ed us t o leave but I insist ed we st ay. Palace scored again, and t hat s when our new friend
hit me in t he back wit h a Bovril cup. The abuse was ast onishing. Let s get out of here, I said t o
The next day I was speaking t o our kit man at t he t ime, Norman Davies. He said: I t old you
about Leeds. It s pure hat red.
Where does t hat come from?
The sixt ies, Norman said.
Leeds used t o have a commissionaire called Jack who would come on t he bus as we arrived
at Elland Road and announce, like t he t own crier, On behalf of t he direct ors, players and
support ers of Leeds Unit ed, welcome t o Elland Road, and I would mut t er: That ll be right .
Some of t he fans would have t heir kids on t heir shoulders, radiat ing t he most incredible
hat red. In t he semi-final of t he League Cup at Leeds in 1991, t hey did give us a bit of a
bat t ering in t he second half, but Lee Sharpe had broken away, at 00, wit h t wo minut es t o go,
t o score. It looked 10 yards offside. I was on t he pit ch, Eric Harrison was in t he dug-out . A lot of
people t hink Eric looks like me. One Leeds support er cert ainly did, because he whacked Eric.
Absolut ely panned him. The guy t hought he was hit t ing me. On came t he fans. Pandemonium.
And yet t here was somet hing about t he host ile at mosphere at Elland Road t hat I quit e liked.
In t he Pet er Ridsdale years, when Leeds were living t he dream, as t he chairman lat er put it , I
sensed t he club was built on sand. When I heard what kind of wages t hey were paying, my
alarm bells rang. When we sold t hem Lee Sharpe, I believe t hey doubled Lees wages, on a
35,000 crowd.
But t hey const ruct ed a useful t eam. Alan Smit h, Harry Kewell, David Bat t y. Back in 1992,
t hey won t he League wit h one of t he most average t eams ever t o win t he t it le, but t hey were
as commit t ed as it s possible t o be. And t hey were superbly managed by Howard Wilkinson. A
decade lat er, we would hear about t he boy from Derby joining t hem, Set h Johnson, and him
discussing wit h his agent what t hey were going t o ask for. The st ory goes t hat t he sum t hey
came up wit h was 25,000. Leeds offer was apparent ly 35,000 a week, climbing t o 40
Clubs dont learn t hese lessons. The emot ions of t he game t rap you.
I remember a local Manchest er businessman coming t o me and saying: Im t hinking of buying
Birmingham Cit y, what do you t hink?
I said, If youve got a hundred million pounds t o risk, go ahead.
No, no, he said, t heyre only eleven million in debt .
But have you seen t he st adium? I replied. Youll need a new st adium, for maybe sixt y million,
and t hen fort y million t o get t hem int o t he Premier League.
People t ry t o apply t o foot ball t he usual principles of business. But it s not a lat he, it s not a
milling machine, it s a collect ion of human beings. That s t he difference.
We faced some seismic fixt ures before t hat seasons end. A 40 home win over Liverpool
Sami Hyypi was sent off in t he fift h minut e for st opping Van Nist elrooys run on goal led us
int o a Champions League t ie against Real Madrid. In t he first of our games against Madrid, Van
Nist elrooy was our only scorer. Luis Figo and Raul, t wice, left us facing a 31 deficit in t he home
leg, for which I left Beckham on t he bench. This was an epic game, wat ched, t he st ory goes, by
Roman Abramovich, who was inspired by our 43 win, and t he hat -t rick by Brazilian st riker
Ronaldo, t o seek his own involvement in t he great global drama by buying Chelsea.
Though we had been nine point s off t he lead at one st age, we raced eight point s clear wit h
a 41 win over Charlt on in May 2003, in which a Van Nist elrooy hat -t rick lift ed him t o 43 goals
for t he season. On t he penult imat e weekend, Arsenal needed t o beat Leeds at Highbury t o
have any chance of cat ching us, but Mark Viduka helped us out wit h a lat e goal for our
Yorkshire rivals. In our 21 win at Evert on, David Beckham scored from a free kick in his last
game for us. We were champions again for t he eight h t ime in 11 seasons. The players danced
and sang: Weve got our t rophy back.
We regained t he League but said farewell t o Beckham.
FRO M t he moment he first laid boot on ball, David Beckham displayed an unbreakable urge t o
make t he best of himself and his t alent . He and I left t he main st age in t he same summer, wit h
him st ill prominent in European foot ball and opport unit ies galore ahead of him. He went out at
Paris St -Germain much as I did at Unit ed: on his own t erms.
Somet imes you have t o t ake somet hing away from someone for t hem t o see how much
t hey loved it . When Beckham moved t o America t o join LA Galaxy, I believe he began t o realise
he had surrendered a part of his career. He worked incredibly hard t o ret urn t o t he level he had
been at in his prime, and showed more ent husiasm for t he hard graft of t he game t han he did
at t he end of his t ime wit h us.
David didnt have many choices at t he point of his t ransfer from Real Madrid t o Major League
Soccer in 2007. I imagine he also had his eyes on Hollywood and t he impact it would have on
t he next phase of his career. There was no foot balling reason for him t o go t o America. He was
giving up t op-level club foot ball as well as t he int ernat ional game, alt hough he fought his way
back int o t he England squad. That proves my point about t he disappoint ment at t he heart of
his career in it s lat er st ages. He drew on a huge resilience fact or t o regain his prominence at
t he elit e level.
Because I saw him grow up, along wit h Giggs and Scholes, David was more like a son t o me.
He joined Unit ed as a young London lad in July 1991. Wit hin a year he was part of t he so-called
Class of 92, winning t he FA Yout h Cup wit h Nicky But t , Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. He made
394 appearances for t he first t eam and scored 85 t imes, including one from t he halfway line,
against Wimbledon, t he goal t hat really announced him t o t he world.
When I left t he Unit ed dug-out in May 2013, Giggs and Scholes were st ill wit h us, but by t hen
it had been t en years since David had left for Spain. On Wednesday 18 June 2003 we t old t he
St ock Exchange he would be joining Real Madrid for a fee of 24.5 million. David was 28. The
news flashed around t he world. It was one of t hose global moment s for our club.
I hold no rancour t owards David at all. I like him. I t hink hes a wonderful boy. But you should
never surrender what youre good at .
David was t he only player I managed who chose t o be famous, who made it his mission t o be
known out side t he game. Wayne Rooney was on t he radar of an indust ry t hat would have liked
t o change him. His profile was est ablished in his t eenage years. He had offers t hat would make
your mind boggle. He was making t wice out side of foot ball what we were paying him. The
corporat e world would love t o have t aken over Giggsy, but t hat was never his st yle.
In his final season wit h us, we were aware t hat Davids work-rat e was dropping and we had
heard rumours of a flirt at ion bet ween Real Madrid and Davids camp. The main issue was t hat
his applicat ion level had dropped from it s t radit ionally st rat ospheric level.
The confront at ion bet ween us t hat caused so much excit ement around t he game was an
FA Cup fift h-round t ie against Arsenal at Old Trafford in February 2003, which we lost 20.
Davids offence in t hat part icular game was t hat he neglect ed t o t rack back for t he second
Arsenal goal, scored by Sylvain Wilt ord. He merely jogged. The boy just kept on running away
from him. At t he end I got on t o him. As usual, wit h David at t hat t ime, he was dismissive of my
crit icism. It s possible t hat he was st art ing t o t hink he no longer needed t o t rack back and
chase, which were t he very qualit ies t hat had made him what he was.
He was around 12 feet from me. Bet ween us on t he floor lay a row of boot s. David swore. I
moved t owards him, and as I approached I kicked a boot . It hit him right above t he eye. Of
course he rose t o have a go at me and t he players st opped him. Sit down, I said. Youve let
your t eam down. You can argue as much as you like.
I called him in t he next day t o go t hrough t he video and he st ill would not accept his mist ake.
As he sat list ening t o me, he didnt say a word. Not a word.
Do you underst and what were t alking about , why we got on t o you? I asked.
He didnt even answer me.
The next day t he st ory was in t he press. In public an Alice band highlight ed t he damage
inflict ed by t he boot . It was in t hose days t hat I t old t he board David had t o go. My message
would have been familiar t o board members who knew me. The minut e a Manchest er Unit ed
player t hought he was bigger t han t he manager, he had t o go. I used t o say, The moment t he
manager loses his aut horit y, you dont have a club. The players will be running it , and t hen
youre in t rouble.
David t hought he was bigger t han Alex Ferguson. There is no doubt about t hat in my mind. It
doesnt mat t er whet her it s Alex Ferguson or Pet e t he Plumber. The name of t he manager is
irrelevant . The aut horit y is what count s. You cannot have a player t aking over t he dressing
room. Many t ried. The focus of aut horit y at Manchest er Unit ed is t he managers office. That
was t he deat h knell for him.
Then, of course, aft er finishing t op of our Champions League group, we were drawn against
Real Madrid. In Spain, for t he first leg, David seemed especially keen t o shake hands wit h
Robert o Carlos, t he Madrid left -back. The following Sat urday, aft er our 31 defeat at t he
Bernabu, he wit hdrew from t he game against Newcast le, saying he wasnt fit . I played
Solskjaer, who was magnificent in a 62 win, and he st ayed in t he side.
Davids form, quit e simply, wasnt good enough for me t o pull Solskjaer out of a winning t eam
for t he Old Trafford leg against Real. During a round of head t ennis before t he ret urn game, I
pulled David aside and t old him, Look, Im going t o st art wit h Ole. He huffed and walked away.
There was a t errific hullaboo t hat night , wit h David coming on as sub for Vern in t he 63rd
minut e and giving what looked like a farewell t o t he Old Trafford crowd. He scored from a free
kick and st ruck t he winner in t he 85t h minut e. We won 43, but Ronaldos wonderful hat -t rick
and t he defeat in Spain sent us out of t he compet it ion.
David was looking for t he sympat hy vot e from t he fans. But t here is no doubt t here had
been a direct at t ack on me. The move t o Real Madrid was clearly accelerat ing. From what we
could gat her, t here had been dialogue bet ween his agent and Real Madrid. The first cont act
we had was probably in t he middle of May, aft er our season had ended. Our chief execut ive,
Pet er Kenyon, called t o say: Real Madrid have been on t he phone.
Well, I said, we expect ed t hat . We were looking for 25 million. I went t o France on holiday
and Pet er called my mobile, while I was in a rest aurant , having dinner wit h Jim Sheridan, t he film
direct or, who had an apart ment over t he place where we were eat ing. I needed a privat e
Come up t o my apart ment , use mine, said Jim. So t hat s how it was done. He doesnt go
unless we get t he t went y-five, I t old Pet er. I believe it was 18 million down, wit h add-ons, t hat
we event ually received.
David hadnt disappeared from t he t eam alt oget her. We won t he t it le wit h a 41 win against
Charlt on at Old Trafford on 3 May 2003. He scored in t hat game and again at Evert on on 11
May as our season ended wit h a 21 win. A free kick from 20 yards was not a bad way for him
t o depart on a day when our defence was hounded by a young local t alent called Wayne
Rooney. David had played his part in our vict orious League campaign, so t here was no reason
t o leave him out at Goodison Park.
Maybe he wasnt mat ure enough at t hat t ime t o handle everyt hing t hat was going on in his
life. Today, he seems t o manage t hings bet t er. He is more cert ain of his posit ion in life, more in
cont rol. But it was reaching t he st age back t hen when I felt uncomfort able wit h t he celebrit y
aspect of his life.
An example: arriving at t he t raining ground at 3 p.m. before a t rip t o Leicest er Cit y, I not iced
t he press lined up on t he road int o Carringt on. There must have been 20 phot ographers.
What s going on? I demanded. I was t old, Apparent ly Beckham is revealing his new haircut
t omorrow.
David t urned up wit h a beanie hat on. At dinner t hat night he was st ill wearing it . David, t ake
your beanie hat off, youre in a rest aurant , I said. He refused. Dont be so st upid, I persist ed.
Take it off. But he wouldnt .
So I was raging. There was no way I could fine him for it . Plent y of players had worn baseball
caps on t he way t o games and so on, but none had been so defiant about keeping one on
during a t eam meal.
The next day, t he players were going out for t he pre-mat ch warm-up and David had his
beanie hat on. David, I said, youre not going out wit h t hat beanie hat on. Youll not be playing.
Ill t ake you out of t he t eam right now.
He went berserk. Took it off. Bald head, complet ely shaved. I said, Is t hat what t his was all
about ? A shaved head t hat nobody was t o see? The plan was t hat he would keep t he beanie
hat on and t ake it off just before kick-off. At t hat t ime I was st art ing t o despair of him. I could
see him being swallowed up by t he media or publicit y agent s.
David was at a great club. He had a fine career. He gave me 12 t o 15 goals a season, worked
his balls off. That was t aken away from him. And wit h t hat being t aken away from him, he lost
t he chance t o become an absolut e t op-dog player. For my money, aft er t he change, he never
at t ained t he level where you would say: t hat is an absolut e t op player.
The process began when he was around 22 or 23. He st art ed t o make decisions t hat
rendered it hard for him t o develop int o a really great foot baller. That was t he disappoint ment
for me. There was no animosit y bet ween us, just disappoint ment , for me. Deject ion. I would
look at him and t hink: What are you doing, son?
When he joined us, he was t his wee, st arry-eyed kid. Foot ball mad. At 16 he was never out of
t he gymnasium and couldnt st op pract ising. He loved t he game; he was living t he dream. Then
he want ed t o give it all up for a new career, a new lifest yle, for st ardom.
From one perspect ive it would be churlish of me t o say he made t he wrong decision, in t he
sense t hat hes a very wealt hy man. Hes become an icon. People react t o his st yle changes.
They copy t hem. But Im a foot ball man, and I dont t hink you give up foot ball for anyt hing. You
can have hobbies. I have horses; Michael Owen had horses; Scholes had horses. One or t wo
players liked art . I had a lovely paint ing in my office t hat Kieran Richardson did. What you dont
do is surrender t he nut s and bolt s of foot ball.
A year prior t o leaving us, of course, David had t aken part in t he 2002 World Cup in Japan
and Sout h Korea, weeks aft er breaking his met at arsal in t he Champions League t ie at Old
Trafford in t he spring of 2002. That was quit e a drama.
Alt hough David sust ained t he same met at arsal injury t hat was t o afflict Wayne Rooney four
years lat er, t here was a difference in t he recovery process. David was a nat urally fit t ype of
guy. Wayne needed more work t o bring him back t o sharpness. So I calculat ed t hat David
might be fit enough for t he World Cup, and said so openly at t he t ime.
In t he event , when England arrived in Japan, he might st ill have been carrying t he remnant s
of his injury. It s hard t o t ell wit h some players, because in t heir desperat ion t o play in a World
Cup, t hey t ell you t hey are fine. From t he evidence of t he t ournament , David couldnt have
been all right . The proof t hat physical frailt y was st ill preying on his mind could be seen when
he jumped over a t ackle near t he t ouchline in a sequence of play t hat led t o Brazils equaliser in
t he quart er-final in Shizuoka.
I was surprised at how physically off t he pace he seemed, because he was such a fit boy. So
he couldnt have been fit , eit her physically or ment ally. People accused me, because Im
Scot t ish, of not want ing England t o do well. If England played Scot land t oday, bloody right , I
wouldnt want England t o do well. But I had more players in my t eams who were represent ing
England t han any ot her count ry, and always want ed t hem t o shine.
When you have a player of Beckhams profile (and I had anot her lat er, in Rooney), t here is a
convergence of medical st aff always want ing t o int erfere. Englands medical st aff would want
t o come t o t he t raining ground. Oft en I felt t hat t his was an insult t o us. I wondered whet her
my Scot t ishness was a fact or, a reason not t o t rust me.
Before t he 2006 World Cup, when Rooney joined up lat e wit h Englands squad in Germany,
England were t ext ing us virt ually every day, asking how he was, as if we couldnt look aft er him
ourselves. The panic was wild. They were pet rified. In 2006 I was 100 per cent correct . Wayne
Rooney should not have played in t hat t ournament . He was not ready.
He should never have been called t o Baden-Baden where England were based. It was unfair
t o him, t o t he rest of t he players and t o t he support ers. Wayne was t he great hope of t hat
t eam, of course, which added t o t he pressure t o overlook realit y. Wit h David I was confident he
would t urn up in good shape because I knew his record and had seen all t he st at ist ics. He was
easily t he fit t est player at Old Trafford. In pre-season t raining, in t he bleep t est s, he was
st reet s ahead of everyone. We t old England we were sure David would be fit in t ime.
The obsession wit h Davids recovery was predict able. An oxygen t ent found it s way t o
Carringt on. We had good result s from t hat device on Roy Keanes hamst ring injury before a
European game. Bones are a different mat t er. The cure is rest . It s t ime. A met at arsal is a six-
t o seven-week injury.
In t he 2002 World Cup, England failed t o make much of an impact . Against Brazil, t hey were
out played by t en men. In t he first group game, t hey played long ball against Sweden, who knew
t he English game, and so were hardly likely t o be caught off-guard by direct play.
It s an indict ment of England t eams at yout h level t hat so many have fallen back on t his
out dat ed t act ic. Too many played long ball. On one occasion we made a point of monit oring
Tom Cleverley in t he U-21s against Greece, and our scout s report ed t hat England played one
up, wit h t wo wide Cleverley being one of t he wide players and Tom didnt get a kick. Chris
Smalling played and kept launching t he ball forward. This is t he area where England were
always likely t o be caught out . Because t hey dont have enough t echnical and coaching abilit y,
t he years from 9 t o 16 are t hrown away.
So how do t hey compensat e? The boys compet e, physically. Great at t it ude, t hey have.
Sleeves up. But t hey dont produce a player. They are never going t o win a World Cup wit h t hat
syst em, t hat ment alit y. Brazil would produce young players who could t ake t he ball in any
posit ion, at any angle. They are fluid in t heir movement s. They are foot ball-minded people,
because t hey are accust omed t o it from five or six years of age.
David worked ext remely hard on t he t echnical side of his game. He was also a wonderful
net worker. Even when he was left out of t he GB Olympic squad in t he summer of 2012, it was
his camp t hat released t he news, rat her t han t he FA. The quot es were all magnanimous. But
Im sure he was as sick as a pig.
I remember Mel Machin saying t o me: Giggs and Beckham t heyre world-class players, and
yet you get t hem t o go from box t o box as well. How do you do t hat ? I could only reply t hat
t hey were gift ed not only wit h nat ural t alent but t he st amina t o carry t hem up and down t he
pit ch. We had somet hing special wit h t hose t wo.
It changed wit h David because he want ed it t o change. His eye was off t he ball. A shame,
because he could st ill have been at Manchest er Unit ed when I left . He would have been one of
t he great est Man Unit ed legends. The only t hing making him a legend at LA Galaxy and
beyond was his iconic st at us. At some point in his life, he may feel t he urge t o say: I made a
mist ake.
But let me also pay t ribut e t o him. His powers of perseverance are amazing, as he showed
when joining Paris St -Germain in January 2013. At Unit ed he was always t he fit t est boy in t he
building. That helped him carry on playing t o t he age of 37. The st amina he built int o himself
from childhood survived.
The MLS is not a Mickey Mouse league. It s act ually quit e an at hlet ic league. I wat ched
Beckham in t he final of t he MLS Cup and not iced how well he did, t racking back, put t ing in a
shift . Nor did he disgrace himself at Milan during his loan period t here. At PSG he played for an
hour in t he quart er-finals of t he European Cup. He wasnt in t he game much, but he carried out
his dut ies well. He worked hard and hit a few good passes early in t he game.
I asked myself, How does he do it ?
St amina was t he first answer. But David also discovered a desire t o confound everybody.
And he could st ill hit a fine cross, a good cross-field ball, which are t rait s he never lost . They
were ingrained in what he was as an at hlet e. To play in t he lat er rounds of t he Champions
League at nearly 38 was quit e an achievement aft er five years in America. He was back in t he
mix. You can only praise him for t hat .
One or t wo people asked me whet her I would t ake him back aft er he left LA. Wit h him at 37,
t here was no point going down t hat road. There was a publicit y element for PSG in signing him
on a six-mont h deal. David, however, ignored t hat part of it . As far as he was concerned, he
was st ill a great player. Giggs, Scholes and I discussed t his one day. As I said, he had t his t alent
for blocking out bad performances. I would give him st ick and he would go off in a huff, probably
t hinking, That managers off his head, I was good t oday.
In LA, he probably t hought Hollywood was his next st ep in life. There was a purpose and a
plan in him going t o Los Angeles, I t hink. That aside, you have t o admire his t enacit y. He
amazed me and he amazed everyone at Manchest er Unit ed. What ever he pursues in life, he
just keeps on going.
RI O Ferdinands eight -mont h suspension was a shock t hat reverberat ed t o t he core of
Manchest er Unit ed, and my indignat ion endures t o t his day. My issue is not wit h t he rules on
dope t est ing, but wit h how t he process unfolded on t he day Rio was meant t o provide a
rout ine sample at our t raining ground.
On 23 Sept ember 2003, a drug-t est ing t eam from UK Sport arrived at Carringt on t o t ake
random samples from four of our players, whose names were picked out of a hat . What st art ed
as a rout ine t raining day was t o have huge ramificat ions for Rio, his family, Manchest er Unit ed
and England. Rio, who was one of t hose select ed, left Carringt on wit hout providing a sample,
and by t he t ime we managed t o get hold of him, t he drug t est ers had left for t he day. He t ook
t he t est t he following day, 24 Sept ember, but was t old he was in breach of t he st rict liabilit y
rule on dope t est s and would be charged.
The out come was t hat Rio was banned from 20 January t o 2 Sept ember 2004 and fined
50,000. Aside from all t he Man Unit ed games he missed, it also meant he was ineligible for t he
2004 European Championship in Port ugal. His removal by t he FA from t he England squad t o
play Turkey in Oct ober 2003 almost caused a st rike by t he England players.
On t he fat eful morning in Sept ember, t he t est ers were having a cup of t ea and, in my
judgment , didnt do t heir job. They didnt go looking for Rio. My view of it is t hat t he t est ers
should go t o t he pit ch and st and t here unt il t he player finishes t raining, t hen follow him t o t he
dressing room. Round about t hat t ime, t est ers went t o Wrexham Foot ball Club and ended up
t est ing my son Darren and t wo ot her players. They st ayed on t he pit ch, escort ed t hem t o t he
changing area and ext ract ed t he necessary urine sample. Why did t hat not happen wit h Rio at
Carringt on?
We knew t he t est ers were at our t raining cent re because Mike St one, t he doct or, t old us t he
drug people were on t he premises. Mike had a cup of t ea wit h t hem while t he message was
sent down t o t he affect ed players in t he dressing room. Rio was given t he message, no doubt
about t hat , but if you t hink of Rios laidback nat ure, it was no surprise t hat he failed t o hook up
wit h people who were nowhere t o be seen.
He was not a drug t aker. Rio Ferdinand was not a drug t aker. We would have known. It
shows in t heir eyes. And he never missed a t raining session. Drug t akers are all over t he place.
They become inconsist ent . Rio would never be a drug t aker because his sense of responsibilit y
as t o who he is in sport is t oo big. Rio is an int elligent guy but easy-going. He made a mist ake,
but so did t he drug people. They didnt t ake t he st eps t hat would have avert ed t he crisis t hat
ensued. They should have been on t hat t raining field, wait ing t o t ake him in for his t est .
I was aware t hat a serious breach of t he drug-t est ing rules had been commit t ed but I st ill
found it hard t o believe t hat Rio would end up wit h such a brut al punishment . The t endency is
t o t reat players t he way you would your children, and not believe t hem t o be guilt y of any
allegat ion t hat originat ed out side t he family.
Maurice Wat kins, our solicit or, was quit e confident we could win our case, on t he grounds
t hat t he officials had not physically t aken Rio away for t he t est . In my opinion, an example was
oft en made of Manchest er Unit ed. Eric Cant ona was t he first major case when in 1995 he was
sent enced t o t wo weeks imprisonment and banned from playing for nine mont hs for his kung-
fu kick at a spect at or (his prison sent ence was lat er commut ed t o 120 hours communit y
service). Then, in 2008, Pat rice Evra was disciplined by t he FA aft er a confront at ion wit h a
groundsman at St amford Bridge. Pat rice picked up a four-mat ch ban for a skirmish on t he pit ch
when everyone had gone home wit h a groundsman. People assumed Man Unit ed received
special t reat ment . The reverse was oft en t rue.
Aft er a lot of legal t oing and froing, Rios hearing was held by an FA disciplinary commission
at Bolt ons Reebok St adium in December 2003 and last ed 18 hours. It was 86 days aft er t he
missed t est . I was among t hose who gave evidence on Rios behalf. But t he t hree-man panel
found Rio guilt y of misconduct . Maurice Wat kins called t he sent ence savage and
unprecedent ed and David Gill said Rio had been made a scapegoat . Gordon Taylor of t he
PFA called it draconian.
I spoke t o Rios mot her right away because t he poor woman was in bit s. We could feel
devast at ed by t he loss of an import ant player, but it is t he mot her who will carry t he real
weight of such a punishment . Janice was crying down t he phone as I t old her t hat our high
opinion of Rio would not be affect ed by t he event s of t he last four mont hs. We knew he was
innocent , we knew he had been careless and we knew he had been punished t oo severely.
At t hat st age we were considering an appeal, but it was obvious we had no chance of
winning. I could never underst and t hat a missed drug t est was t reat ed as seriously as a failed
one. If you admit t o being a drug t aker, you are rehabilit at ed. We felt t hat t he player was t elling
t he t rut h, whereas t he syst em assumed he was not . Nor did we like t he fact t hat informat ion
seemed t o be leaking t o t he press from t he FA. In our view t he confident ialit y principle was
being breached.
I t old t he hearing at Bolt on t hat Rio would be in my t eam t o play Spurs t hat weekend,
regardless of t he out come. He played alongside Mikal Silvest re in a 21 win at Whit e Hart
Lane. In his last game for eight mont hs, Rio st art ed in our 10 defeat at Wolves on 17 January
2004, but came off injured aft er 50 minut es. Wes Brown t ook his place. Kenny Miller scored t he
only goal of t he game.
I felt st ricken t o have lost him for so long. Our relat ionship st art ed, in a sense, long before I
made him t he most expensive signing in English foot ball. I was very friendly wit h Mel Machin,
who called me from Bournemout h in 1997 t o say he had a boy on loan from West Ham. Go and
buy him, Mel said.
What s his name?
Rio Ferdinand.
I knew t hat name from England yout h t eams. Mel was insist ent . Mel, of course, was close t o
Harry Redknapp, t hen manager of West Ham, where Rio had been nurt ured, so I was sure his
judgment was based on solid informat ion. I raised t he subject of t his young Bournemout h
loanee wit h Mart in Edwards. We had him wat ched at Bournemout h and made a not e of his
at t ribut es: graceful, balanced, first t ouch like a cent re-forward. Then we checked his
background. Mart in called t he West Ham chairman, Terry Brown, who said: Give us a million
plus David Beckham. In ot her words: hes not for sale.
At t hat t ime, Jaap St am and Ronny Johnsen were ensconced in t he heart of our defence
and Wes Brown was emerging as a young cent re-half of promise. In t he event , Rio was
t ransferred t o Leeds for 18 million. In his first game for our Yorkshire rivals, he played in a back
t hree against Leicest er Cit y and was annihilat ed. Wat ching t hat mat ch I felt a surge of relief,
which I laugh about now. Thank God we didnt buy him. He was all over t he place. But , needless
t o say, he developed except ionally well.
Cent re-backs were t he foundat ion of my Manchest er Unit ed sides. Always cent re-backs. I
looked for st abilit y and consist ency. Take St eve Bruce and Gary Pallist er: unt il I found t hose
t wo we were wit hout a prayer. Paul McGrat h was const ant ly injured; Kevin Moran always had
split heads. He was like a punch-drunk boxer by t he t ime I became his manager. I went t o a
game in Norway, where Ron Yeat s was present in his capacit y as chief scout for Liverpool.
I saw your old player at Blackburn last week. Kevin Moran, said Ron over a drink. I asked:
How did he do?
Answer: He last ed about 15 minut es. Got t aken off wit h a split head.
Not unusual, t hat , I said.
Graeme Hogg, meanwhile, had not reached t he st andard we required. So I always t old my
chairmen, We need cent re-backs who will play every week. They give you t he st eadiness and
consist ency and cont inuit y. That led us t o Bruce and Pallist er, who played forever and never
seemed t o be injured. I remember one Friday before we played Liverpool, Bruce hobbling around
The Cliff rubbing his hamst ring and saying, Dont pick your t eam yet . He had injured it t he
previous weekend. I liked t o set out my t eam on t he Friday so we could pract ise set pieces and
so on. What are you on about ? I said.
Ill be all right , says St eve.
Dont be so st upid, I say.
So he st art s running around The Cliff. He jogs round t he pit ch t wice. Im all right , he says.
Hes only facing Ian Rush and John Aldridge for Liverpool. Meanwhile he cant st op rubbing his
hamst ring. Bruce played right t hrough t hat game. He and Pally were marvellous. St am brought
us t he same t oughness and reliabilit y. Look, t oo, at t he part nership bet ween Ferdinand and
Vidi. Brilliant , solid, not hing given away. Consider Manchest er Unit ed t eams from t hat whole
era and t he cent re-backs were always a feat ure.
So buying Ferdinand in July 2002 conformed t o my sacred t eam-building policy of st rengt h in
t he middle. We paid a lot , but when you spread t hat kind of t ransfer fee for a cent re-half over
10 or 12 years, it st art s t o look like a bargain. You can frit t er away plent y of money on
cont enders who simply arent good enough. Bet t er t o spend more on a single player of
unquest ionable class.
We paid 3.75 million for Roy Keane, which was a t ransfer record at t he t ime, but we had 11
years out of Roy. In my t ime at Unit ed I sold a lot of players people might not be familiar wit h:
young reserve players and so on. On a cruise round t he west of Scot land at t he end of my last
season, I worked out t hat I had spent an average of less t han 5 million a season over my t ime
at Man Unit ed.
I t old Rio st raight away when he joined, Youre a big, casual sod.
He said: I cant help it .
Youll need t o help it . Because it ll cost you goals, and Ill be on your back, I said.
And he was casual. Somet imes he would glide along in second or t hird gear, t hen t ake off
like a sport s car. I had never seen a big lad of 6 feet 2 inches possess such an impressive
change of pace. Wit h t ime his concent rat ion improved, and t he expect at ions he placed on
himself rose, along wit h t he degree of responsibilit y he was willing t o t ake on in t he t eam and
around t he club. He became t he complet e foot baller.
When you acquire a young player, you dont get t he complet e package on purchase day.
Theres work t o be done. If Rio was going t o swit ch off in a game it would be against one of t he
lesser t eams t hat he didnt regard as a major t hreat . The bigger t he game, t he more he liked it .
Wit h Gary Neville beginning t o pick up injuries, and Vidi and Evra set t ling in, Rio and Edwin
van der Sar became t he defensive fulcrum of t he t eam in t he second half of t hat decade. I
played Rio once in t he cent re of midfield, in 2006 against Blackburn Rovers, and he got himself
sent off. Robbie Savage was t he vict im of t he t ackle t hat put Rio back in t he changing room.
This may surprise some, but Pallist er was as good a foot baller as Rio. Oddly, he was quicker,
t oo, but he was no fan of running. Pally was ant i-work, and I say t hat affect ionat ely. He used t o
say t hat t he less he did, t he bet t er he felt . He was t he worlds worst t rainer. I was always aft er
him. In t he first 15 minut es he would st agger out of our penalt y area aft er an opposit ion at t ack,
gasping for air. I would say t o Brian Kidd: Look at t hat Pally hes dying! I confess I used t o
slaught er him.
Picking him up one night for a club dinner, I ent ered his house t o find a giant bot t le of Coca-
Cola on his fireside t able and a big bag of sweet s: Crunchies, Rolos, Mars Bars. I said t o Mary,
his wife, What about t his?
I dont know how many t imes I t ell him, boss, he doesnt list en, Mary said.
So we hear foot st eps on t he st airs and Pally descends t o see me st udying t his vast st ash of
kiddie food. Why do you buy all t hat st uff, Mary? he says t o his wife. So I fire back: You big
lazy so-and-so, Im fining you for t hat !
Gary was no Adonis but he was a seriously good player wit h a sweet nat ure. A lovely lad.
Like Rio, he could pass a ball and was quick when he want ed t o be. In his last season wit h us,
he sust ained a cut on his eyebrow and was howling, complaining t hat it was t he first t ime he
had been cut in his life. It didnt go wit h his image. Pally t hought he was Cary Grant .
I wasnt consciously looking for a cent re-back who could carry t he ball out of defence, or
send an incisive pass like Franz Beckenbauer. Pace, and t he abilit y t o read t he game, are non-
negot iables at t he t op in modern foot ball. Rio had bot h, which is why I signed him. Not only
could he defend, but he could bring t he ball out . So alt hough defending came first wit h me, it
was encouraging t o know my new cent re-back could also st art moves from t he back, which
became t he norm lat er, wit h Barcelona and ot hers.
At point s in Rios career, it was fair t o say t hat his life expanded in more direct ions t han we
were happy wit h. I t old him I was fed up wit h reading about him at dinners and launches. You
know t he t hing about foot ball? It cat ches you. What happens on t he foot ball field t ells
everybody, I t old him. When you st art t o decline, it happens quickly. At a small club you can get
away wit h it . But at Manchest er Unit ed t here were 76,000 pairs of eyes on us and you could
never kid t hem. I t old Rio t hat if any of t hese dist ract ions reduced his effect iveness as a
foot baller, he would not be wit h us much longer because I would not be picking him.
But he responded well t o t hose warnings. We devised a syst em in which his agent was
obliged t o t ell us everyt hing he was doing, which gave us great er cont rol. There was a music
company, a film, a TV product ion company and a magazine t hat t ook him t o America t o
int erview P Diddy. Give me a break, Rio, I said when I heard he was going t o meet t hat st ar of
t he American rap scene. Is he going t o make you a bet t er cent re-half?
Rio was not alone in exploring ot her out let s. It all st emmed from t he celebrit y st at us of t he
modern foot baller. Some look t o expand it . Beckham was one, and Rio became anot her. Davids
success in t hat respect was miraculous.
Not all Rios out side work was celebrit y driven. His work for UNICEF in Africa was t errific. You
can never dismiss t he impact a Rio Ferdinand could make on t he life of a black child in Africa.
Our message was simply t hat he had t o balance fame wit h a need t o remember what made
him successful in t he first place. Some wont do t hat . Some cant .
We also t hought Rio was always preparing for his life aft er foot ball, which was not
unreasonable. I did much t he same by t aking my coaching badges. That t ook me four years. So
I also prepared for t he second half of my life, aft er playing, but not by meet ing P Diddy. There is
t hat moment when a player asks himself what he is going t o do, because st opping is such a
void. One minut e youre playing in European finals, FA Cup finals, winning championships, t hen
it all fades t o not hing. How t o cope wit h t hat is a challenge all foot ballers face. Fame offers no
immunit y from t he emot ional comedown. The second half is not as excit ing, so how do you re-
creat e it ? How do you replace t he t hrill of sit t ing in t hat dressing room t en minut es before t he
kick-off of a game t hat is going t o det ermine who wins t he League?
By t he end of my t ime, Rio had developed back problems. We picked out t he goal we
conceded t o Cit ys Craig Bellamy in t he Manchest er derby of 2009 as an example of him
working under a physical handicap. Two years previously he would have t aken t he ball off
Bellamy and t hrown him aside. Anot her was t he Fernando Torres goal at Liverpool, when
Torres beat him for speed and leaned on him one-on-one in t he penalt y box in front of t he Kop.
We analysed t hat wit h him in a DVD review. Rio st epped up t o play Torres offside and a year
previously would have recovered from t hat error t o dispossess him. But in t his inst ance he was
fight ing t o get back t o deal wit h t he t hreat and Torres shouldered him out of t he road and
blast ed it int o t he net . Nobody did t hat t o Rio. It t old you t he back injury was not only causing
him pain, but also adversely affect ing his balance.
Rio always cruised. He never had t o fight t o run. Aft er t he long lay-off t hat caused him t o
miss most of t he wint er, he came back brilliant ly in t raining, and excelled against Cit y in t he
semi-final second leg in 2009 at Old Trafford aft er almost t hree mont hs out .
In his aut umn years I had t o t ell him t o change his game t o t ake account of age and what it
does t o all of us. The years cat ch up wit h you. I t old him, publicly and privat ely, t hat he needed
t o st ep back a yard or t wo t o give himself a chance against st rikers. Five years previously it had
been lollipop st uff. Wit h his change of pace hed rob a cent re-forward just when t he st riker
t hought he was in business. He could no longer do t hat . He needed t o be on t he scene before
t he crime could happen.
He was fine wit h my analysis. He wasnt insult ed. I was simply explaining t he changes in his
body. And he had a great season in 201112, marred only, for him, by his omission from t he
England Euro 2012 squad. When Roy Hodgson asked my opinion about whet her Rio could
work wit h John Terry I replied, Ask him. Ask Rio about t heir relat ionship, because I couldnt
really give him an answer.
Anot her minor incident wit h him was when he refused t o wear a Kick It Out T-shirt in 2012
13 aft er I t hought we had all agreed t o publicly back t he campaign. It was a lack of
communicat ion. When he decided t o boycot t t he Kick It Out T-shirt , Rio should have come t o
me, because he knew it was on t he cards for us all t o wear t hem. I know he had an issue over
Ant on, his brot her, and John Terry but I didnt ant icipat e it spilling over in t hat way. Terry, of
course, was punished by t he FA for using racially abusive language against Ant on in a game
bet ween QPR and Chelsea at Loft us Road.
I was in my office when Mark Halsey came in t o t ell me Rio was not wearing t he Kick It Out
jersey. I found Albert , our kit man, and inst ruct ed him t o t ell Rio t o put t he garment on.
The word came back t hat Rio would not be put t ing it on.
When I confront ed him he said not hing, but aft er t he game came in t o explain t hat he felt
t he PFA were not doing enough t o fight racism. My posit ion was t hat by not wearing t he T-
shirt , he wasnt support ing t he ant i-racism cause. If he had a problem wit h t he PFA he should, I
felt , t ake t hat up wit h t hem. I t hought it was divisive not t o wear t he T-shirt .
My view on racism is t hat I really dont comprehend how anyone could hat e anyone else on
t he basis of t heir colour.
A WI ND of change was coming. But it was not here yet . From t he summer of 2003 t o May 2006
was one of my least fert ile spells. We won t he FA Cup in 2004 and t he League Cup t wo years
lat er, but Arsenal and Chelsea were t he Leagues t it le-winning out fit s in t hat period.
Before Crist iano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney could become t he core of our 2008 Champions
League winning side, t here was a rocky road when we at t empt ed t o implant experienced
players, many of whom failed t o make t he expect ed impact . David Beckham had left for Real
Madrid and Vern was t o leave for Chelsea. Bart hez was replaced in goal by Tim Howard, and
Klberson, Eric Djemba-Djemba and David Bellion were among t he new faces. Ronaldinho
might have been, t oo, had he not said yes, t hen no, t o our offer.
You cant dodge t he t rut h about t hose years. We rushed down t he pat h of buying in proven
players who we t hought would mat ch our st andards right away. Klberson, for example, was
a World Cup winner wit h Brazil and was only 24. Vern was an est ablished player wit h a
worldwide reput at ion. Djemba-Djemba had been playing at a decent level in France. They were
easy or obvious signings, a fact t hat worried me. I dont like easy signings. I like having t o fight
for a player on t he grounds t hat a bat t le t o ext ricat e him means youre acquiring somet hing
valuable. I liked it when t he selling club were desperat e t o hang on t o t heir man. But t he players
we bought around t hen were easy t o recruit .
It felt as if we were signing every goalkeeper in t he count ry. Mark Bosnich was a prime
example. The Bosnich buy st emmed from Pet er Schmeichel announcing in t he aut umn of his
final season t hat he would be ret iring, which caught us on t he hop. We jumped int o decisions.
We met Bosnich in January, despit e report s filt ering t hrough t o us about his conduct off t he
pit ch. I sent someone down t o wat ch him in t raining. He was doing not hing in t he sessions t hat
convinced me he was t he right man for Manchest er Unit ed. So I changed t ack and went for
Edwin van der Sar inst ead, spoke t o his agent and t hen t o Mart in Edwards, who t old me, Alex,
Im sorry, Ive shaken hands wit h Bosnich.
That was a blow. Mart in had shaken Marks hand and would not go back on his word, which I
respect . But it was a bad piece of business. Bosnich was a problem. His t raining and fit ness
levels were below what we needed. We pushed him t o a higher t ier and felt we did quit e well
wit h him. He was t errific in our vict ory over Palmeiras in t he Int ercont inent al Cup, in which he
ought t o have been man of t he mat ch, ahead of Giggs. Not much lat er, we played down at
Wimbledon in February, and Bosnich was t ucking int o everyt hing: sandwiches, soups, st eaks.
He was going t hrough t he menu, eat ing like a horse.
I t old him: For Christ s sake, Mark, weve got t he weight off you, why are you t ucking int o all
t hat st uff?
Im st arving, gaffer, he said.
We arrived back in Manchest er, and Mark was on a mobile phone t o a Chinese rest aurant t o
order a t akeaway. Is t here no end t o you? I asked him. Think what youre doing. I just couldnt
make an impact on him.
You dont recover easily from losing a Pet er Schmeichel. He was t he best goalkeeper in t he
world, and his presence, his personalit y, were suddenly no longer t here. We should have
replaced him wit h Van der Sar. His agent had t old me, Youll need t o be busy, because hes
t alking t o Juvent us, but we missed t he boat . I had t o ret urn t o Edwins agent and t ell him we
had already agreed t o t ake someone else and t hat I would have t o wit hdraw my int erest .
I should have t aken him as well, as a second purchase. Wed have soon found out about
Bosnich and Edwin would have played from t he end of t he Schmeichel era pret t y much t o my
last years in charge. I wouldnt have needed t o spend money on Massimo Taibi or Bart hez, who
was a good goalkeeper, but had problems back in France.
Lat er we saw t hat Van der Sars qualit ies were in t he same league as t hose of Schmeichel.
There was lit t le bet ween t hem, t alent -wise. Schmeichel pulled off saves he wasnt ent it led t o
make. There were moment s of wonder. Jesus, how did he do t hat ? I would ask. He had such
spring, such at hlet icism. Wit h Van der Sar I would point t o his composure, his calmness, his use
of t he ball, his organisat ional abilit y. It was a different st yle of goalkeeping but st ill invaluable. It
affect ed people around him in a good way.
Schmeichel, by cont rast , had a lovehat e relat ionship wit h St eve Bruce and Gary Pallist er.
He would come out screaming and bawling at t hem and Brucey would say, Get back in your
goal, you big German t art . Schmeichel hat ed t hat . Im not German, he would hiss. They were
great buddies off t he field, t hough. On it , Schmeichel was a volat ile individual.
In t he dressing room, Van der Sar was very emphat ic about performances. He had a st rong
voice, a Dut ch voice. No messing about here! he would bark. Schmeichel would impose his
voice on t he t eam as well. I was lucky t o have t he t wo best goalkeepers of t hose t hree
decades. An honourable ment ion would have t o go t o Pet er Shilt on, and t o Gianluigi Buffon;
but t o me, Schmeichel and Van der Sar were t he best from 19902010.
There is more t o t he art t han t he goalkeeping. It s a quest ion of t he personalit y you bring t o
t he job. Not only do keepers have t o deal wit h t he business of making saves, t hey must cope
wit h t he process of making errors. You need a big charact er at Manchest er Unit ed t o handle
t he aft ermat h of a high-profile mist ake. I had scout ed Schmeichel half a dozen t imes. Alan
Hodgkinson, t he goalkeeping coach, had t old me: Hes a cert aint y. Take him.
At first I was ambivalent about bringing foreign goalkeepers int o t he English game. One of
Schmeichels early games was against Wimbledon. The Crazy Gang were blit zing him,
dropping bombs on t op of him and elbowing him. Schmeichel was going crazy, shout ing for t he
officials t o help him. Referee, referee!
I wat ched t his scene unfold and t hought , Hes got no chance. The ref couldnt get back up
t he pit ch and away from t he conflict zone quickly enough. In anot her of his early mat ches,
Pet er came out for a cross at t he back post and missed it by about t wo days. Lee Chapman
knocked it in. So he did make mist akes while he was adjust ing t o t he game in t his count ry, and
people were saying, What have we got here? But he also had an incredible physique, he
covered t he goal and he was brave. His dist ribut ion of t he ball was marvellous. All t hose
qualit ies came t o his assist ance in t hose t orrid early days.
Van der Sar oversaw a lot of change in our defence. Schmeichel st ood behind t he same
back four just about every week. Parker, Bruce, Pallist er, Irwin. They played virt ually every
game. Van der Sar had t o get used t o different cent re-backs, new full-backs. There was flux. In
t hose circumst ances it s a great credit t o him t hat he was able t o organise t hat part of t he
t eam so well.
This was a t ime when Pet er Kenyon was our chief execut ive in charge of t ransfer dealings.
Arsenals Pat rick Vieira was one we liked a lot . I asked Pet er t o phone Arsenal t o inquire about
Vieira. He t old me he had. One day lat er I ment ioned it t o David Dein and he looked at me as if I
had horns on my head. There was no recognit ion of what I was t alking about . One of t hem was
playing his cards close t o his chest and, t o t his day, I have no idea which one it was.
Time and again I had agent s phoning me t o say, My man would love t o play for Manchest er
Unit ed. I never doubt ed t he claim. But I also knew t hey would have loved t o play for Arsenal,
Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and all t he ot her elit e t eams. Players obviously like t o get t o t he
big clubs. The agent get s more out of it , t oo. It was in t hat phase of playing t he market t hat we
fixed our gaze on Vern.
The t eam was alt ering. It s not an easy t hing for a manager t o see change coming from a
long way down t he road. The old back four broke up fast est . When t hese sudden changes
st rike, you realise you dont necessarily have t he backup. Lat er I made it my policy t o plan much
furt her ahead.
Vern was a superb foot baller wit h immense st amina. I confess I found working wit h
Argent inian foot ballers quit e difficult . There was deep pat riot ism t owards Argent ina. They
always had t he flag round t hem. I had no problem wit h t hat , but t he ones I managed didnt t ry
part icularly hard t o speak English. Wit h Vern it was just , Mist er.
But what a good foot baller. His int elligence in t he game and his engine were first -rat e. The
problem? We couldnt find a posit ion in which t o play him. If we played him in t he cent re of
midfield he would end up at cent re-forward, or wide right , or wide left . He just hunt ed t he ball.
We found it increasingly hard t o fit him, Scholes and Keane int o a midfield.
Alt hough he played some t errific games for us, you couldnt see t he shape of t he t eam
forming. You couldnt see t he posit ional st abilit y t hat you look for normally. Beckham had left
us, Ryan was get t ing older, as were Roy and Paul, and we were looking for t hat freshness t o
give us t he impet us t o evolve a bit . Alt hough t here were spect acular cont ribut ions, Vern just
couldnt play in our t eam. He was an individual. He was t he sort who, if you played red v. yellow
on t he t raining ground, Vern would play for bot h t eams. He just played everywhere. He went
wherever he liked. If I managed him for a hundred years I wouldnt know where t o play him. He
was t he wild card, t he joker. Somebody once said t o me: Have you ever t hought of playing him
in a sit t ing posit ion, holding, in front of t he t wo cent re-backs? I replied, Are you dreaming? I
cant get him t o st ay in any ot her posit ion, why would he st ay in t hat one? Apparent ly he had
played t here for Lazio and been magnificent . But he was a free bird, flying everywhere.
There were moment s when he would t ake you t o t he heavens. In one pre-season game he
beat a couple of men on t he by-line and knocked it in for Van Nist elrooy t o score. He hit a pass
for Beckham wit h t he out side of his foot , and no back lift , and it bent away round t he defence.
Beckham ran on t o it and lobbed t he goalkeeper. In moment s he could be sublime. Talent -wise
t here was absolut ely not hing wrong wit h him. He had t wo fine feet , he could run, his cont rol
was magnificent , his vision was brilliant he just couldnt fit int o t he t eam. The English game
was not a barrier t o him. He was brave. He always had t he balls t o play.
There was t alk during his t ime wit h us of Vern falling out wit h ot her players, but I dont t hink
he did, part ly because he never spoke t o anyone. He was alone in t he dressing room. He didnt
speak t he language. He wasnt ant isocial; he just wasnt a communicat or.
Id come in for work: Morning, Seba.
Morning, mist er. And t hat was it . You couldnt drag anyt hing from him. I do remember a fall-
out wit h Roy Keane, aft er a European t ie. That became a bit ugly. There was anot her wit h
Gabriel Heinze at Port smout h. Heinze was ready t o fight him. But no, he was not a disrupt ive
We were t rying t o alt er t he way we played in Europe. Two years aft er t he 1999 European
Cup win, we went t o play Anderlecht in Belgium and PSV in Eindhoven and we were bat t ered.
Only on t he count er-at t ack. We played t he t radit ional Unit ed way, 442, and were t humped. I
t old t he players and st aff t hat if we could not keep t he ball bet t er and st ay solid in midfield, we
were going t o suffer more t hat way because opponent s had sussed us out . So we swit ched t o
playing t hree in t he cent re of t he park. Vern was part of t hat development .
Managing change, which I had t o do so oft en over t hat decade, I came up against many
players I admired. I t ried so hard, for example, t o get Paolo Di Canio. The deal was all done. We
had made an offer t hat he had accept ed, but t hen he came back saying he want ed more. We
couldnt agree t o t he new demand. But he was t he sort of player Manchest er Unit ed should
have: one who can put bums on seat s and get people off t hem, t oo. I had players like t hat for
t he whole t ime I was t here.
Then t here was Ronaldinho, anot her who slipped t he hook. I agreed a deal t o bring him t o
Old Trafford. Carlos was t here and would vouch for t hat . The at t empt t o buy Ronaldinho
reflect ed t he fact t hat Unit ed have always sport ed t alismanic players. I was always hunt ing for
t hat kind of t alent . My line of reasoning was, Were get t ing t went y-five million pounds for
Beckham, and were get t ing Ronaldinho for ninet een million. For Gods sake, wake up. It was a
st eal.
On t he way home from our t rip t o America, we st opped in Newfoundland t o refuel, at a t iny
out post . Only a single hut marked t he landscape. As we wait ed for t he refuelling, t he cabin
crew opened t he door t o let fresh air in and a small boy was st anding at t he fence, alone wit h a
Unit ed flag. We werent allowed t o disembark. We could st and on t he st eps but not t he t armac,
so all we could do was wave t o t his lit t le Unit ed fan, pressed against a fence in t he middle of
Ret urning t o Europe, for a st op in Port ugal, we sold Vern, who had t old Quint on Fort une he
would be joining Chelsea. I wouldnt let him go for less t han 15 million. Chelsea offered 9
million. I said, No way, hes not going for nine million. But in Port ugal, Kenyon t old me, Ive
agreed t he deal fift een million. Then came t he game against Sport ing Lisbon and Ronaldo v.
John OShea. I can st ill hear myself shout ing at John, Get close t o him, Sheasy.
I cant , came t he plaint ive reply.
One mont h lat er David Gill rang and said, What about t his, Kenyon is off t o Chelsea. David
t ook over and was fant ast ic a big improvement . Pet er Kenyon, I felt , t ried t o t ake on t oo
much and was consequent ly unable t o deliver on some of t he most import ant t asks. The
expert ise you need in a chief execut ive role is a t alent for complet ing missions.
When David Gill moved int o t he hot seat , I suspect he was uncert ain about his funct ion.
David was an account ant by t rade. My advice was, On t he back of Pet er Kenyon, dont t ake
on t oo much. Delegat e. Wit hout doubt he was t he best administ rat or or chief execut ive I ever
dealt wit h. First class. St raight as a die. Very approachable. Kept his feet on t he ground and
knew t he value of t he game. Underst ood it , t oo. Mart in Edwards also had a good knowledge of
t he game, but t here were no complicat ions wit h David. He might t ell you somet hing you didnt
like, but he would not shirk from saying it . That was t he only way t o be.
Alt hough Mart in support ed me at t he most import ant t imes, I was always underpaid unt il
David t ook charge. There is no subst it ut e for being appreciat ed at work. To be t old you are
doing a fine job is all very well, as far as it goes, but t here has t o be monet ary recognit ion.
Dealing wit h changes in ownership is immensely difficult for club direct ors. Aft er a t akeover
t he whole pict ure changes. Do t hey fancy you? Do t hey want a new manager, a new chief
execut ive? The Glazer buy-up was t he t oughest period for David. The media focus was
int ense. The debt issue was never out of t he news. But Davids account ancy qualificat ions
gave him an advant age in t hat respect .
My vision of t he club was as a place where young t alent could develop. To sust ain t hat aim
we needed t o preserve t he foundat ion of Giggs, Scholes and Neville. And Roy Keane. We had
enough backbone t o enable us t o shop around for pot ent ial. Van der Sar was anot her
foundat ion player. He was one of my best -ever signings.
The search for t he new Bryan Robson had led us t o Keane. Eric Djemba-Djemba st ruck us
as pot ent ially anot her t op cent ral midfielder. I went t o see him playing in France and he did
really well. He underst ood t he game, nipped at t acks in t he bud very well and was available for 4
million euros. I was at t hat game t o see t he Rennes goalkeeper t oo: Pet r ech, who was 18 or
19. I t old myself he was t oo young for us.
Somet imes you lost one player but gained anot her of similar merit . We missed out on Paul
Gascoigne, for example, but landed Paul Ince. We didnt persuade Alan Shearer t o join us but
we did sign Eric Cant ona.
The balls are always in t he air. You have a range of t arget s and compensat e from t he list
when one get s away. The unifying aim was t o develop whichever player we ended up wit h.
Cant ona was in his mid-t went ies, but our normal t arget area would be younger t han t hat .
Rooney and Ronaldo came as t eenagers. Aft er 2006 or so, we redoubled our effort s t o avoid
falling int o t he old t rap of seeing a t eam grow old t oget her. We refocused on t hat . Wit h Andy
Cole, Dwight Yorke and Teddy Sheringham, t here was eit her a falling off in performance levels
or an advance in years. In t hose circumst ances, t he demands on t he scout ing net work
int ensify. The heat is on t he t alent -spot t ers. You are saying t o t hem all t he t ime, Come on,
what have you seen out t here?
The Klberson signing came aft er he had excelled for Brazil at t he 2002 World Cup. He was
st ill playing in his homeland when we signed him. But he was an example of t he risks
associat ed wit h making a purchase in a hurry. What we were looking for was someone t o t ake
over event ually from Keane, which is how Vieira had ent ered t he pict ure. He would have been
ideal. He was used t o t he English game, an imposing figure; a leader. One sign of a great player
is t hat t he opposing fans sing songs against him. Opposing fans always sang songs against
Pat rick Vieira. That t ells you t hey feared him. Alan Shearer was anot her. Always on t he wrong
end of chant s from t he opposit ion.
Klberson was a t alent ed player. But he exemplifies my point about careful examinat ion of
background and charact er. We acquired him t oo easily. It made me uncomfort able. When t he
boy arrived, we discovered he had married a 16-year-old girl. He was 23. She brought all her
family over. In pre-season t raining in Port ugal at Vale do Lobo, only t he players were meant t o
come t o breakfast before t raining. Klberson brought his fat her-in-law. He seemed t o have no
aut horit y in t hat area. Lovely lad, but he lacked t he confidence t o learn English.
In games he displayed t errific st amina and a high degree of skill but was unable t o impose his
personalit y. Perhaps t he way Brazil had used him was not t he way we want ed t o employ him.
Wit h his count ry he sat in front of t he back four t o help Robert o Carlos and Caf bomb on from
When t here is a sudden rush t o solve problems, mist akes are made. We were at our best
when we worked from a plan, over years, and st udied players, compiled det ailed informat ion.
We knew all about Crist iano Ronaldo before we signed him. We t ried t o get Rooney at 14, and
t ried again at 16. Finally we cracked it when he was 17. You could plan for Rooney. He was an
obvious t arget for us. That was Manchest er Unit eds scout ing at it s very best . The Verns and
t he Klbersons were improvised. Not panic buys, but rushed.
Djemba-Djemba, anot her smashing lad, was hammered by t he press for not being a
signat ure signing. They always liked t he marquee names and t ook a much dimmer view of
players wit h a lower recognit ion rat ing. They loved Vern, at first . They were lukewarm about
Klberson and Djemba-Djemba. David Bellion was young and we felt we could develop him. He
was light ning quick, a charming boy, a Christ ian, but also very shy. He had been at Sunderland
and had come on as a sub against us. Tore us apart . We made a move for him when his
cont ract was up. Had we looked int o his background more, wed have known he was diffident .
We sold him t o Nice for 1 million euros, and he moved from t here t o Bordeaux, which brought
us an addit ional fee. The Bellion t ransfer was not one you could classify as an at t empt t o lay a
foundat ion st one for a new side. He was an add-on who was available at a good price.
The t urning point in t his whole chapt er was capt uring Ronaldo and Rooney, which gave us
t he signat ure signings we needed: t alismanic, mat ch-winning players, in line wit h our t radit ion.
Pat rice Evra and Nemanja Vidi, in January 2006, were t o be ot her st ellar acquisit ions. The first
point in our not es on Vidi was his courage, his det erminat ion. He could t ackle, head t he ball
clear. We were looking at a t ypical English cent re-back. Vida hadnt played since t he end of t he
season in Moscow, in November. In his first game for us, against Blackburn, he was breat hing
out of his backside. He needed a pre-season. That was t he gist of it .
At left -back, in Denis Irwins old posit ion, we had Heinze briefly but t hen moved on t o Evra,
who was used as a wing-back at Monaco, where he feat ured in t he Champions League final
against Port o.
Wit h full-backs it s like searching for a rare bird. When we first saw Evra, he was playing as a
wing-back, but he had t he speed and was young enough t o swit ch t o full-back in our syst em.
We knew plent y about his at t acking capabilit ies. He was quick, had superb t echnique and a
st rong personalit y. Very st rong. Heinze was anot her mat t er. Rut hless, would kick his granny.
But an absolut e winner who could also play cent re-back. In bot h cases we were successful.
As all Unit ed fans will remember, Evras debut came in t he Manchest er derby at East lands
and was a t ot al disast er. You could see him t hinking, Why am I here? Event ually he set t led
and developed. Heinze, on t he ot her hand, had a mercenary st reak and I always had t he sense
he was scanning t he horizon for his next deal. Aft er one year he want ed t o leave. We were
playing Villarreal, and st at ioned in a lovely complex out side Valencia, when his agent came t o
see me t o say he want ed t o move.
Things were never t he same aft er t hat . The following day he injured his cruciat e. We did
everyt hing possible t o accommodat e him. He was allowed t o pursue his rehabilit at ion in Spain.
He was t here for six mont hs and came back for a single game. We did our best . But at t he end
of December he came back want ing away, want ing new t erms, a new cont ract . When he
ret urned fully from injury, he went t o see David Gill wit h his agent and we agreed we would be
bet t er off wit hout him. We agreed t o let him go for 9 million. They went st raight t o Liverpool,
who said t hey would t ake him.
Gabriel was t old, wit h no ambiguit y, t hat hist orically Manchest er Unit ed do not sell players t o
Liverpool, and vice versa. Heinzes advisers t hen t ried t o make a legal issue of it , which led t o a
meet ing in London, in which t he Premier League sided wit h us.
During t hat process, t he chairman of Cryst al Palace cont act ed David Gill t o say someone
represent ing Heinze had asked t hem t o buy him so t hey could lat er sell him on t o Liverpool. We
used t hat informat ion as part of our evidence. The judgment came down in our favour and
event ually we offloaded him t o Real Madrid. These guys move around. Heinze had been at t wo
Spanish clubs already before he went t o PSG, from where he came t o us.
Alan Smit h was anot her addit ion from t hat t ime, in May 2004, for 7 million. Leeds were in
financial t rouble by t hen and word came t hrough t o David Gill t hat Alan could be bought for
around 5 million. I had always liked Alan. He was what I called an at t it ude player, wit h a good
charact er. He could play a few posit ions: wide right , midfield, cent re-forward. He was a Mark
Hughes-t ype player: not a great goal-scorer but useful t o t he t eam. We lat er sold him t o
Newcast le for 6 million. Alan did a fair job for us and put in some smashing performances. His
leg-break at Liverpool in 2006 was one of t he most horrific Ive seen. Ill always remember
rushing t o see him as he lay on t he Liverpool t reat ment t able Liverpools doct or was
exemplary, I should say while t hey inject ed him t o st op t he onset of t rauma.
His foot was point ing in all sort s of direct ions. Bobby Charlt on, who was wit h me, winced. And
he had been t hrough t he Munich air disast er. Alan, on t he ot her hand, was unpert urbed. He
was sit t ing t here emot ionless. It was a horror of an accident . Alans react ion t old me t hat some
mens pain t hresholds are higher t han ot hers. Jabs t errify me. Im hopeless wit h needles. In my
pub-keeping days in Glasgow, during a keg-change one Sunday morning, I was releasing a
spear t o let t he air out when a rat jumped on my shoulder. I leapt back and t he spear of t he
keg sank int o my cheek. You can st ill see t he skin graft . I drove t he t wo miles t o t he hospit al,
afraid t o t ouch it . The nurse whipped it out and I faint ed as soon as t hey put t he needle in me.
The nurse said: This is t he big cent re-forward of Rangers Foot ball Club and hes faint ing. I was
dying t here. Alan was sit t ing wit h one of t he worst injuries Ive ever seen and not a bit of st ir in
him. That s what Alan was: a supremely brave lad.
He was a good, honest professional, t oo. What he lacked was t he real t op qualit y you need
t o excel at t he biggest clubs. When we were offered t he money by Newcast le, we had t o let
him go.
Our final use of him was as a defensive midfielder. He t ackled well but didnt read t he game
like an aut hent ic holding player. He was a midfield player who could t ackle, wherever t he ball
was. In his cent re-forward days, cent re-backs seldom had an easy t ime wit h Alan. But t he
whole process of replacing Roy required us t o find a player who could sit in good areas of t he
pit ch, t he way Owen Hargreaves did for a while. Alan wasnt t hat t ype, but he was a good,
honest player who loved playing for us. It t ook me a long t ime t o persuade him t hat I couldnt
guarant ee him a game. The t eam had moved on.
Louis Saha was anot her major signing, from Fulham in January 2004, but persist ent injuries
count ed against him, and us. We wat ched him a couple of t imes at Met z but t he scout ing
report s gave no indicat ion t hat he would be a t arget for t he biggest clubs. He t urned up at
Fulham, and every t ime he played against us he gave us a doing. In an FA Cup t ie at Craven
Cot t age, he t urned Wes Brown on t he halfway line, flew at our goal, cut it back and Fulham
scored. From t hen on we wat ched him all t he t ime, and by January were ready t o make our
Dealing wit h Mohammed Fayed, Fulhams owner, was a complicat ed process. Word came
back t hat a figure had been agreed and we were t old: This is t he best youre going t o get . It
was a middle posit ion: 12 million.
Of all t he cent re-forwards we employed, when you t alk about t heir t alent s (t wo-foot ed, good
in t he air, spring, speed, power), Saha would be one of t he best . He posed a perpet ual t hreat .
But t hen came t he injuries. Louis, who lived about 50 yards from me, and was a lovely lad, had
t o be 150 per cent t o play. It was agony for us. And it wasnt a case of him being out for weeks;
it t ended t o be mont hs. The reason for selling him was t hat no mat t er how t alent ed he was, I
could never plan around him, could never say, This is my t eam for t he next t wo or t hree years.
Saha was young enough t o be viewed in t hat way, as a cornerst one player, but t he uncert aint y
caused by his const ant non-availabilit y rendered it impossible t o look far down t he line.
It became so vexing t o him t hat he considered ret iring. Youre a young man, you dont give in
because of an injury, youve just got t o work t o get back. This cant last forever, I t old him.
He was assailed by guilt . He t hought he was let t ing us down. He would send me apologet ic
t ext s t o t hat effect . I t ried t o impress on him t hat he had been unlucky, and t hat unlucky
players could be found t hroughout foot balling hist ory. Viv Anderson was one. When we were
assessing Vivs playing record at Arsenal, we not iced t hat in four years he missed four games.
Suspension, every t ime. Viv came t o us and was never fit . We gave him a free t ransfer t o
Sheffield Wednesday and he played t here for t hree years and hardly missed a game. I used t o
give him st ick about t hat . Id say, I dont t hink you want ed t o play for me. Hes a big Unit ed fan
and was desperat e t o shine for us, but was halt ed by persist ent knee t rouble.
Louis knew his injuries were hampering his form, and t hat s where t he guilt complex began
bit ing away at him. Carlos devised a t wo-week programme for him t o enable him t o be fully
ready in a fort night . This was t ailored work, which he did on his own. We explained t hat t o him,
and he embraced it shoot ing, t urning, and generally t hrowing himself int o t hese preparat ory
exercises. He was flying. Friday, t he day before t he game, and Saha walks off, saying he had
felt somet hing in his hamst ring. We were never going t o conquer t hat physical sensit ivit y, so
we reached a deal wit h Evert on in 2008.
Evert on copied our approach and t ried t o raise Louis t o a level where he would be confident
of playing. It might have helped him t o be away from t he pressure of Manchest er Unit ed. He
was a fant ast ic cent re-forward, t hough. In t he 200910 season, I t hought France would be
mad not t o t ake him t o t he World Cup.
A const ant in our discussions about young players in t erms of whet her t hey could handle
t he demands of t he Old Trafford crowd and t he short pat ience span of t he media was
t emperament . Would t hey grow or shrink in a Unit ed shirt ? We knew t he make-up of every
young homegrown player who came int o t he Unit ed st art ing XI, from t he t raining ground, from
reserve t eam foot ball.
You cant leave your charact er in t he dressing room. It has t o come out of t hat room, down
t he t unnel and ont o t hat pit ch.
In t he 200304 season we finished t hird in t he League behind t he Invincibles of Arsenal, but
finished off wit h a 30 win over Millwall in t he FA Cup final in Cardiff. Ronaldo was majest ic in
t hat mat ch, scoring our first goal wit h a header before Van Nist elrooy added t wo more, one
from t he penalt y spot .
The year had been overshadowed by t he deat h of Jimmy Davis in a road accident . Jimmy,
21, was one of t hose bright , breezy individuals. He had a chance t oo. He would have had a
career in t he game. We had loaned him t o Wat ford. On t he way t o an academy game at our
place t hat Sat urday morning, I heard t hat Wat fords game t hat aft ernoon had been post poned.
There were no det ails given. Then I was t old, at t he academy game, of Jimmys deat h in a road
accident .
He was a t enacious wee lad, very popular. A large number from t he club at t ended his funeral.
Two years lat er, at a wedding, I felt a creeping sense of dj vu. As t he phot ographs were
being t aken out side, t he minist er came over t o me and said, Would you like t o come round and
see Jimmys grave? I hadnt made t he connect ion, and it chilled me t o t he core. It was so sad.
He would not be forgot t en by Manchest er Unit ed.
CRI STI ANO Ronaldo was t he most gift ed player I managed. He surpassed all t he ot her great ones I
coached at Unit ed. And I had many. The only ones who could be placed near him would be a
couple of t he home-produced players, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, because t hey cont ribut ed
so prodigiously t o Manchest er Unit ed for t wo decades. That longevit y, consist ency and t hose
behaviour pat t erns were quit e except ional.
We lost our wizard, Crist iano, t o Real Madrid, in t he end, but we looked back at his t ime wit h
us wit h pride and grat it ude. In six seasons wit h us, from 2003 t o 2009, he scored 118 t imes in
292 games and won t he Champions League, t hree Premier League t it les, one FA Cup and t wo
League Cups. He scored in t he 2008 Champions League final, against Chelsea in Moscow, and
kicked a ball for us for t he final t ime 12 mont hs lat er, in t he final against Barcelona in Rome.
In bet ween we wat ched a special t alent bloom on our t raining pit ches at Carringt on and in
our first XI, which passed t hrough a lean spell in t he middle years of t he decade. We helped
Ronaldo t o be t he player he was and he helped us recapt ure t he excit ement and self-
expression of Manchest er Unit ed t eams.
Madrid paid 80 million in cash for him, and do you know why? It was a way for Florent ino
Prez, t heir president , t o say t o t he world, We are Real Madrid, we are t he biggest of t he lot . It
was a clever move by t hem and a declarat ion of t heir int ent t o chase t he games most famous
Ramn Caldern, Prezs predecessor, had claimed t he previous year t hat Crist iano would
one day be a Real Madrid player. I knew full well t hat if t hey produced t he 80 million, he would
have t o go. We could not block his fervent wish t o ret urn t o Iberia and wear t he famous whit e
shirt of Di St efano or Zidane. The realit y of managing Ronaldo, as of ot her t alent s who came t o
Manchest er Unit ed as t eenagers, was t hat you could oversee t he early years fairly
comfort ably, because t hey were not yet global idols, t hey were on t he way up. At t he point
t hey became mega-st ars, as Ronaldo did, you asked yourself a quest ion t hat Carlos Queiroz
and I discussed all t he t ime: How long are we going t o be able t o keep Crist iano Ronaldo?
Carlos was as accurat e as it was possible t o be. He said: Alex, if you get five years out of
him, youve st ruck gold. Theres no precedent for a Port uguese player going t o anot her count ry
at sevent een years old and st aying five years. The fact t hat we had him for six was a bonus. In
t hat period we won a European Cup and t hree League t it les wit h him. I consider t hat a pret t y
good ret urn.
When t he possibilit y of him leaving edged t owards being a probabilit y, I reached a
gent lemans agreement wit h him. I went t o Carloss house in Port ugal t o find t he boy
expressing an urge t o go t o Real Madrid, and t old him: You cant go t his year, not aft er t he way
Caldern has approached t his issue. I said, I know you want t o go t o Real Madrid. But Id rat her
shoot you t han sell you t o t hat guy now. If you perform, dont mess us about , and someone
comes and offers us a world record fee, t hen we will let you go. I had already conveyed t hat
message t o his agent Jorge Mendes.
I did well t o calm him down. I t old him t hat t he reason I was refusing t o sell him t hat year was
because of Caldern. I said, If I do t hat , all my honours gone, everyt hings gone for me, and I
dont care if you have t o sit in t he st ands. I know it wont come t o t hat , but I just have t o t ell
you I will not let you leave t his year.
I report ed t his conversat ion t o David Gill, who passed it t hrough t o t he Glazers. Im sure it
found it s way back t o Real Madrid as well. At t hat point we were pet rified t hat t he det ails of
our agreement might creep out . We warned Crist iano t o t hat effect . I dont believe he would
have t old Real Madrid. His agent Jorge Mendes is, I should say, t he best agent I dealt wit h,
wit hout a doubt . He was responsible, looked aft er his players t o an incredible ext ent and was
very fair wit h clubs. My feeling was t hat he was anxious about Crist iano going t o Spain for t he
obvious reason t hat Real might just swallow him up. Different agent s, different people. I t hink
he feared losing him.
What I always t hought about Ronaldo was t hat , even if he was having a dire game, he would
always creat e t hree chances. Every game. Look at all t he mat ches. In t he mount ain of video
evidence, you could not find one inst ance where he failed t o creat e at least t hree chances. He
possessed an unbelievable t alent . I can place everyt hing on t hat list : t raining performances,
st rengt h, courage, skill wit h eit her foot , heading abilit y.
In t he early days, t here is no doubt t hat he act ed a bit . His earliest lessons were in a
t heat rical foot balling cult ure. Injust ice was never far from t he judgment s formed around him.
But he changed. One aspect frequent ly ignored by his crit ics was t he speed he moved at . You
only need t o t ap a player going t hat fast and t here is a t endency for him t o go over. Human
balance isnt refined enough t o prot ect t he runner from t ipping over at an unnat urally fast
speed. A wee prod int o t he side of t he leg or an elbow int o t he body can dist urb t he equilibrium.
The failure t o appreciat e t hat speed-t o-balance fact or was unfair.
In t he early days, I accept , he showboat ed a lot , and Carlos worked hard on t hat part of his
repert oire. He would say t o Crist iano all t he t ime, Youre only a great player when people
out side t he club st art recognising you as such. It s not enough t o be a great player t o us at
Manchest er Unit ed. When you st art delivering t he passes, delivering t he crosses, at t he right
t ime, people wont be able t o read you. That s when t he great players emerge.
Opponent s knew what t o expect of him. They knew he was going t o hold on t o t he ball. If
you looked at his goal in t he semi-final against Arsenal, you see t he t ransit ion. We st ruck on
t he count er-at t ack, Ronaldo back-heeled it int o Ji-Sung Park and we were up at t he ot her end
wit hin nine seconds. It t ook nine seconds t o put t he ball in t he back of t he net .
That was t he t ransformat ion from t he wee show-off who was desperat e t o convince
everyone how good he was. Yes, t hat s really what it was: t he need t hat so many gift ed
players have t o prove just how blessed t hey are. And nobody could kick him out of t hat . No
mat t er how many t ackles or fouls he absorbed, his whole being expressed defiance: Youre not
going t o kick me out of t his game. Im Ronaldo. He had t hat wonderful courage and confidence
in his abilit y. He elevat ed himself, in my mind, and in t hose of t he ot her Unit ed players, t o a
point where t hose around him were in awe of his t alent .
The players were good wit h him in t raining. They helped him learn. At first when he was
t ackled at Carringt on he would let out a t errible scream. Aaggh! The players would give him
pelt ers. He soon learned not t o make t hat kind of racket . His int elligence helped. He was a very
smart boy. Once he realised t he players would not be a willing audience for his screaming and
amat eur dramat ics in t raining, he st opped. Over t ime it erased it self from his game. In his last
season he overreact ed a couple of t imes t o earn himself a foul, but no more t han anyone else.
He was grant ed a penalt y kick against Bolt on in 2008 t hat was never a penalt y kick. Equally he
hadnt t ried t o earn t hat advant age. It was just a bad mist ake by t he referee. The defender
st ret ched t o win t he ball, int ercept ed it cleanly and Ronaldo went over. It was embarrassing,
not from Ronaldos point of view, but for Rob St yles, t he mat ch official.
Despit e everyone saying t hey could have signed him (Real Madrid and Arsenal made t hat
claim), we had an alliance wit h Sport ing Lisbon, his first club in Port ugal. We were sending
coaches over t here and t hey were dispat ching t hem in t he opposit e direct ion. When Carlos
joined us in 2002, he t old me, Theres a young boy at Sport ing and we need t o keep an eye on
Which one? I asked. Because t here were t wo or t hree.
Ronaldo, he said. We knew all about him. At t hat st age Crist iano had been playing cent re-
forward. Carlos said we would need t o act because t his boy was special, so we sent Jim Ryan
t o wat ch Sport ing Lisbon t rain as part of our reciprocal deal. Jim ret urned and said, Wow, Ive
seen a player. I t hink hes a winger, but hes been playing cent re-forward in t he yout h t eam. I
wouldnt be wait ing t oo long. At sevent een someone will gamble.
So we t hrew t he boy wonders name int o a conversat ion wit h Sport ing. The response was
t hat t hey want ed t o keep him for t wo more years. I suggest ed a deal t hat would keep him at
Sport ing for t hat lengt h of t ime before we t ook him t o England. At t his point , t hough, we had
not spoken t o t he agent or t he player. It was purely a club-t o-club discussion.
That summer Carlos left , t o coach Real Madrid, and we went t o America on t our. Pet er
Kenyon left , Juan Sebast in Vern left . Part of our arrangement was t hat we would play
against Sport ing Lisbon in t heir new st adium, which had been built for t he 2004 European
So over we went . John OShea was right -back. People persist in saying Gary Neville was in
t hat unenviable posit ion. But it was John OShea. The first pass Ronaldo t ook prompt ed me t o
howl: For Christ s sake, John, get t ight t o him!
John shrugged his shoulders. A look of pain and bewilderment was creeping across his face.
The ot her players in t he dug-out were saying: Bloody hell, boss, hes some player, him.
I said: It s all right . Ive got him sort ed. As if t he deal had been done t en years ago. I t old
Albert , our kit man: Get up t o t hat direct ors box and get Kenyon down at half-t ime. I t old
Pet er, Were not leaving t his ground unt il weve got t hat boy signed.
Is he t hat good? Kenyon asked.
John OSheas ended up wit h migraine! I said. Get him signed.
Kenyon spoke t o t he Lisbon people and asked t heir permission t o speak t o Crist iano. They
warned us t hat Real Madrid had offered 8 million for him.
Offer t hem nine, t hen, I said.
Ronaldo was downst airs in a small room, wit h his agent , where we t old him how much we
would love t o sign him for Manchest er Unit ed. In front of Jorge Mendes I said, You wont play
every week, Im t elling you t hat now, but youll become a first -t eam player. Theres no doubt in
my mind about t hat . Youre sevent een years of age, it ll t ake t ime for you t o adjust . Well look
aft er you.
A privat e plane was hired for him, his mot her, his sist er, Jorge Mendes and his lawyer t o
come over t he next day. We needed t o get t hat deal done. Speed of act ion was paramount . I
used t o scout myself, on a Sat urday morning in Glasgow, and I would always say t o t he men I
employed in t hat capacit y: It must be great when you can spot someone you know is going t o
be t he business.
One night I was wat ching a movie, White Fang, t he Jack London book about going down t o
Klondike in search of gold. That s what it must be like for a scout . Youre st anding wat ching a
game on a Sat urday morning and you see a George Best , a Ryan Giggs or a Bobby Charlt on.
That s what I felt t hat day in Lisbon. A revelat ion.
That was t he biggest surge of excit ement , of ant icipat ion, I experienced in foot ball
management . The next best was from Paul Gascoigne, for a different reason. Newcast le had
been fight ing relegat ion and Gascoigne had been out injured. We were at St James Park on
t he East er Monday. I played Norman Whit eside and Remi Moses in t he cent re of t he park. It
was hardly a midfield of choirboys. You wouldnt dance round t hat duo. Well, Gascoigne
nut megged Moses right in front of where I was sit t ing in t he dug-out , and t hen pat t ed him on
t he head. I flew out of t hat dug-out , shout ing, Get t hat so-and-so
Whit eside and Moses t ried t o impress on Gascoigne t hat he had just made a serious error of
judgment . A lit t le re-educat ion was in order. But Gascoigne just skipped all round t hem.
We t ried our best t o sign him t hat summer. But Newcast le sold him t o Tot t enham inst ead.
When you have t hat experience, of seeing t his t alent right before your eyes, you know youre
experiencing one of t hose moment s you search for every hour in management . And t hat sense
of discovery rushed me int o t rying t o t ie up a deal for Gascoigne t hat very day.
Wit h Ronaldo, in cont rast , Kenyon did manage t o complet e t he deal. I sensed t hat Sport ing
might have been happy not t o have sold him t o a Spanish club. The deal was concluded quit e
swift ly, wit h add-ons t hat t ook it up t o about 12 million, wit h t he sole condit ion t hat , should
we ever sell him, Sport ing would have t he opt ion of t aking him back. A couple of days before
we sold him t o Real Madrid, we had t o t ell Sport ing t hat t hey could have him back, but it would
cost t hem 80 million. Not surprisingly, no cheque was fort hcoming.
As Crist iano st art ed his new life in Cheshire, his mot her and sist er came wit h him. That was
good. His mot her was very prot ect ive, as you would expect , and was a good, st raight -t alking
woman, wit h no airs or graces. She was highly mat ernal. I explained t o Ronaldo t hat Lyn and
Barry Moorhouse would look aft er t hem wit h t hings for t he house, bank account s and so on.
We got t hem some dwellings, t ucked away, near Alderley Edge, and t hey set t led in quickly.
We had ret urned from America, aft er t he Sport ing Lisbon game, in a plane belonging t o t he
Dallas Cowboys, who had rent ed it t o us for t he summer. Ferdinand, Giggs, Scholes and Neville
ent hused about Ronaldo all t he way home: Get him signed, get him signed.
So Ronaldo came int o t he t raining ground knowing t hat our players knew all about him and
had a sense of how good he was. I t hink t hat helped.
His first appearance was against Bolt on at home on 16 August 2003, where he st art ed on
t he bench. The Bolt on defenders ended up in knot s. The right -back rat t led him st raight away
in t he cent re of t he park, t ook t he ball off him, but Crist iano got st raight back up and
demanded anot her pass. Right away. Hes got t he balls, anyway, I t hought .
The next minut e he was pulled down and won a penalt y. Van Nist elrooy missed it . Then, of
his own volit ion, Ronaldo moved out t o t he right -hand side and hit t wo superb crosses in. One
was met by Scholes, who passed t o Van Nist elrooy; his shot was parried by t he keeper and
Giggs t apped t he ball in for t he second goal. The crowd on t hat side of t he ground responded
as if a Messiah had mat erialised right before t heir eyes. The Old Trafford crowd build up heroes
quickly. They see someone who get s t heir rears off seat s and t ake t o t hem right away.
Ronaldo had t he biggest impact on Manchest er Unit ed fans of any player since Eric Cant ona.
He could never have mat ched t he idolat ry t hat came wit h Cant ona, because Eric had all t his
defiant charisma, but his t alent was inst ant ly apparent .
The goal Ronaldo scored on t he break in t he Champions League semi-final at Arsenal in
2009 confirmed his majest y as a count er-at t acker. The ball moved from Park t o Rooney t o
Ronaldo wit h devast at ing speed. I always said t o him: When youre going t hrough on goal,
lengt hen your st ride. By lengt hening your st ride you slow yourself down and your t iming is
enhanced. When youre st ill sprint ing, you have less coordinat ion in your body, but when you
slow your mechanics down you give t he brain a bet t er chance. He did t hat . You wat ch him.
In t he spring before t he 2004 FA Cup final in Cardiff, where we beat Millwall 30, Walt er
Smit h, who had joined me as assist ant manager in March, asked me about t he various t alent
levels of all our players.
What about Ronaldo, he said, is he t hat good?
I t old him: Oh yes, unbelievable. Even in t he air. Hes a magnificent header of t he ball.
Lat er, Walt er said, t ent at ively: You keep t elling me t his Ronaldo is a magnificent header of
t he ball. I see him heading t he ball in t raining but never in a game.
That Sat urday, against Birmingham, Ronaldo scored wit h a superb header. I t urned t o
Walt er. I know, I know, he said.
I had wat ched Millwall beat Sunderland in t he semi-final and t old my st aff: That Tim Cahills
not bad, you know. Good leap for a lit t le lad. No great t alent on t he ball, but he was a const ant
nuisance. A pest . You could have bought him t hen for a million. He would have scored a lot of
goals in a good t eam. Dennis Wise was especially combat ive in t hat mat ch. But t here have
been plent y of nast y lit t le players like him down t he years, t he sort who prompt you t o t hink: I
wish t o Christ I was st ill playing. There will be plent y who would have said t hat about Dennis
Wise. He would never have survived in t he old days, Im cert ain of t hat .
If youre cut e enough in t he modern game, you can get away wit h a kind of underhand
physicalit y. Wise would be good at leaving his foot in, arriving a fract ion lat e. He played his
game well. In t he modern game it is hard t o pick out genuinely t huggish players: t hose who
st ep out t o cause hurt . It hardly mat t ered, because Ronaldo dest royed Millwall t hat day.
The one polit ical drama we had wit h Ronaldo was, of course, t he 2006 World Cup, when he
winked at t he Port ugal bench aft er Wayne Rooney had st amped on Ricardo Carvalho. This
raised t he brief possibilit y t hat t he t wo men would fall out t o such an ext ent t hat t hey would
never be able t o play t oget her again. What saved t he day for Ronaldo was Rooney, who was
t errific. On holiday, I t ext ed Rooney and asked him t o call me. He suggest ed t he t wo of t hem
grant ing an int erview t oget her t o show t here was no bad blood.
The next day I ran it past Mick Phelan, who t hought it might look a bit prompt ed and art ificial.
I decided he was right . But t he generosit y of Rooney was what impressed Ronaldo, who
t hought it might be impossible for him t o go back t o Manchest er. He felt he had burned his
boat s and t hat t he press would kill him. Rooney called him a couple of t imes t o reassure him. It
wasnt t he first t ime t wo Unit ed t eam-mat es had clashed in t he int ernat ional arena. Ill t ake you
back t o Scot land v. England in 1965, and Nobby St iles first game for his count ry. Denis Law is
st anding in t he Scot land line and Nobby shuffles over t o him and says, All t he best , Denis.
Nobby idolised Denis, who says, Eff off, you English so-and-so, you. So Nobby is left t here,
st unned.
Yes, Ronaldo did run t o t he referee t o help get Rooney in t rouble, which is common in t he
modern game. But Ronaldo was t hinking only of one t hing winning t hat game for his count ry.
He wasnt t hinking about playing for Man Unit ed t he following season. That was a World Cup
game. And he did regret it . When we visit ed him it was clear he underst ood t he implicat ions.
The wink was misint erpret ed. The manager had t old him t o st ay out of t rouble, so t he wink
was not t o convey pleasure t o t he bench at his own role in Rooneys sending-off. I believed him
when he t old me he was not saying, wit h t hat gest ure: I sort ed him out , I got him sent off.
We met at a villa in Port ugal and had lunch. Jorge Mendes was present . Rooney calling him
had helped t o change Ronaldos mind and put him at ease. I t old Crist iano, Youre one of t he
bravest players t o come t o Manchest er Unit ed, but walking away isnt courage. I quot ed t he
Beckham sit uat ion in 1998: It was exact ly t he same as t his. They were hanging effigies of him
out side pubs in London. He was t he devil incarnat e. But he had t he balls t o fight it .
Beckhams first game aft er t hat incident had been against West Ham t he worst possible
place t o go aft er such a drama wit h England and he was t errific. Youve got t o get t hrough
it , I t old Ronaldo. The next game in London for Ronaldo was at Charlt on on a Wednesday
night . To begin wit h I wat ched from t he direct ors box, where t here was a local guy screaming
unbelievable abuse: You Port uguese bast ard was one of t he polit er epit het s. Five minut es
before half-t ime, Ronaldo received t he ball, danced round about four players and hit t he
underside of t he bar wit h a shot . That guy didnt rise from his seat again. It deflat ed him.
Perhaps he t hought t hat his screaming had mot ivat ed him.
Ronaldo was fine, had a good st art t o t he season and was get t ing on well wit h Rooney.
These young lads will have t heir clashes. Rooney was going t o be sent off anyway, but equally
Ronaldos int ervent ion was unhelpful. I was so relieved t hat t he incident passed and we were
able t o keep him in t he side t hat was t o go on and win t he 2008 Champions League final in
In t he summer of 2012, I at t ended a Q &A host ed by t he BBCs Dan Walker, wit h Pet er
Schmeichel and Sam Allardyce. A guy asked: Whos t he bet t er player, Ronaldo or Messi? My
reply was: Well, Ronaldos got a bet t er physique t han Messi, hes bet t er in t he air, hes got t wo
feet and hes quicker. Messi has somet hing magical about him when t he ball t ouches his feet .
It s as if it s landed on a bed of feat hers. His low sense of gravit y is devast at ing.
Schmeichel t hought Ronaldo could play in a bad t eam while Messi could not . That was a fair
point . But Messi would st ill produce great moment s wit h t he ball on his t oes. Pet ers point was
t hat Messi depended on Xavi and Iniest a direct ing t he ball t o him. Ronaldo is much t he same in
t he sense t hat you need t o keep feeding him. In all t he t imes Im asked I find it impossible t o
definit ely say which is t he bet t er player because t o relegat e eit her t o second place would feel
Almost as import ant t o me as his brilliant displays in our colours was t hat we st ayed close
aft er he left for Madrid. Our bond survived our part ing: a happy out come in a game of t ransit ory
relat ionships.
ROY Keane was a player of energy, of gut s and blood, wit h a fine inst inct for t he game and it s
st rat egies. He was t he most influent ial presence in t he dressing room in t he t ime we worked
t oget her. Roy t ook a lot of t he onus off me in making sure t he dressing room was operat ing at
a high level of mot ivat ion. A manager could never be dismissive of t hat kind of help from a
But by t he t ime Roy left Unit ed in November 2005, our relat ionship had broken down. I have
st rong views about t he sequence of event s t hat led t o him joining Celt ic. But first , I should set
out why he was such an immense driving force for our club.
If Roy Keane t hought you werent pulling your weight he would be right on t op of you,
st raight away. Many players faced his wrat h for commit t ing t hat crime and t here would be no
place t o hide from him. I never felt t hat was a bad aspect of his charact er. In all my t ime, t he
st rong personalit ies have helped shape t he t eams act ions. Bryan Robson, St eve Bruce, Eric
Cant ona: t hose players enforced t he will of t he manager and t he club.
In my playing days, managers seldom int errogat ed players in t he adrenaline-drenched
moment s st raight aft er t he mat ch. The init ial finger-point ing t ended t o come from t he players,
oft en in t he bat h. Or t here would be confront at ions while t he wat er was st ill running: You, you
missed t hat chance, you
As a player I was always having a go at t he goalkeepers and defenders for conceding goals.
So I knew t hat if I missed a chance at t he ot her end, I would be receiving it back wit h int erest
from t hose wit h t he less glamorous jobs whom I had crit icised on previous occasions. Those
were t he risks of being out spoken. These days, managers always have t heir say aft er t he
game. If t hey want t o analyse, crit icise or praise, t heres an area of managerial involvement
right aft er t he final whist le where influence can be brought t o bear: 10 t o 15 minut es.
Wit h Roy t here were episodes of great frict ion and drama as he t ried t o impose his will on
t he t eam. On one occasion, as I came int o t he dressing room, Roy and Ruud van Nist elrooy
were at it , hammer and t ongs. They had t o be pulled apart by t he players. At least Van
Nist elrooy had t he courage t o st and up t o Roy, because not everyone did. He was an
int imidat ing, ferocious individual. His mode when angry was t o at t ack, t o lay int o people.
I believe and Carlos Queiroz was at one wit h me on t his t hat Roy Keanes behaviour
pat t ern changed when he realised he was no longer t he Roy Keane of old. Were cert ain of
t hat . Act ing on a convict ion t hat some of his st rengt hs had been st olen from him by injury and
age, we t ried t o change his job descript ion, for his benefit as much as ours.
We t ried t o alt er his role by discouraging him from charging all over t he pit ch and making
forward runs. Every t ime a t eam-mat e received t he ball, Roy would want it off him. That was an
admirable qualit y. The religion at Unit ed was t hat when one of our players had t he ball, we
moved, and all t he ot hers support ed t he play. Roy was at an age where he shouldnt have
been doing t hat , but he could not accept t he new realit y.
I t hink he could see t he t rut h of what we were saying t o him, but t o surrender t o it was t oo
t hreat ening t o his pride. He was a player const ruct ed around his own passions. In t he season
prior t o t he fall-out , he was beginning t o show physical signs of weakness in t erms of get t ing
back t o fulfil his defensive dut ies. He wasnt t he same player but how can you be, aft er hip
operat ions, and cruciat e knee ligament operat ions, and being on t he front line of so many
ferocious bat t les for so long?
The energy Roy expended in games was quit e except ional, but when you ent er your t hirt ies
it s hard t o comprehend where youre going wrong. You cant change t he nat ure t hat has
driven you t o so much success. It became t ransparent t o us t hat we were no longer dealing
wit h t he same Roy Keane.
Our solut ion was t o t ell him t o st ay in t hat same area of cent ral midfield. He could cont rol t he
game from t here. Deep down, I believe, he knew t hat bet t er t han anyone, but he simply could
not bring himself t o abandon his old t alismanic role.
That was t he long-t erm cont ext t o t he confront at ion t hat ended wit h him leaving t he club
and joining Celt ic. He t hought he was Pet er Pan. Nobody is. Ryan Giggs is t he closest you
might come t o t hat myt hical ageless figure, but Ryan never had any serious injuries. Roy had
some bad ones. His hip problem was t he one t hat caused t he biggest det eriorat ion in his
physical prowess.
The first major fract ure in our relat ionship appeared in pre-season, before t he 200506
campaign, on our t rip t o a t raining camp in Port ugal. Carlos Queiroz went out t o set it up
because it had been his idea, and led us t o t he most marvellous facilit y. Vale do Lobo. It was
out of t his world. Training pit ches, a gym and small houses, which were perfect for t he players.
I arrived t here at t he end of my summer holiday in France. All t he st aff and players were
nicely ensconced in t heir villas. But bad news await ed me. Carlos was having a night mare wit h
I asked what t he problem was. Carlos explained t hat Roy considered t he houses at Vale do
Lobo t o be beneat h t he required st andard and was not willing t o st ay in his. According t o
Carlos, Roy had reject ed t he first house because one of t he rooms lacked air condit ioning. The
second t hrew up a similar problem. The t hird, which I saw, was a fant ast ic house. Roy wouldnt
t ake it . He want ed t o st ay in t he next village, Quint a do Lago, wit h his family.
That first night , we organised a barbecue on t he pat io of t he hot el. It was beaut ifully
present ed. Roy approached me and said he needed t o t alk t o me.
Roy, come on, not now. Well t alk in t he morning, I said.
Aft er t raining I pulled him t o one side. What s going on, Roy? I st art ed. Ive looked at t he
houses, t heyre fine.
Roy erupt ed, issuing a long list of complaint s, which included t he air condit ioning. Then he
st art ed on Carlos. Why were we doing t he pre-season here?, and so on. It was all crit icism. It
placed a st rain on his relat ionship wit h us. He became quit e reclusive, I t hought , on t hat t our. I
was disappoint ed. Carlos had worked his socks off t o make t he t rip right for everyone.
When t he visit was over, I resolved t o bring Roy up t o t he office t o at least get him t o say
sorry t o Carlos. He was having none of it .
When we were embroiled in an argument once, Roy said t o me, Youve changed.
I replied, Roy, I will have changed, because t oday is not yest erday. It s a different world were
in now. We have players from t went y different count ries in here. You say Ive changed? I hope I
have. I would never have survived if I hadnt changed.
He said: Youre not t he same man.
We had a real set -t o. A proper argument . I t old him he was out of order. Youre t he capt ain.
You showed no responsibilit y t o t he ot her players. It s not as if we asked you t o live in a hovel.
They were nice houses. Good places.
The bad feeling didnt subside. The det eriorat ion in our relat ionship really st art ed t here.
Then came t he MUTV int erview episode, in which Roy let rip at some of t he younger members
of t he squad for supposedly failing in t heir dut ies. We had a rot a for MUTV int erviews, and on
t his occasion it was Gary Nevilles t urn. On t he Monday aft er we played Middlesbrough, I was
not part icularly int erest ed when a press officer informed me t hat Roy was t aking over t he slot
from Gary. It didnt st rike me as significant .
But apparent ly Roy had been giving t he ot her players t errible st ick about Sat urdays game.
Cut t o 4 p.m. I receive a call at home: You need t o see t his.
In t he int erview Roy described Kieran Richardson as a lazy defender, doubt ed why people
in Scot land rave about Darren Flet cher and said of Rio Ferdinand, Just because you are paid a
hundred and t went y t housand pounds a week and play well for t went y minut es against
Tot t enham, you t hink you are a superst ar.
The press office had phoned David Gill right away. It was st opped pending a decision from
me on what we ought t o do wit h t he t ape. OK, get t he video t o my office t omorrow morning
and Ill have a look at it , I said.
Jesus. It was unbelievable. He slaught ered everyone. Darren Flet cher got it . Alan Smit h. Van
der Sar. Roy was t aking t hem all down.
There was no game t hat week and I was due t o go t o Dubai t o visit our soccer school. That
morning Gary Neville called me from t he players dressing room and asked me t o come in. Down
I went , expect ing Roy t o have apologised. I t ook my seat . Gary prompt ly announced t hat t he
players were not happy wit h t he t raining. I couldnt believe my ears. You what ? I said. Roy had
a major influence on t he dressing room and I believe t hat he had used t hat influence t o t ry and
t urn t he sit uat ion. List en, Carlos Queiroz was a great coach, a great t rainer. Yes, he could be
repet it ive wit h some exercises, but t hat s what makes foot ballers: force of habit .
I let t hem have it . You pulled me down here t o complain about t he t raining? Dont you st art ,
t he pair of you Who are you t alking t o? And I walked out .
Lat er, Roy came up t o see me and I t old him, I know what s happened. Then I st art ed on t he
video. What you did in t hat int erview was a disgrace, a joke. Crit icising your t eam-mat es. And
want ing t hat t o go out .
Roys suggest ion was t hat we should show t he video of t he int erview t o t he players and let
t hem decide. I agreed and t he whole t eam came up t o see it . David Gill was in t he building, but
declined my invit at ion t o t ake a seat for t he show. He t hought it best t o leave it t o me. But
Carlos and all t he st aff joined t he audience.
Roy asked t he players whet her t hey had anyt hing t o say about what t hey had just seen.
Edwin van der Sar said yes. He t old Roy he was out of line crit icising his t eam-mat es. So Roy
at t acked Edwin. Who did he t hink he was, what did Edwin know about Manchest er Unit ed?
Van Nist elrooy, t o his credit , piped up t o support Van der Sar, so Roy rounded on Ruud. Then
he st art ed on Carlos. But he saved t he best for me.
You brought your privat e life int o t he club wit h your argument wit h Magnier, he said.
At t hat point , players st art ed walking out . Scholes, Van Nist elrooy, Fort une.
The hardest part of Roys body is his t ongue. He has t he most savage t ongue you can
imagine. He can debilit at e t he most confident person in t he world in seconds wit h t hat t ongue.
What I not iced about him t hat day as I was arguing wit h him was t hat his eyes st art ed t o
narrow, almost t o wee black beads. It was fright ening t o wat ch. And Im from Glasgow.
Aft er Roy had left , Carlos saw I was quit e upset . Never in his life, he said, had he wit nessed a
scene of t hat nat ure. He called it t he worst imaginable spect acle in t he life of a professional
foot ball club. He needs t o go, Carlos, I said. One hundred per cent , he said. Get rid of him.
I was away unt il t he following Wednesday, but phoned David Gill from Dubai and t old him,
We need t o move Roy out . His response was t hat , from t he account s I had given him, t here
was no choice. He said he would need t o speak t o t he Glazers, who approved t he move. I
agreed wit h David Gill t hat t he club would pay Roys cont ract up and honour his t est imonial. No
one could say we had t reat ed Roy unjust ly.
When I ret urned from t he Middle East , David inst ruct ed me t hat t he Glazers were coming
over on t he Friday, and t hat he had phoned Michael Kennedy t o say we want ed a meet ing wit h
him. We called Michael and Roy int o t he meet ing and set out our decision, wit h all t he det ails.
Roy said publicly lat er t hat he was disappoint ed I didnt end his Manchest er Unit ed career on
my own. But aft er t he original confront at ion, I was finished wit h him. There was no way I
want ed anot her war wit h him or even t o get involved wit h him again.
I walked out t o t he t raining pit ch and t old t he players, and regist ered t he shock on each face.
I always felt t hat my best moment s as a manager were when I made quick decisions based
on irrefut able fact , on convict ion. It was so clear t o me what I had t o do t o st em t his crisis. If I
had prevaricat ed, it would have given Roy more st rengt h in t he dressing room, more
confidence in his own mind t hat he had been right , more t ime t o convince everyone he was
correct in his behaviour. And he was not right . What he did was wrong.
There was so much t o look back on, so much t o process as Roy Keane became an ex-
Manchest er Unit ed player. High on t he list would be t he 2002 World Cup, and Roy flying home
aft er a bust -up wit h Mick McCart hy, t he Republic of Ireland manager.
My brot her Mart in had t aken me for a weeks holiday for my 60t h birt hday. At dinner I didnt
t ake my phone along wit h me, but Mart in had t aken his, and as we left , it rang. It was Michael
Kennedy saying he had been t rying t o cont act me. Michael made it clear t here had been an
erupt ion in Saipan, where t he Republic of Ireland t eam had arrived t o prepare for t he World
Cup. You need t o t alk t o him. Youre t he only man hell list en t o, Michael said. I was baffled. I
couldnt imagine what Michael could have been so dist ressed about . He t old me t he st ory of
Roys confront at ion wit h Mick McCart hy. The number Michael gave me was no good so I
suggest ed Roy should ring me inst ead.
Keanes voice came on t he line. Roy, what on eart h are you t hinking about ? Roy unspooled
all his anger at McCart hy. I said: Calm down. A bit of advice. You cannot afford t o make your
children go t o school every day wit h t his as t he background t o t heir lives. Think of your family. It
will be horrendous. Forget t he World Cup finals. This will be t he biggest st ory all summer.
He knew I was right . I t old him t o get back in t here wit h McCart hy, just t he t wo of t hem, sort
it out and t ell t he manager he would be playing. Roy agreed. But by t he t ime he went back,
Mick had already given a press conference t o explain what had been going on. There was no
way back for Roy.
I defended Roy t o t he hilt because he had come from Manchest er Unit ed, wit h t he high
st andards we had. Going t o a subst andard t raining base, wit h no t raining kit , is a reasonable
issue t o get angry about , and as capt ain he had every reason t o complain. The quest ion in life
is: how far do you t ake a grievance?
As bad as t he condit ions were in Korea, Roy shouldnt have pushed his anger t o such levels.
But t hat was Roy. He was a man of ext remes.
I always prot ect ed my players and Roy was no except ion. It was my job. For t hat reason I
cant apologise for t he t imes I st uck up for t hem when t here were sound reasons t o lurch t he
ot her way. There were t imes when I t hought , Christ , what were you t hinking about ? Cat hy
posed t hat quest ion t o me many t imes. But I couldnt t ake sides against my players. I had t o
find solut ions ot her t han cast igat ing t hem in public. Somet imes I had t o fine or punish t hem, of
course, but I could never let it out of t he dressing room. I would have felt I had bet rayed t he one
const ant principle of my t ime as a manager: t o defend. No, not t o defend, but t o prot ect t hem
from out side judgment s.
In modern foot ball, celebrit y st at us overrides t he managers power. In my day you wouldnt
whisper a word about your manager. You would fear cert ain deat h. In my lat er years, I would
hear const ant ly about players using t heir power against managers, and t he player receiving
t he support of t he public and even t he club. The player will always spill his resent ment s t o
whoever might care t o list en, but t he manager will not do t hat , because he has wider
responsibilit ies.
I t hink Roy realised he was coming t o t he end of his playing career and was st art ing t o t hink
he was t he manager. He was assuming managerial responsibilit ies, and, of course, it s not a
managerial responsibilit y t o go on Manchest er Unit ed t elevision and slaught er your t eam-
mat es.
By st opping it going out , we saved Roy from losing t he respect of everyone in t hat dressing
room. But once t he meet ing in my room developed such a venomous t one, t hat was t he end of
The one t hing I could never allow was loss of cont rol, because cont rol was my only saviour.
As wit h David Beckham, I knew t he minut e a foot ball player st art ed t rying t o run t he club, we
would all be finished. The real players like t hat . They like a manager whos t ough. Or can be
t ough.
They like t he manager t o be a man. Theres a reward. The player will be t hinking: 1. Can he
make us winners? 2. Can he make me a bet t er foot baller? 3. Is he loyal t o us? These are vit al
considerat ions, from t he players side. If t he answer t o all t hree is yes, t hey will t olerat e
murders. I had some t errible mood-st orms aft er games and was never proud of my out burst s.
Some night s I would go home assailed by fear of t he consequences. Maybe t he players
wouldnt be t alking t o me next t ime I ent ered t he t raining ground. Perhaps t hey would be
raging or conspiring against me. But on Mondays, t hey would be more t errified of me t han I was
of t hem, because t hey had seen me lose my t emper and were not keen t o see it happen again.
Roys an int elligent guy. I saw him reading some int erest ing books. Hes a good
conversat ionalist and good company when hes in t he right mood. The physio would come in
and ask, What sort of mood is Roy in t oday? because t hat would det ermine t he whole mood
of t he dressing room. That s how influent ial he was in our daily lives.
Wit h his cont radict ions and mood swings he could be wonderful one minut e and
ant agonist ic t he next . The swit ch would flick in a moment .
In one deep sense, him leaving was t he best t hing t hat could have happened, because a lot
of t he players were int imidat ed by him in t he dressing room, and t hose players emerged well
from his depart ure. John OShea and Darren Flet cher were cert ainly beneficiaries. When we
went t o France t o pay Lille in Paris in November 2005, t he players were booed on t he pit ch in
t he warm-up, part ly as a consequence of what Roy had said in t he MUTV int erview. Flet cher
and OShea t ook most of t he heckling.
I t hink t he dressing room relaxed when Roy left . Relief swept t he room. They no longer had
t o list en t o t he barrage t hat some of t hem had grown t o expect . Because hed been a declining
force, t he gap he left was not as big as it would have been t hree years previously. I wat ched
him in a Celt ic v. Rangers game and said t o Carlos beforehand, Hell be t he st ar man t oday.
Roy was never in t he game. He played a passive role. The dynamic, fist -clenching,
demanding Roy Keane wasnt t here. He loved it at Celt ic Park. I spoke t o him about it and he
praised t he t raining, t he facilit ies, t he Prozone. Things did set t le down bet ween us. About t wo
mont hs lat er I was sit t ing in my office discussing t eam business wit h Carlos, when a member of
st aff called t o say t hat Roy was here t o see me. I was st art led.
I just want t o apologise t o you for my behaviour, he said. That s when he began describing
t he scene at Celt ic and t elling me how well his work was going. But when I saw him in t hat
RangersCelt ic game I knew he wouldnt carry on wit h it .
Changes were already in mot ion before Roy left , but t hey werent yet apparent . There is one
abiding t rut h about Manchest er Unit ed: we are always capable of producing new players, fresh
names, and we had t hem on t ap again as Roy was heading out . Flet cher was acquiring
mat urit y and experience; I brought Ji-Sung Park t o t he club; Jonny Evans was breaking
t hrough.
Oft en first -t eam players cant recognise t he regenerat ion going on around t hem because
t hey cant see beyond t hemselves. They have no clue what s going on furt her down t he scale.
Giggs, Scholes and Neville were except ions. Maybe Rio and Wes Brown. Ot hers would have no
idea. They see t heir job as playing. But I could see foundat ions developing. That wasnt a great
period for us in t erms of t rophies. Yet when youre managing change, you have t o accept t he
quiet er spells and acknowledge t hat t ransformat ions t ake longer t han a year.
I could never ask for t hree or four years t o achieve change, because at Manchest er Unit ed
you would never have t hat t ime, so you t ry t o expedit e it , and be bold somet imes: play young
players, t est t hem. I was never afraid of t hat . It was never just a dut y, but a part of t he job I
loved. It s who I am. I did it at St Mirren and Aberdeen and Manchest er Unit ed. So, when we
faced t hose periods, we always put our t rust in younger players.
In t erms of recruit ment t arget s, Carlos fancied Anderson st rongly. In one day, David Gill
t ravelled t o Sport ing Lisbon t o sign Nani and t hen drove up t he mot orway t o buy Anderson
from Port o. They cost a bit of money, but it showed what we t hought , as a club, about young
t alent . We had a good defensive nucleus of Ferdinand, Vidi and Evra. We were a solid unit at
t he back. Rooney was developing. We let Louis Saha go because he was always picking up
injuries. We had Henrik Larsson for a while, and he was a revelat ion.
Aft er an init ial rapprochement , relat ions wit h Roy soured again. I saw a remark he had made
in t he newspapers t o t he effect t hat he had washed Man Unit ed out of his life. His claim was
t hat we would all have forgot t en him by t hen. How could anyone forget what he did for t he
club? The press used t o see him as a quasi-manager, because of his winning appet it e, and t he
way he drove t he t eam on. They would ask me all t he t ime: Do you t hink Roy Keane will be a
manager? As his career in coaching developed, it became apparent t hat he needed t o spend
money t o achieve result s. He was always looking t o buy players. I didnt feel Roy had t he
pat ience t o build a t eam.
In t he 201112 season, we crossed swords again when Roy was highly crit ical of our young
players aft er t he defeat in Basel, which knocked us out of t he Champions League, and I
responded by referring t o him as a TV crit ic. If you st udied his final days at Sunderland and
Ipswich, his beard would get whit er and his eyes blacker. Some might be impressed wit h his
opinions on TV and t hink: Well, hes got t he balls t o t ake on Alex Ferguson. From t he minut e
he became a TV crit ic, I knew he would focus on Unit ed.
As for blaming t he young players? He wouldnt have aimed t hat accusat ion at Wayne
Rooney, who wouldnt have st ood for it . The senior players would sort him out . Flet cher and
OShea are t he t wo he picked on, and t hey were booed as a result by our fans when we played
Lille in Paris. His t wo spells in management proved one t hing: he needs money. He spent at
Sunderland and failed. He spent a lot at Ipswich and came up short .
He gave an int erview t o David Walsh of t he Sunday Times saying I only looked aft er myself,
and used t he John Magnier/Rock of Gibralt ar sit uat ion as an example. Unbelievable. That day
in my office, when we clashed, I saw t he anger in him. His eyes blackened. He went on about
John Magnier t hat day as well. I never underst ood his obsession wit h t he Rock of Gibralt ar
In t he arrangement we reached on t hat moment ous Friday, it was agreed t hat no one would
ever t alk about our fall-out . I would have honoured t hat agreement , but for t he fact t hat Roy
breached it first . When Roy was at Sunderland he accused Unit ed of insult ing him and lying t o
him in t he build-up t o his depart ure. The club considered legal act ion against him. Roy said he
would not ret ract t he accusat ion. My feeling was t hat he was looking for a day in court t o
impress t he fans. He was st ill a hero t o t hem, aft er all. So my advice t o David Gill was t o pull t he
legal act ion. I feel we preserved our dignit y.
TH E foot ball-wat ching public probably saw me as an obsessive who seldom looked beyond
Manchest er Unit ed for ent ert ainment . But as t he demands of t he job int ensified, I found refuge
in numerous int erest s and hobbies t hat kept my mind st ret ched, my book shelves packed and
my cellar st ocked wit h good wines.
Apart from my love of horse racing, t his ot her life st ayed hidden from view. It was t he world I
ret urned t o when t he day had run it s course at Carringt on, our t raining ground, or when t he
mat ch had been played, comment ed upon and filed away. Over t he final t en years or so, I
eased myself int o a range of ot her int erest s t hat helped me manage Unit ed more effect ively. I
worked just as hard but used t he muscles of t he mind in a more varied way. Home was a base
for all my fascinat ions, from biographies of t he dict at ors t o document s on t he John F. Kennedy
assassinat ion and files on my wine collect ion.
My polit ical convict ions have remained largely unchanged from my t ime as a shop st eward in
t he shipyards of Govan. Peoples opinions change over t ime wit h success and wealt h, but in
my yout h I acquired not so much a range of ideological views as a way of seeing life; a set of
Ive never been act ive in t he sense of becoming a Labour Part y animal who at t ended every
dinner and popped up in every elect ion campaign. But I always support ed local Labour MPs.
Cat hy would say t hat t he minut e you ext end yourself int o polit ics, t hey will want you every
t ime. An expect at ion will develop t hat youre always ready and willing t o give your t ime. Being a
believer in t he Labour Part y and socialist principles is one t hing, but becoming an act ive
member was anot her. I just didnt have t he t ime as Man Unit ed manager t o accommodat e
t hose demands. I would put my cross on t he ballot paper and support t hem in a visual way.
You wouldnt see me sit t ing beside David Cameron, would you? You would see me alongside a
Labour MP. That would be my impact .
Ive always been on t he left of t he part y, which explains my high opinion of Gordon Browns
work. John Smit hs, t oo. The lat e John Smit h would have been a fine Labour prime minist er. I
felt sorry for Neil Kinnock: a good guy wit h bad luck. I would have loved t o see him in Downing
St reet . He had t hat fiery nat ure. I was closer t o Brown in principle but accept t hat Blairs more
populist way was t he rout e t o get elect ed. He was correct in his posit ioning. Plus, he had
charisma t o go wit h it and was popular for a long t ime unt il t he invasion of Iraq undermined t he
publics view of him.
My friendship wit h Alast air Campbell developed t hrough t hat great man, vet eran Scot t ish
foot ball report er and confidant of several Labour prime minist ers, Jim Rodger. He called and
asked me t o do a piece wit h Alast air, who was wit h t he Mirror at t he t ime. Alast air and I got on
well and he would send me wee let t ers and so on. He was a good net worker. Then he became
Tonys press secret ary and we became good friends t hrough his role in t he Labour Part y. I had
dinner wit h Alast air, Tony and Cherie in t he Midland Hot el in Manchest er t he week before t he
1997 elect ion. I t old Tony, If you can keep your government in one room and lock t he door
youll have no problems. The problem wit h government is t hat t hey all fly off on t heir own, t hey
have t heir own allies, t heir own journalist ic cont act s. Cont rolling t he cabinet is going t o be t he
hard part .
Tony was recept ive t o t hat message. In any posit ion of power t here is fragilit y. If youre
leading t he count ry t here is vast responsibilit y and a cert ain loneliness t hat I could relat e t o. I
would sit in my office in t he aft ernoon, wit h my work complet e, want ing company. There is a
vacuum at t ached t o t he job t hat people dont want t o break int o. Tony was a young man
going int o t hat posit ion.
In his memoirs he wrot e t hat he had asked my opinion on sacking Gordon Brown when he
was prime minist er and Gordon was next door in No. 11. My recollect ion is t hat Tony wasnt
specific about Gordon. His quest ion was about superst ars and how I dealt wit h t hem. My
answer was: The most import ant t hing in my job is cont rol. The minut e t hey t hreat en your
cont rol, you have t o get rid of t hem. He did say he was having problems wit h Gordon but didnt
ask me specifically what I t hought he should do. I kept my advice general because I didnt want
t o get int o personalit y issues.
Ive always found t hat you have t o t ake t he hard road all t he t ime, whet her it s popular or
not . If you have a worry about one of your st aff, t hat t ells you st raight away t here is a problem.
It never made sense t o me t o go t o bed every night worrying when you could do somet hing t o
cut t he problem away.
Power is useful if you want t o use it , but I dont t hink it resonat es wit h foot ballers, who are
most ly working-class men. But cont rol was my aim. I could use my power if I wished, and I did,
but when you reach t he st at ion I at t ained at Unit ed, power came wit h it nat urally. The big
decisions you make in t hose jobs are usually seen by out siders as exercises in power, when
cont rol is really what it s about .
Labour polit ics and t he great vineyards aside, America was t he source of my main
int ellect ual int erest s. JFK, t he Civil War, Vince Lombardi and t he great American ball games:
t hese were among my escapes from t he pressures of foot ball. New York was my ent ry point t o
American cult ure. We bought an apart ment t here, which all t he family used, and Manhat t an
became t he ideal venue for short breaks when t he int ernat ional calendar t ook t he players
away from Carringt on.
The St at es always int rigued and inspired me. I fed off Americas energy and vast ness, it s
variet y. My first t rip t here was in 1983, when Aberdeen won t he European Cup Winners Cup. I
t ook t he family t o Florida, for a rout ine kind of holiday. By t hen, t hough, America and it s hist ory
had already ent ered my blood. The killing of John Kennedy in Dallas in 1963 left it s mark on me
from t he day I heard t he news. Over t ime I developed a forensic int erest in how he was killed,
by whom, and why.
I remember t he day t hat shook t he world. It was a Friday night and I was shaving in t he
mirror, at t he bat hroom sink, before going t o t he dancing wit h my mat es. My dad, who was a bit
deaf, called out : Is t hat right t hat John Kennedy has been shot ?
Dad, youre deaf. Youre imagining it , I called back, and dried myself off, t hinking not hing of it .
Half an hour lat er t he news flashed up. He had been t aken t o Parklands Hospit al.
I always remember, at t he dancing, at t he Flamingo, near Govan, hearing t he song t hat went
t o No. 1: Would You Like t o Swing on A St ar? The at mosphere was mut ed. Inst ead of dancing
we sat upst airs and t alked about t he murder.
For a young lad like me, Kennedy capt ured t he imaginat ion. He was a good-looking boy and
t here was a cert ain spark about him. It resonat ed t hat someone as fresh and dynamic as him
could become president . Though he st ayed in my consciousness, as a defining figure, my
int erest in t he assassinat ion developed along an unexpect ed rout e when I was invit ed t o
speak at a dinner in St oke by Brian Cart mel.
St anley Mat t hews and St an Mort ensen were bot h present , along wit h Jimmy Armfield, and I
remember t hinking: What am I doing here, wit h all t hese great players? Surely t heyd prefer t o
list en t o St anley Mat t hews rat her t han me?
But during t he dinner, Brian asked me, What are your hobbies?
I dont have t ime for hobbies, I said. I was obsessed wit h Unit ed. I have a snooker t able in
t he house, I like a round of golf and I like wat ching movies at home.
He pulled out a card. My son has a firm in London, he get s all t he early releases. Any t ime
you want a film, give him a call.
The previous night I had been t o t he pict ures in Wilmslow t o see JFK. Are you int erest ed in
t hat ? asked Brian. By t hen I had assembled several books on t he shoot ing. I was in t he
fift eent h car in t he mot orcade, Brian said. There we were in The Pot t eries and t his guy was
t elling me he had been in t he JFK mot orcade.
I was a Daily Express journalist . I emigrat ed t o San Francisco and worked for Time
magazine, he said. I applied t o t he Kennedy administ rat ion in 1958 t o work on t he elect ion.
Brian had been on t he plane when Johnson was sworn in as president .
That personal connect ion drew me deeper in. I st art ed going t o auct ions. A lad from America
who had read about my int erest in t he subject sent me t he aut opsy report . I kept a couple of
phot ographs at t he t raining ground one I bought in an auct ion, and anot her t hat was given
t o me. I also bought t he Warren Commission report signed by Gerald Ford at auct ion. That cost
me $3,000.
When Cat hy and I went back t o t he St at es in 1991 for our wedding anniversary we t ravelled
t o Chicago, San Francisco, Hawaii, Las Vegas and on t o friends in Texas, wit h New York at t he
finish. We went most years aft er t hat . My book collect ing gat hered pace. The definit ive
biography of John Kennedy is probably Robert Dalleks An Unfinished Life, John F. Kennedy
19171963. That s an except ional book. Dallek had access t o Kennedys medical files and
showed t hat he was a walking miracle, wit h Addisons disease and liver problems.
In t he t hree years of his presidency, plent y of bat t les came his way, wit h t he failed Bay of
Pigs invasion, for which he t ook t he blame, as well as segregat ion, t he Cold War, Viet nam and
t he Cuban missile crisis. Medicare was anot her rumbling issue, as it is t oday. It was some
workload. Heres an aside t hat cast s light on t he import ance of t he worlds favourit e game.
Lat er, in 1969, do you know how t he CIA realised t he Soviet s were at work in Cuba? Foot ball
pit ches. Aerial shot s of foot ball pit ches laid out by Soviet workers. The Cubans didnt play
foot ball. Henry Kissinger was European in t emperament and underst ood t hat .
My reading on t he Kennedys brought me int o cont act wit h some wonderful lit erat ure: David
Halberst ams The Best and the Brightest st ands out . It concent rat es on t he reasons for going
int o Viet nam, and t he lies t he Kennedy brot hers were t old. Even Robert McNamara, US
Secret ary of Defense and a friend of t he family, was misleading t hem. He apologised, in
ret irement , t o t he Kennedy family
On our summer t our of America in 2010, I visit ed Get t ysburg and went t o lunch at Princet on
Universit y wit h James M. McPherson, t he great Civil War hist orian who wrot e Battle Cry of
Freedom. I was also shown round t he Whit e House. My fascinat ion wit h t he Civil War st art ed
when somebody gave me a book about t he generals in t hat conflict . Bot h sides had dozens.
Teachers were made generals. Gordon Brown asked me one day what I was reading about .
The Civil War, I said. Gordon said he would send me some t apes. Soon I was t aking delivery of
35 recordings of lect ures by Gary Gallagher, who went on t o work wit h James McPherson on
t he role of t he navy in t he war, a largely unt old st ory.
Then along came horse racing, anot her great passion, anot her out let . Mart in Edwards, t he
former chairman, had called me one day t o say, You should t ake a day off.
Im all right , I replied.
But I was at t he st age where Cat hy was saying, Youre going t o kill yourself. At home, aft er
work, I would be on t he phone unt il 9 oclock at night and t hinking about foot ball every minut e.
I bought my first horse in 1996. On our 30t h anniversary we went t o Chelt enham, where I
first met t hat fant ast ic man, John Mulhern, t he Irish t rainer, for lunch. That night I joined t hem in
London for dinner. Inevit ably I found myself saying t o Cat hy in t he aft ermat h, Do you fancy
buying a horse? I t hink it ll be a release for me.
Where did you get t hat one from? she said. Alex t he problem wit h you is t hat youll want
t o buy every bloody horse.
But it did open t his release valve for me. Inst ead of st agnat ing in my office or burning t ime in
endless t elephone conversat ions, I could swit ch my t hought s t o t he Turf. It was a welcome
dist ract ion from t he gruelling business of foot ball and t hat s why I t hrew myself int o it , t o
enable me t o escape t he obsession wit h my job. Winning t wo Grade 1 races wit h What A
Friend has been a highlight . The Lexus Chase and t he Aint ree Bowl. The day before t he
Aint ree race, we had been beat en by Bayern Munich in t he Champions League. One minut e my
head was on t he floor. The next day I was winning a Grade 1 race at Liverpool.
My first horse, Queensland St ar, was named aft er a ship my dad worked on and helped t o
build. Trainers have t old me of owners whove never had a winner. Ive had 60 or 70 and I now
have shares in around 30 horses. Im very keen on t he Highclere Syndicat e: Harry Herbert , who
runs it , is a great personalit y and a fine salesman. You know exact ly what s happening wit h t he
horses, wit h informat ion every day.
Rock of Gibralt ar was a wonderful horse; he became t he first in t he nort hern hemisphere t o
win seven consecut ive Group 1 races, beat ing Mill Reefs record. He ran in my colours under an
agreement I had wit h t he Coolmore racing operat ion in Ireland. My underst anding was t hat I
had a half share in t he ownership of t he horse; t heirs was t hat I would be ent it led t o half t he
prize money. But it was resolved. The mat t er was closed when we reached a set t lement
agreeing t hat t here had been a misunderst anding on bot h sides.
Obviously t here was a pot ent ial clash bet ween my racing int erest s and t he ownership of t he
club, and when a man st ood up at t he AGM and insist ed I resign t here was awkwardness for
me. I have t o say t hat at no point was I sidet racked from my dut ies as manager of Manchest er
Unit ed. I have an excellent family lawyer in Les Dalgarno and he managed t he process on my
behalf. It didnt affect my love of racing and I am on good t erms now wit h John Magnier, t he
leading figure at Coolmore.
Racing t aught me t o swit ch off, along wit h reading books and buying wine. That side of my
life developed really from 1997, when I hit t hat wall and realised I needed t o do somet hing else
t o divert my t hought s from foot ball. Learning about wine also helped in t hat respect . I st art ed
buying wit h Frank Cohen, a big collect or of cont emporary art and a neighbour of mine. When
Frank went abroad for a while, I st art ed buying on my own.
I could never call myself an expert but Im not bad. I know t he good years and t he good
wines. I can t ast e a wine and recognise some of it s propert ies.
My st udies t ook me t o Bordeaux and t he champagne region, but generally it was t hrough
reading t hat I ext ended my knowledge, and t hrough conversat ions wit h dealers and expert s
over lunch or dinner. It was excit ing. I had dinner wit h wine writ er and TV present er Oz Clarke
and t he wine merchant John Armit . Corney & Barrow wine bars put on great lunches. These
men would hold conversat ions about grapes and years t hat I couldnt hope t o follow, but I was
always ent hralled. I perhaps ought t o have learned more about t he grapes. That was t he
essence of it all. But soon I was developing a working knowledge.
In t he aut umn of 2010 I was asked about ret irement , and found myself saying, inst inct ively:
Ret irement s for young people, because t hey have ot her t hings t hey can do. At 70 years of
age, wit h idleness, t he syst em breaks down quickly. You have t o have somet hing in place
when you ret ire. Right away, t he next day, not aft er a t hree-mont h holiday.
When youre young, t he 14-hour days are necessary, because you have t o est ablish
yourself, and t he only way t o do t hat is by working your balls off. By t hose means, you est ablish
a work et hic for yourself. If you have family, it s passed on t o t hem. My mot her and fat her
conveyed t he fruit s of t heir labour t o me and I have done so wit h my own children and beyond.
Wit h yout h you have t he capacit y t o est ablish all t he st abilit y of lat er life. Wit h age you have t o
manage your energy. Keep fit . People should keep fit . Eat t he right foods. I was never a great
sleeper, but I could get my five t o six hours, which was adequat e for me. Some people wake up
and lie in bed. I could never do t hat . I wake and jump up. Im ready t o go somewhere. I dont lie
t here whiling my t ime away.
Youve had your sleep t hat s why you woke up. I would be up at six, maybe quart er past
six, and be in t he t raining ground for seven. I was only a quart er of an hour away. That was my
habit . The rout ine never changed.
I came out of a wart ime generat ion t hat said: youre born, t hat s you. You were safe. You had
t he library and t he swimming bat hs and foot ball. Your parent s worked all t he t ime, so eit her
your granny looked in t o make sure you were all right , or you reached an age where you looked
aft er yourself. Your basic pat t ern was laid down t hat way. My mot her used t o say, That s t he
mince, t hat s t he t at t ies, all you need t o do is put it on at half past four. It would all be ready t o
cook. You would light t he fire for t hem coming in from work. My dad would get in about quart er
t o six wit h t he t able all set t hat was your dut y and you would t ake t he ashes down t o t he
midden. Those were t he chores when you came in from school, and we did our homework lat er,
my brot her and I, at seven oclock at night .
It was a simple regime, born of a lack of modern amenit ies.
Now we have more fragile human beings. Theyve never been in t he shipyards, never been in
a pit ; few have seen manual labour. We have a generat ion of fat hers, my own sons included,
who do bet t er for t heir children t han I did for t hem.
They at t end more family event s t han I did. Picnics, wit h t he kids. I never organised a picnic in
my life. I would say, Go and play, boys. There was a school ground beside our house in
Aberdeen and t he lads would be out t here wit h t heir pals every day. We didnt have a video
recorder unt il 1980. It was grainy, t errible. Progress brings CDs and DVDs and grandsons who
can pull up t heir fant asy foot ball t eam on your home comput er.
I didnt do enough wit h my boys. Cat hy did it , my wife did it , because she was a great mot her.
She would say, When t hey get t o sixt een, t heyll be daddys boys, which was t rue. As t hey
grew older t hey were very close, and t he t hree brot hers were very close, which pleased me
great ly, and Cat hy would say: I t old you.
But you produced t hem, I would t ell her. If I ever said a bad word about you t o t hose t hree
boys, t hey would kill me. Youre st ill t he boss.
Theres no secret t o success in t his world. The key is graft . Malcolm Gladwells book,
Outliers: The Story of Success, could just have been called Graft . Hard Graft . The examples
t here run all t he way back t o Carnegie and Rockefeller. There is a st ory about Rockefeller I
love. The family were big churchgoers. One day his son said t o him, as t he cont ribut ions t ray
was coming round, and each worshipper was donat ing a dollar: Dad, wouldnt it be bet t er if we
gave t hem fift y dollars for t he whole year?
Yes, says t he fat her, but wed lose t hree dollars, son. Int erest .
He also t aught his but ler how t o make a fire t hat would last an hour longer, how t o const ruct
it t hat way. And he was a billionaire.
Rockefellers hard work inst illed a frugal nat ure in him. He didnt wast e. There is a t ouch of
t hat in me. Even t oday, if my grandchildren leave somet hing on t he plat e, I t ake it . I was t he
same wit h my t hree sons. Dont leave anyt hing on your plat e, was a mant ra. Now, if I went
near Mark, Jason or Darrens food, t hey would cut my hand off!
You cannot beat hard work.
Of course, graft and st ress place an invisible st rain on t he body. So does age. From
somewhere in t hat mix I developed heart t rouble. In t he gymnasium one morning, wit h t he belt
on, I saw my heart rat e soar from 90 t o 160. Summoning t he weight t rainer, Mike Clegg, I
complained: There must be somet hing wrong wit h t he belt .
We t ried anot her. Same numbers. You need t o see t he doc, Mike said. That s not right .
The doct or referred me t o Derek Rowlands, who had looked aft er Graeme Souness. It was
fibrillat ion. His advice was t o t ry elect ric shock t reat ment t o cont rol t he heart rat e. Seven days
lat er it was back t o normal. In our next game, however, we lost , and my heart rat e shot back up.
I blame our players. A vict ory might have kept me inside normal paramet ers. The t reat ment had
come wit h a 5060 per cent success rat e, but now I knew more act ion was required. The
advice was t o have a pacemaker fit t ed and t ake an aspirin every day.
The insert ion in April 2002 t ook half an hour. I wat ched it on a screen. Ill always remember
t he blood spurt ing up. The device was changed in t he aut umn of 2010. They last eight years.
That t ime I slept right t hrough t he changeover. Throughout t hese consult at ions, I was t old I
could st ill do what I liked in life: exercise, work, drink my wine.
The init ial episode did unset t le me, I admit . The previous year I had t aken a healt h check and
ret urned a heart rat e of 48. Albert Morgan, our kit man, had said, I always t hought you hadnt
got a heart . My fit ness was excellent . Yet 12 mont hs lat er, t here I was in need of a pacemaker.
What it t old me was t hat get t ing older comes wit h penalt ies. We are all suscept ible. You t hink
you are indest ruct ible. I did. You know lifes door will slam in your face one day, but consider
yourself unbreakable up t o t hat day. All of a sudden, Gods drawing t he reins in on you.
In my younger days I would be up and down t hat t ouchline, kicking every ball, immersing
myself in every nuance of t he game. I mellowed wit h age. By t he end I was t ending t o observe
event s more t han get t ing caught up in t he drama, t hough some games st ill had t he power t o
suck me in. From t ime t o t ime I would offer a reminder t hat I was st ill alive. That message would
go t o referees, my players, opponent s.
On healt h generally I would say: if you get t he warning, heed it . List en t o your doct ors. Get
t he check-ups. Pay at t ent ion t o your weight and what youre eat ing.
Im glad t o say t hat t he simple act of reading is a marvellous release from t he hassles of work
and life. If I were t o t ake a guest int o my library, t hey would see books on president s, prime
minist ers, Nelson Mandela, Rockefeller, t he art of orat ory, Nixon and Kissinger, Brown, Blair,
Mount bat t en, Churchill, Clint on, Sout h Africa and Scot t ish hist ory. Gordon Browns book on t he
Scot t ish socialist polit ician James Maxt on is in t here. Then t here would be all t he volumes on
Then I have my despot s sect ion. What int erest ed me here were t he ext remes t o which
humanit y will go. Young Stalin, Simon Sebag Mont efiore; t he dict at ors St alin and Hit ler, and
Lenin; World War II: Behind Closed Doors by Laurence Rees; Stalingrad and Berlin: The
Downfall 1945 by Ant ony Beevor.
On a light er not e I can pull out Edmund Hillary and David Niven. Then it s back t o t he dark
side wit h crime: t he Krays and t he American Mafia.
I was so immersed in sport in my working life t hat I t ended not t o read many books about
sport . But t here are a few t ouchst ones on t he shelves. Reading When Pride Still Mattered, t he
David Maraniss biography of Vince Lombardi, t he great Green Bay Packers coach, I was
t hinking: That s me hes writ ing about , Im just like Lombardi. The obsession. I could ident ify
closely wit h one of Lombardis great est sayings: We didnt lose t he game, we just ran out of
t ime.
I WAS at home on a snowy January night in 2010 when my phone beeped wit h a t ext message. I
dont know whet her you remember me, it st art ed, but I need t o call you. Ruud van Nist elrooy.
Christ , what was t his? I said t o Cat hy, He left four years ago. Cat hys reply: What s he
want ing? Maybe hed like t o come back t o Unit ed.
No, dont be silly, I t old her.
I had no idea what it might be. But I t ext ed him back: OK. So he rang. First , t he small t alk. Had
some injuries, fit now, not get t ing a game, blah blah. Then he came out wit h it . I want t o
apologise for my behaviour in my last year at Unit ed.
I like people who can apologise. Ive always admired t hat . In t he modern cult ure of self-
absorpt ion, people forget t here is such a word as sorry. Foot ballers are cocooned by t he
manager and t he club, t he media, agent s, or pals who just t ell t hen how flipping good t hey are.
It s refreshing t o find one who can pick up a phone much lat er and say, I was wrong, and Im
Ruud offered no explanat ion. Perhaps I should have t aken t hat chance t o say, Why did it go
t hat way?
Mulling over Ruuds call t o me, t hat wint er night , I knew t hat t wo or t hree Premier League
clubs were looking at him, but couldnt see t hat being a reason for him want ing t o speak t o me.
There would have been no need for him t o repair his relat ionship wit h Manchest er Unit ed in
order for him t o play for anot her club in England. Perhaps it was a guilt complex. It might have
been playing on his mind for ages. Ruud was doubt less a more mat ure person by t hat st age.
The first sign of t rouble in our relat ionship had been t hat Ruud had st art ed t o mout h off all
t he t ime t o Carlos Queiroz about Ronaldo. There were a few st and-up confront at ions, but
not hing unmanageable. Then Ruud swit ched his fire t o Gary Neville. Gary was ready for t hat
and won t he bat t le. David Bellion was anot her who seemed t o arouse anger in Ruud. There
were quit e a few alt ercat ions all t he way t hrough his final season wit h us, but it was mainly
Van Nist elrooy on Ronaldo.
At t he end of t he previous season, 200405, we had reached t he final of t he FA Cup,
against Arsenal. Van Nist elrooy had a horrible game. The previous Wednesday his agent ,
Rodger Linse, had sought out David Gill and asked for a move. Ruud want s t o leave.
David point ed out t hat we had a Cup final on t he Sat urday, and t hat perhaps t his wasnt t he
best moment for our main cent re-forward t o ask t o leave. David asked why he want ed t o go.
Rodger Linses reply was t hat Van Nist elrooy t hought t he t eam had st agnat ed and didnt
believe we could win t he Champions League. His view was t hat we couldnt win t he European
Cup wit h young players t he likes of Rooney and Ronaldo.
Aft er t he Cup final, David called Rodger and asked him t o get Ruud in for a meet ing wit h me.
Our posit ion was st rong because Real Madrid were not going t o pay 35 million for him. That
was obvious. And it was t he reason, I believe, why Ruud was asking t o leave. Had Real Madrid
been willing t o come up wit h 35 million, t here would have been no need for him t o push for a
move. He was hoping t o bargain wit h t he club t o find a fee Unit ed would find accept able. Silly
So we had our meet ing. His st ance was t hat he wasnt prepared t o wait for Ronaldo and
Rooney t o mat ure. But t heyre great players, I t old him. You should be leading t hese young
players. Helping t hem. Ruud st ill said he didnt want t o wait .
Look, were going t o sign players in t he summer t o bring us back t o our usual level, I said.
We dont like losing finals, we dont like losing t he League. When you build t eams you have t o
be pat ient . Not just me, but t he players, t oo. This is going t o be a good t eam. He accept ed my
argument and we shook hands.
In t hat season we had signed Vidi and Evra in t he January t ransfer window. Indirect ly, t hose
t wo acquisit ions were t o ignit e t he biggest flashpoint in all t he t ime Ruud was wit h us. In t he
Carling Cup I had been playing Louis Saha all t he way t hrough. When we reached t he final I
said t o Ruud, Look, it s not fair if I dont play Saha. I know you like t o play in finals. Hopefully I
can get you a bit of t he game. I did say t hat , no doubt about it .
We were on cruise cont rol against Wigan and I saw an ideal opport unit y t o give Evra and
Vidi a t ast e of t he game. They were my final subst it ut ions. I t urned t o Ruud and said: Im
going t o give t hese t wo lads a part of t he game. They were going t o get a t ouch, a smell of
winning somet hing wit h Manchest er Unit ed. You , said Van Nist elrooy. Ill always remember
t hat . Could not believe it . Carlos Queiroz t urned on him. It became fract ious in t he dug-out . The
ot her players were t elling him: Behave yourself.
But t hat was t he end of him. I knew we would never get him back. Hed burned his boat s.
Aft er t hat incident , his behaviour became worse and worse.
In t he final week of t hat campaign we needed t o win t he last game of t he season, against
Charlt on. Wit h Sahas injuries we were walking on eggshells wit h him. However, I didnt feel I
could select Ruud.
Carlos went t o Ruuds room and said, Were not t aking you, go home. The way youve
behaved all week were not having it .
Ronaldo had recent ly lost his fat her. During t hat week, Ruud had t aken a kick at Ronaldo on
t he t raining ground and said: What are you going t o do? Complain t o your daddy? He meant
Carlos, not Crist ianos dad. He probably wasnt t hinking. So t hen Ronaldo was upset , and
want ing t o have a go at Van Nist elrooy, and Carlos was upset by t he insult . Carlos had looked
aft er Ronaldo, as you would expect . Hes a coach wit h Port uguese origins, from t he same
count ry. Here was a young man wit h a dying fat her. If he couldnt ask for help from Carlos, who
could he seek it from?
The whole episode was very sad. Why Ruud changed, I dont know. I cant say for sure
whet her it was his way of get t ing himself out of Old Trafford. It didnt do him any favours or
bring him any credit in t he sense of respect from t he ot her players.
It was a pit y because his numbers were sensat ional. He was one of our clubs great est goal-
scorers. Problems first surfaced aft er his second season, when he was up for a new cont ract , in
accordance wit h his original deal. He asked for a clause t hat would allow him t o leave for Real
Madrid, specifically, in t he event of Real offering a specified sum. A buy-out clause. I pondered
t his one for a long t ime. My feeling was t hat , wit hout t hat concession, Van Nist elrooy would not
have signed his name. Conversely, t o concede t hat ground would give him a cont rolling hand.
We ran t he risk of losing him t he following season.
So t he figure we insert ed was 35 million, which, we t hought , would det er all-comers, even
Real Madrid. They agreed it . To David, I said, If t hey come back next year and pay t hirt y-five
million, at least well know we have doubled our money on him. If t hey dont come, well get t he
t wo years in his cont ract out of him, and he will be t went y-nine by t hat point . Weve had him
four years. Well be able t o move him on. Fine, but t he moment Ruud signed t hat cont ract he
changed. In his last season he became a really difficult boy. I dont t hink he was popular by t he
end. The alt erat ion in him was dramat ic.
My brot her Mart in had seen him play for Heerenveen and said: I really like t his lad, he does
look t he part . Wit h t hat glowing review I needed t o get cracking. We went back t o see him
again but received word he had already signed for PSV a mont h previously. That confused me.
But it seemed a done deal. We kept an eye on him regardless and made our move in 2000.
On a short holiday in Spain, during an int ernat ional break, I received bad news: a message
from our doct or t o say Ruud had failed t he medical. We were sure we had spot t ed cruciat e
ligament damage. PSV disagreed, insist ing t hat all t heir t est s had shown only minor ligament
disrupt ion of t he kind t hat would not prevent him passing t he examinat ion. Mike St one,
however, would not sign it off. So we sent him back t o PSV, who sent him back int o t raining
and filmed it , for our benefit . In t he pract ice session Ruuds knee complet ely went . The foot age
found it s way ont o TV, where you could see him screaming. What should we do?
These days, if you have t he right people looking aft er you, you can be back from t his kind of
injury in a few mont hs, I t old Mart in Edwards.
Van Nist elrooy followed t he t rust ed rout e t o Dr Richard St eadman in Colorado and was out
for almost a year. He ret urned t owards t he t ail end of t hat season and we signed him in 2001,
aft er I had been t o wat ch him against Ajax. His mobilit y was not impaired and his pace had not
diminished. He wasnt t he quickest st riker; he was a galloper who had a quick brain in t he
penalt y box.
Id also been t o see him at his home while he was convalescing and had t old him we would
st ill be t aking him t o Old Trafford, irrespect ive of his injury. That was an import ant message for
him, because I dont t hink he was t he most confident lad at t hat point in his career. He was a
count ry boy.
He was a t ypical old-fashioned It alian-t ype cent re-forward. Forget all t hat running out t o t he
wings and t ackling. Back in t he early 1960s, Juvent us had a cent re-forward called Piet ro
Anast asi, who would cont ribut e lit t le in games before winning t hem wit h sudden goal-scoring
burst s.
That was t he kind of cent re-forward who dominat ed t he game in t hat era. You left t hem t o
do t heir work in t he penalt y box. Van Nist elrooy was from t hat t emplat e. Opport unit ies had t o
be creat ed for him. But he was a flawless finisher who scored some t rue poachers goals.
In fact , he was one of t he most selfish finishers I ever saw. His personal goal t ally was his
guiding obsession. That single-mindedness gave him t he edge of a great assassin. He had no
int erest in build-up play or how many yards he had run in a game, how many sprint s he had
made. The only aspect he was ever int erest ed in was: how many goals did Ruud van Nist elrooy
score. He was superb at t he early hit . He would dart t o t he side of t he defender and deliver
t hat quick, let hal st rike.
If you put my great goal-scorers t oget her (Andy Cole, Eric Cant ona, Van Nist elrooy, Rooney),
Ruud was t he most prolific. But t he best nat ural finisher was Solskjaer. Van Nist elrooy scored
some magnificent goals, but many were scabby, six-yard box goals. Andy Cole scored some
fine goals, t oo, but plent y were close in, scrambled, off t he leg, just -get -it -in goals. Solskjaers
finishing, t hough, could be majest ic. His t hought processes underpinned his skills. He had t hat
analyt ical mind. As soon as he arrived in a shoot ing posit ion, he had it all sized up. He had
ment al pict ures everywhere. Yet he didnt play all t he t ime because he wasnt t he most
aggressive of st rikers. He developed more of t hat lat er, but was a slender young man wit hout
t he physique, in his early days, t o clear a pat h.
In games, sit t ing on t he bench, and in t raining sessions, he would make not es, always. So by
t he t ime he came on he had analysed who t he opponent s were, what posit ions t hey were
assuming. He had t hose images all worked out . The game was laid out for him like a diagram
and he knew where t o go and when.
Ole was a sweet -nat ured boy who was never looking t o be confront at ional wit h me. There
was no risk t o my office door from Ole want ing t o smash it down t o demand a place in t he first
XI. We knew he was cont ent wit h his role, and t hat helped us, because if we had a difficult
decision t o make about t he ot her t hree st rikers, which one t o leave out , t he fourt h was
cont ent t o play a support ing part . So we just had t he t hree grumpy forwards t o deal wit h.
Yorke, Cole and Sheringham.
At first I believed Ruuds range of at t ribut es was wider t han it t urned out t o be. I expect ed t o
see from him more of t he donkey-work t hat Manchest er Unit ed players have t o do. There were
t imes when he did his share, and would apply himself t o it , but he was not inclined t o be t hat
kind of indust rious player. He wasnt endowed wit h great st amina. His t est result s were never
st art ling. Yet you knew he could always put t he ball in t he net if you fed it int o his pat h.
In t he preceding years we had lost Cant ona, Teddy Sheringham had gone, Ole was having
his knee problems, Yorkie had lost a bit of focus and Andy was st ill fit , fresh. You could always
rely on Andy, but I knew when I t ook Van Nist elrooy on, I was bound t o have problems wit h
Cole, because he t hought he was t he best cent re-forward in t he world. I say t his affect ionat ely,
because it was a useful self-image t o have, but he was miffed when I st art ed pairing him wit h
Displeasure had been apparent t oo in Andys relat ionship wit h Cant ona. The only colleague
he really relat ed t o was Yorkie. Their season in 199899 was made in heaven. Their
part nership, t heir friendship, was phenomenal. They hadnt known one anot her when Yorkie
came t o t he club, but t hey just gelled. In t raining t hey would work on runs t oget her, lit t le
dummies, one-t wos. They synchronised beaut ifully. I t hink t hey scored 53 goals bet ween t hem.
Pairing up wit h Van Nist elrooy wasnt going t o work for Andy, so I sold him t o Blackburn
Rovers. He was in his early t hirt ies by t hat point and we felt wed had some fine years out of
him. We signed him in 1995, got seven years out of him and received 6.5 million from
Blackburn. His cost from Newcast le had been 7 million, plus Keit h Gillespie, who was wort h no
more t han 1 million. So we almost recovered our money aft er seven years of product ivit y. Not
Anot her st riker who ran up against t he problem of Ruuds singularit y was Forln, a grand
player. Ruud want ed t o be t he No. 1 finisher. That was his nat ure. Diego Forln didnt regist er
on his radar at all, so when you put t he t wo of t hem out t here t oget her t here was zero
chemist ry. Diego was bet t er wit h a part ner. But he scored some priceless goals. Two at Anfield,
a goal wit h t he last kick of t he game against Chelsea. He was a good player and a t errific pro.
The ot her complicat ion I had wit h him was t hat his sist er was an invalid, in Majorca, and it fell
t o him t o look aft er her. But he was great about t he place, always smiling. Spoke five
languages. A breat h of fresh air, as a person. We let him go for 2 million, which I t hought was
t oo cheap. Wit h his wages, no club was willing t o bid any higher. The next t hing we knew he
was moving on for 15 million. He float ed over t he ground. He was small but had a good upper
body. Tough. He was such a good t ennis player t hat he might have become a pro and had t o
choose bet ween t hat and foot ball. I knew t hat , when he joined. During our pre-season t ennis
t ournament , I t ried t o get a bet on him. I said t o Gary Neville, who ran t he book: What price is
Why? Why? said Gary, alarmed. Does he play?
How would I know? I said. Why dont you ask him?
But Gary was already on t o me. There would be no bet t ing on Diego. He slaught ered t hem
all. Cut t hem t o ribbons.
You t hink were st upid, dont you? Neville said.
I said, Well, it was wort h a t ry. I was hoping youd say t en-t o-one!
THE first t ime I recognised Jos Mourinho as a pot ent ial t hreat was at his opening press
conference as Chelsea manager in t he summer of 2004. Im t he special one, Jos announced.
What a cheeky young sod, I t hought , as I wat ched him ent ert ain t he press wit h richly quot able
mat erial.
An int ernal voice t old me: New kid on t he block. Young. No point in discussing him. No point in
t aking him on. But hes got t he int elligence, t he confidence, t o deal wit h t he Chelsea job.
I had spoken t o Carlos a lot about Jos and he had t old me, He is a very clever boy. His
knowledge of Mourinho st ret ched back t o a t ime t hey had shared in academia. Jos was one
of Carloss st udent s in Port ugal. My best st udent by far. By far, Carlos t old me. Forearmed wit h
t hat knowledge, I wat ched him ride t he wave of expect at ion he had creat ed for himself; t he
wave t hat carried him from Port o t o London t o work for Roman Abramovich. Jos was one of
t hose guys on a surfboard who can st ay longer on t he wave t han everyone else. I knew
st raight away it would be unwise t o engage him in psychological conflict . I would find anot her
way t o t ackle him.
In t he period from August 2004 t o May 2006, we won one t rophy: t he 2006 League Cup.
Chelsea and Jos won t he Premier League in bot h t hose campaigns. As Arsenal dropped
away, Abramovichs wealt h and Joss managerial abilit y became t he biggest obst acle t o our
Tradit ionally, our preparat ion for a new season had emphasised t he second half of t he 38-
game programme. We always finished st rongly. There was science as well as spirit behind our
t alent for winning games in t he mont hs t hat really mat t ered.
Jos was fresh in t own, working for an employer wit h st acks of money, and wit h hype
clearing his pat h. In t he aut umn of 2004 he needed t o make a st rong st art in his first weeks at
St amford Bridge. Chelsea skat ed t o a six-point lead and we could never make it up. Once t hey
hit t he front in t he t it le race, Jos made sure t hey won plent y of games narrowly. It was all one-
and t wo-nil vict ories. They would t ake t he lead in games and t hen consolidat e. Chelsea were
becoming an incredibly hard t eam t o break down. They were much bet t er organised t han
before. I didnt win a game at St amford Bridge aft er Mourinho arrived.
Jos put in lot s of pre-season work on t he defensive shape and played init ially wit h a back
t hree, t wo wide men and a midfield diamond. Very hard t o play against , t hat format ion.
Our first encount er had been t he 200304 Champions League campaign, when Joss Port o
knocked us out . I had a spat wit h him at t he end of t he first leg. But I oft en had disagreement s
wit h fellow managers when first running int o t hem. Even George Graham and I clashed aft er
our first meet ing when George was at Arsenal. Lat er, we became good friends. The same is
t rue of Mourinho. I always found him very helpful and very communicat ive. I t hink he realised he
was dealing wit h someone who had experienced all t he emot ional ext remes in t he game and
enjoyed our conversat ions.
My indignat ion in t hat first leg st emmed from all t he diving his Port o players were doing. I
t hink he was a bit t aken aback by my anger. I went t oo far. There was no need for me t o vent
my feelings on Jos. I was more angry wit h Keane for being sent off. Playing on my mind was
t he knowledge t hat Mart in ONeill had complained about t he conduct of Joss players in t he
UEFA Cup final bet ween Port o and Celt ic, which Port o won. There was a seed in me. I had
wat ched t hat final but didnt t hink t hey were at ypical of a Port uguese t eam. But when Mart in
ONeill kept on and on about it , I st art ed t o persuade myself t hat Joss t eam were cynical.
My first impression in t he away leg was t hat Roy had been t he vict im of a refereeing
misjudgment . On review, it was clear hed t ried t o leave his mark on t heir goalkeeper. That
reduced us t o t en men and meant Keane was suspended for t he ret urn leg.
In t he Old Trafford leg, t he referee behaved bizarrely. We at t acked t hree or four minut es
before t he end of t he game. Ronaldo beat t he full-back and he chopped him down. The
linesman flagged but t he Russian referee played on. Port o went t o t he ot her end and scored.
I congrat ulat ed Jos at t he end of t hat mat ch. When a t eam knock you out , it s imperat ive t o
find a way t o say all t he best . We had a glass of wine and I t old him: You were lucky, but good
luck in t he next leg.
The next t ime he appeared at Old Trafford, he brought a bot t le of his own wine, a Barca-
Velha, and t hat st art ed a t radit ion. The wine at Chelsea was awful, which I could never
underst and. I said t o Abramovich once, That s paint -st ripper. The next week he sent me a
case of Tignanello. A great drop, one of t he best .
As for Joss gallop along t he t ouchline at Old Trafford, Ive done it myself. I t hink back t o
when we scored against Sheffield Wednesday and Brian Kidd was on t he pit ch, on his knees,
wit h me rejoicing on t he t ouchline. I admire people who show you t heir emot ions. It shows you
t hey care.
That Champions League vict ory over Unit ed launched Jos. Beat ing Celt ic in a UEFA Cup
final was an achievement , but defeat ing Manchest er Unit ed at Old Trafford and t hen going on
t o win t he European Cup was a fuller demonst rat ion of his t alent . I remember saying t o him
around 2008, I dont know when Im going t o ret ire. It s difficult when you get older because
youre scared t o ret ire. Jos said: Dont you ret ire, youre keeping me going. He said he had
ot her challenges, but definit ely want ed t o come back t o England. He won t he Champions
League wit h Int er Milan and La Liga in Spain wit h Real Madrid before ret urning t o Chelsea in
June 2013.
Everyone I speak t o t ells me t hat Jos is except ionally good wit h players. Hes met iculous in
his planning, t he det ail. Hes a likeable person when you get t o know him, and he can laugh at
himself, t urn a joke back on himself. I dont know whet her Wenger or Ben t ez had t hat
capacit y.
Wat ching Jos t ackle t he Real Madrid job aft er his appoint ment in 2010 was fascinat ing. It
was t he most int erest ing appoint ment I could remember in t he game; t he most int riguing
mat ch of st yles, managerial and playing. Every coach who has worked t here has had t o adhere
t o t heir philosophy. The galct ico philosophy. When t hey appoint ed Mourinho, Im sure t hey
must have accept ed t hat t hey would need t o bend t o his t hinking if t hey were t o win t he
European Cup.
It s like any profession. You bring someone in and suddenly everyt hing is alt ered, and t he
aut hors of t hat appoint ment say, Just a minut e, we didnt know we were going t o get t his.
There would have been a few fans sit t ing in t he Bernabu t hinking: Im not happy wit h t his. I
didnt pay for t his. Id rat her lose 54 t han 10.
So t he spect acle of Joss t ime in Madrid held me in it s grip. It was t he great est challenge of
his working life. He had proved t he merit s of his ways, at Port o, Chelsea and Int er Milan. He had
won t wo European Cups wit h different clubs. Could he reshape Real Madrid in his own image,
t o his own t hinking? From t he beginning, t here seemed lit t le prospect of him abandoning his
most sacred ideas in favour of all-out at t ack and celebrit y exuberance. He knew t hat wasnt
t he way t o succeed in modern foot ball. Barcelona would at t ack beaut ifully, but t hey would also
hound t he ball when possession was lost . They were a hard-working unit , a collect ive. In t hat
spell when Real reached t hree Champions League finals in five years, t hey had t he best
players: Zidane, Figo, Robert o Carlos. Fernando Hierro, Iker Casillas in goal, Claude Makll
sit t ing in t he middle of t he park t o break everyt hing up.
They st ayed wit h t he galct ico syst em aft er t hat , import ing Dut ch players en masse, and
David Beckham, Van Nist elrooy, Robinho, but t he European Cup eluded t hem aft er t he
Glasgow final of 2002. Mourinho proved he could make big t eams win, but t he quest ion I
want ed answering was whet her he would be allowed t o do it his way in Madrid.
Jos was a pragmat ist , no quest ion. The st art ing point in his philosophy is t o make sure his
t eam dont lose. Against Barcelona in t he previous seasons Champions League semi-final, he
knew his Int er side were going t o cede 65 per cent of possession. All t eams knew t hat .
Barcelonas policy was t o ensure t hey were always overloaded in t he midfield area. If you
played four t here, t hey would field five, if you played six, t hey would up t he ant e t o seven. By
doing so t hey could rot at e t he ball, in and out t o t he back four. You would end up on t heir
carousel, going round and round, and wind up dizzy. Occasionally you might fall on t he ball.
Wat ch a carousel and you will see what I mean. The eyes go woozy.
So Jos knew Int er would not see much of t he ball against Barcelona, but he had weapons
of his own, mainly concent rat ion and posit ioning. Est eban Cambiasso, his cent ral midfielder,
was a vit al component in t hat Int er t eam. If Messi appeared over here, so would Cambiasso.
Should Messi pop up in anot her area, Cambiasso would be t here as well. It sounds easy, but as
part of a general t eam plan in which all t he defensive dut ies would connect , it was marvellously
effect ive. Lat er, I wat ched a Real Madrid game in which Jos made t hree subst it ut ions in t he
last 15 minut es. They were all defensive in nat ure, t o make sure he won t he game.
But all t his came much lat er t han our bat t les in t he middle of t he decade, when Chelsea won
t heir first League t it le for 50 years and ret ained it 12 mont hs lat er, in t he summer of 2006. If
200405 was a horrible season, wit h no t rophies, t he following year brought only t he League
Cup. A new t eam was growing, but I was not t o know we could win t hree Premier League
t rophies in a row.
Our st rat egy was t o rebuild for t he event ual depart ures of Keane, Giggs, Scholes and Neville.
Three of t hem st ayed beyond t hat plan, while Keane had t o go. The int ent ion was t o assemble
a group of young players who could develop over a number of years, wit h t he experience of
Giggs and Scholes and Neville t o assist t hat process. Now I can look back on t hat policy as an
unqualified success.
Yes, we had a barren season in 200405, losing t he FA Cup final t o Arsenal in a penalt y
shoot -out , but I could see t he promise, in t hat showpiece game, of Rooney and Ronaldo. They
t oast ed Arsenal t hat day. We had 21 shot s at goal. In t he Champions League round of 16, we
lost 10 home and away t o Milan, wit h Hernn Crespo scoring bot h goals. Rebuilding held no
t errors for me. It was second nat ure. A foot ball club is like family. Somet imes people leave. In
foot ball, somet imes t hey have t o, somet imes you want t hem t o, somet imes t here is no choice
for eit her side, when age or injury int ervene.
I did feel sent iment al about great players leaving us. At t he same t ime, my eye would always
be on a player who was coming t o an end. An int ernal voice would always ask, Whens he
going t o leave, how long will he last ? Experience t aught me t o st ockpile young players in
import ant posit ions.
So when, on 10 May 2005, we assembled a guard of honour for Chelsea, t he new champions,
at our ground, I had no int ent ion of surrendering t o Abramovichs wealt h in t he mont hs t o
Psychologically t hat was a big moment for Chelsea. They had won t he League for t he first
t ime in half a cent ury and could see t hemselves from t hen on in anot her light . A lesson we t ook
on board was t hat slow st art s could no longer be t olerat ed if we were t o face down Chelsea,
our big new challengers. The following season we made a flying st art , t hough t he campaign
fizzled out , t he lowest point being t he game against Lille in Paris, where a proport ion of our
support ers booed t he young players in t he warm-up in t he wake of Keanes out burst on MUTV
about some of our squad not pulling t heir weight .
That was a killer. Roy had exacerbat ed t he problem of our poor form by making t arget s of his
t eam-mat es. On t he pit ch we were in shocking form and t he 10 defeat t hat night was my
lowest point for many years.
In t he same mont h t hat Roy Keane left t he club, in November 2005, we lost George Best . He
was a very nice bloke, George, a very gent le lad, a bit nervous, somehow. Nervous t o t alk t o
you. He had an insecurit y about him t hat worried you. I remember sit t ing in a bar in Japan wit h
him once he was wit h a girlfriend and he could hardly t alk. He seemed gripped by shyness.
George could have had a good life aft er foot ball. He could have coached young players, but
perhaps lacked t he personalit y t o be a t ut or. A fact about George t hat few recognised is how
int elligent he was. The funeral was huge and sad and wonderfully orchest rat ed by t he cit y of
Belfast . It had t he feel and t he grandeur of a st at e funeral. I remember looking at Georges
fat her, a wee, humble man, and t hinking: He produced one of t he great est players of all t ime. A
small man from Belfast , a quiet man. You could see where George got his ret icence.
The foot ball public in his count ry is basically working class, and for some reason t hey like
people who are flawed. Best , Gascoigne, Jimmy Johnst one. They see reflect ions of t hemselves
in t hese imperfect heroes. They underst and t he frailt y. Jimmy was such a likeable lad you could
never fail t o be amused by his mischief.
Jock St ein would st are at his t elephone every Friday night and his wife Jean would say,
What are you looking at t he t elephone for?
It s going t o ring, Jock would say. The phones going t o ring.
A t ypical call would st art : Lanarkshire police here, Mr St ein. Weve got young Jimmy here.
George Best , of course, was one of Unit eds great European Cup winners. But we were a
long way off t hat pinnacle in t his campaign. Wayne Rooney was sent off in a 00 draw at
Villarreal in Sept ember 2005 for sarcast ically clapping Kim Milt on Nielsen, who had also
dismissed David Beckham in t he 1998 World Cup. Not my favourit e referee. Nielsen was one of
t he most infuriat ing mat ch officials. You were pet rified when you saw his name on t he list . On
anot her occasion, Rooney swore at Graham Poll t en t imes. Poll, who could have sent him off,
probably enjoyed having t he TV cameras on him. But at least he had t he common sense t o
handle Wayne as a human being and not be bot hered by his effing and jeffing. In t hat respect ,
Rooney would have more respect for Poll t han he would for Nielsen. That was t he game in
which Heinze rupt ured his knee ligament aft er his agent had asked us for a t ransfer.
Meanwhile, aft er we had been knocked out of t he Champions League wit h a 21 defeat at
Benfica in December, t he press were rolling out t he sell-by-dat e t heory. To be crit icised for
cont inual negligence in t he job would have made sense t o me, but t he suggest ion was t hat I
had lost it because of my age, which was disgust ing. As people grow older, t hey gain
experience. There was a phase in foot ball when t op players were being hired as Premier
League managers st raight away wit h no apprent iceship. Managers wit h experience were
t ossed aside. Look at Bobby Robson, who was pushed out by Newcast le. Sam Allardyce, a
proven manager, was given six mont hs at t he same club. Ridiculous. Having t o face t he press
on a Friday was galling. None would ask me t o my face: Arent you past your sell-by dat e? But
t hey would writ e it . They would use t he power of t he pen t o dest roy a manager.
Moment um had it s own logic. Support ers would say: What t heyre report ing is right , you
know, Ive been saying t hat for years. I knew where we were going. I knew we needed a bit of
t ime. Not t oo much, because at t hat t ime in my career I wouldnt have been grant ed unlimit ed
leeway. Had I not felt I was on t he verge of building anot her good t eam, I would have walked of
my own volit ion. I was confident in Rooney and Ronaldo. I was sure t he scout ing st ruct ure was
st rong. Players would be found t o t ake us back t o our nat ural level. Though we only won t he
League Cup, t here were some good performances in 2006.
Our form recovered aft er t he Benfica defeat , wit h wins against Wigan, Ast on Villa, West
Brom and Bolt on, which left us nine point s behind Chelsea in t he League. Then Evra and Vidi
joined. At t he back, we pract ised defensive drills almost every week, especially wit h crosses:
posit ion, at t acking t he ball, movement of st rikers against t hem, wit h t he full-backs coming int o
it . We would st art off at t he cent re circle, wit h t wo st rikers and t wo set s of wide players, right
and left . Wed st art off by knocking t he ball up t o one of t he st rikers, who would have a shot .
As soon as t hat happened, a second ball would be played out t o t he side posit ion, from where
t hey would cross, and t hen a t hird ball would come from t he edge of t he box back in again; so
t hey had t o react t o t he shot , t he first cross and t he ball coming int o t he box. Three t est s in
The cult ure of our game has changed. How many cent re-halves can you name who act ually
like defending? Vidi liked it . He loved t he challenge of st icking his head in t here. You could t ell
t hat t he t hrill of cont est ing t hose 5050 balls animat ed him. Smalling is a bit like t hat : he enjoys
defending. Vidi was a dour, uncompromising sod. He was a proud Serb. In 2009 he came t o
see me t o say he might be get t ing called up.
What do you mean, called up? I said, alarmed.
Kosovo. I am going, he said. It s my dut y.
He had t he eyes for it .
The search for new t alent crossed cont inent s and front iers. Grard Piqu was one we
picked out at a yout h t ournament . The door t o good young Barcelona players had been
opened by Arsenals acquisit ion of Cesc Fbregas, so we were sure of our ground in dealing
wit h t he Piqu family. Our problem was t hat t he players grandfat her had been a member of
t he Nou Camp ruling hierarchy. Grards family were embedded in Barcelonas hist ory.
Equally t hey had changed t he first -t eam coach several t imes, so t here was flux. Piqu was a
t errific player and I was deeply disappoint ed when he t old us he want ed t o move back t o Spain.
He was an except ional passer of t he ball and a great personalit y wit h a winning ment alit y. His
family are all winners: t hey are successful people. That shone from his mot her and fat her.
Unfort unat ely, he didnt want t o wait for Ferdinand and Vidi t o fall apart . That was my
problem. Piqu and Evans would have made a fine part nership for t he next t en years.
When we played Barcelona in t he Champions League semi-final and drew 00, Grards
fat her came t o see me in t he t eam hot el t hey were really lovely people and explained t hat
Barcelona would like t o t ake his son back. His parent s were also keen t o see him come home.
They missed him. And Grard was missing first -t eam foot ball and believed he could earn a
st art ing place at Barcelona. It was all st raight forward. The event ual fee was 8 million euros. He
had cost us 180,000 on account of t he FIFA regulat ions in place at t he t ime.
The big clubs in Europe subsequent ly raised t heir barriers t o st op English raids. They were
never likely t o allow t he likes of Piqu and Fbregas t o leave t he count ry year aft er year. At our
end, spot t ing young t alent in England, we would have paid 5 million for a first -t eam player. But
why were we asked t o pay 500,000 for one who subsequent ly failed t o make t he grade?
Richard Eckersley was an int erest ing case: Burnley offered us 500,000 for him. We want ed 1
million. Wed spent 12 years developing t he boy. The compensat ion should really kick in when
t he player makes t he first t eam. I dont t hink t he selling club would complain, especially wit h a
sell-on clause.
We are all subject t o errors of judgment , and I made a few in t hose years, wit h Klberson,
Djemba-Djemba, and so on. I was cast igat ed right t o t he end over Ralph Milne and he cost
me 170,000. I get pelt ers for t hat . The coaching st aff would t ease me: We need anot her
Ralphy Milne, boss. All my st aff had been wit h me for 20 years plus. They dont forget . William
Prunier was anot her one I was mocked for. Even Pat rice Evra, in t hat high-pit ched way, said t o
me one day: Boss, did you have William Prunier?
Ryan Giggs face dropped as he wait ed for t he response.
Aye, we had him on t rial once, I snapped.
On t rial? Evra squeaked back. He was not going t o let it drop. How long?
Two games.
A t wo-game t rial?
Yes, and it was a disast er!
Pat rice had found t he t arget .
The first t hing you do wit h a new player is help him set t le: banking, housing, language,
t ransport , and so on. There is a process. Language is always t he biggest barrier. Valencias
grasp of English, for example, was a problem. Wit h Ant onio it was purely a confidence issue. I
can writ e and read in French, but I lack confidence speaking it . Ant onio knew t his. Hows your
French? he said one day. Point t aken. But I did point out t o him t hat had I been working in
France, I would have made an effort t o speak t he language. Valencia was working in England,
so t he same applied t o him.
As a player, t hough, he was as brave as hell. You couldnt int imidat e Valencia. Hes a boy
from t he favela. Hes obviously scrapped in his life. Tough as anyt hing. In a 5050, he would be
right in t here, arms across t he opponent .
Anot her marquee signing in t he summer of 2006 was Michael Carrick. We had admired
Carrick for a while and David Gill was receiving feedback from Spurs t hat t hey might be willing
t o sell. What value would you put on him? asked David.
If you got him for eight million you would be doing well, I said.
Ill always remember t he words David came back wit h: Daniel Levy says youll have t o go a
bit nort h before t hey can accept it .
We haggled for weeks. We had wat ched Michael playing against Arsenal at t he end of t he
season and Mart in t old me, Hes definit ely a Manchest er Unit ed player. He was t he st ar man. I
t hink t he init ial fee was 14 million, wit h clauses running t o 18 million.
Michael was a nat ural passer of t he ball at a t ime when Scholes was inching t owards his
mid-t hirt ies. What impressed me about Carrick was t hat he was always looking t o play t hat
forward pass. His range was expansive and he could swit ch t he play. The long passes were
t he ones I felt we could ut ilise wit h t he players we had. Aft er a couple of mont hs we t old him
we couldnt underst and why he had not yet scored for us. In t raining he st ruck t he ball well, but
in games he was not a t hreat from shoot ing posit ions. We improved him in t hat depart ment .
We offered him more freedom and t ried t o release st rengt hs he was perhaps unaware he had.
Maybe he had been in a rout ine at Spurs, where he was t he deeper midfield player and seldom
found his way int o t he box. Wit h us, he found new qualit ies in his game.
Hes a fine player, Michael. He was a shy boy who needed t o be shaken at t imes. He doesnt
st art seasons part icularly well, for reasons we st ruggled t o underst and and which we t alked t o
him about , but generally came right about t he end of Oct ober. There is a casualness about him
t hat causes people t o misunderst and his value and his const it ut ion.
As I left , Mourinho ret urned t o Chelsea, who, in an earlier phase, were home t o my favourit e
foreign player in t he Premier League out side Unit ed, of course. Gianfranco Zola was a marvel.
I will always remember a goal he scored against us at St amford Bridge when he drew his foot
back t o shoot and t hen paused before t he execut ion. While Zola was devising his art ist ic finish,
Big Pally came sliding in and carried on going while Zola dragged it back. Oh, t he st ick Pally got
t hat day. Bryan Robson said: Any chance of you st aying on your feet ? But I loved Zola,
because he played wit h a smile.
YOURE not t he same on t he bat t lefield as you are in church. Away from t he game, Arsne
Wenger is a cool cust omer. Hes good company and has a broad spread of conversat ional
t opics. We can t alk about wine and ot her t hings in life. In UEFA gat herings he made it his
business t o help ot her managers. He is a conscient ious member of our t rade. But when it
comes t o his t eam t o mat ch-day he is a complet ely different animal.
Ive always felt I could underst and Arsne. I could ident ify wit h t he sharp change in him when
t hat whist le blew. There was a bit of t hat in me t oo. If we shared one charact erist ic it was an
absolut e hat red of losing. When I lost t o Rait h Rovers early in my career at St Mirren (t hey were
boot ing lumps out of us), I refused t o shake hands wit h Bert ie Pat on, t he Rait h Rovers
manager, who was my great mat e and accomplice on t he pit ch at Dunfermline. Well, Bert ie ran
aft er me t o remonst rat e. Oh, aye. Somet imes you need a wee lesson t hat youre wrong, and I
was wrong t hat day. It was a small reminder t hat life is bigger t han t he game. When you
behave t hat way, it s pet t y and lacks dignit y.
By t he end, Arsne and I were on very friendly t erms. We had survived t oget her and
respect ed each ot hers effort s t o play good foot ball. But we had conflict s down t he years. The
opening shot was him complaining about me complaining about t he fixt ure list . A complaint
about a complaint . So I fired back wit h a craft ed put -down: Hes just arrived from Japan, what
does he know about it ? Which was t rue.
For t he next t wo years, it was Arsne complaining about congest ion in our fixt ure list . A
foreign coach who comes in and t hinks he can play 55 games a season in our League wit hout
adjust ing is kidding himself. It s a gruelling, energy-sapping League. That s why, in t he modern
game, you have t o change t he t eam t o spread t he load. Arsne learned t o adapt t o t hat
cult ure. He overcame t he early shock of playing Sat urday, Wednesday, Sat urday.
The first t ime his Arsenal side played us at Old Trafford, he came int o my office. Our
relat ionship was fine at first . The problems st art ed when he lost a game wit h one of his good
Arsenal sides. He found it hard t o accept fault in his t eam and looked t o blame t he opponent .
He would oft en do it by concent rat ing on physical challenges. It was hard for him t o accept
t hat opponent s might adopt a robust approach against his men. His int erpret at ion of physical
challenges ext ended somet imes t o t he very act of t ackling. He would fix in his mind t he idea
t hat no one should act ually be t ackling his boys.
I wat ched his best Arsenal t eams, t hough, and was t hrilled. I always liked wat ching Arsnes
sides. Playing against t hem present ed special challenges t hat I burned many hours t hinking
about . I always felt I had t o examine everyt hing Arsenal did because t hey present ed so many
t hreat s across t he park. Chelsea present ed a different set of problems. There we would be
facing experienced players, who knew every t rick in t he book. Arsenal, on t he ot her hand,
played t he right way.
They had one of t he worst disciplinary records in foot ball in Arsnes early years, but you
could never say t hey were dirt y players or a dirt y t eam. St eve Bould and Tony Adams would
kick t he life out of you everyone knew t hat . They would come t hrough t he back of you all t he
t ime. But in essence, his t eams were never filt hy. Volat ile and macho would be a more accurat e
t erm. They were a combat ive bunch. Bould and Adams, Ive ment ioned. Then t hey bought
Pat rick Vieira, a big compet it or who could mix it , get about people. And Nigel Wint erburn was a
bit of a nark; always chipping away. Ian Wright , t heir leading st riker in t hose early days, also had
a nast y st reak.
In 2010, Arsne delivered a surprising crit icism of Paul Scholes, t elling report ers he had a
dark side. There was no reason for him t o pronounce on one of my players. We were not due
t o play Arsenal t hat week, and t here had been no frict ion bet ween us. At t hat t ime Paul
Scholes had won t en Premier League t it les and a European Cup, and t here was Arsne
discussing his dark side. Baffling.
Players surprise you. They can surprise you in t he level of performance t hey rise t o and t he
levels t o which t hey sink. Arsne st ruggled t o accept t hat as a cont ribut ing fact or in a defeat .
Foot ball brings out t he best and t he worst in people because t he emot ional st akes are so high.
In a high-st akes game, a player can lose his nerve for a minut e and he can lose his t emper t oo.
And youre left regret t ing it . Arsenal had a lot of t hose moment s, but Arsne st ruggled t o
believe t hat int ernal failings and weaknesses can somet imes cause you t o lose. The
explanat ion is somet imes wit hin.
Im not saying managers see everyt hing, but we see most t hings, so Arsnes st ock defence
aft er a game of, I didnt see it was not one I used. My preferred line was: Ill need t o look at it
again. It was t he same basic message, but t his one bought you t ime. By t he next day, or soon
aft er, it s likely t o be old news. Somet hing else will have happened in t he great churn of event s
t o move t he at t ent ion away from you.
I was sent off eight t imes in my career and t he last one was t he most st upid, because I
was t he manager. An opponent had been kicking lumps out of one of our players and I said t o
my right -hand man Davie Provan, Im going t o go on and do t hat guy. Davie said, Dont be so
st upid, sit st ill.
If he t akes our boy Torrance on again, Im on. And, of course, he did. That s it , I said, Im on.
Two minut es lat er I was back off again.
In t he dressing room I said: If. I. Ever. Hear. A. Word. Of t his get t ing out , youre all dead. I
t hought t he referees back was t urned when I whacked him. He was 6 feet 3 inches, an army
My first clash wit h an Arsenal manager was wit h George Graham. I wat ched t he
denouement t o t he 1989 t it le race upst airs in my bedroom and t old Cat hy, No calls, dont put
anyone t hrough. When Michael Thomas scored t he goal against Liverpool t hat won Arsenal
t he t it le, I went berserk. Two years lat er, Arsenal won it again, beat ing us 31 in t he year we
won t he European Cup Winners Cup. I st ayed wit h George aft er our Highbury game one year.
He has t his fant ast ic collect ion of malt whiskies. Do you want one? he asked. I dont drink
whisky, I said. So George opened a bot t le of wine.
Which of t hose malt s do you open for guest s? I wondered.
None of t hem. Nobody get s a malt , he said. Ive got blended Bells here.
Typical Scot , I said.
George laughed. This is my pension.
Our first meet ing at Old Trafford was a war. Aft erwards, George was persuaded by a mut ual
friend t o come up t o my office. My word, it was hard playing against his Arsenal t eams at t hat
t ime. When Arsne t ook over aft er Bruce Riochs brief spell, I didnt know much about him.
One day I asked Eric Cant ona: What is Wenger like? Eric said: I t hink hes overdefensive.
Oh, t hat s all right , I t hought . And t he way he st art ed at Arsenal was wit h five at t he back. But
when you see his t eams now, you cant argue for a second t hat his t eams are defensive. Erics
crit ique st ill makes me smile.
At t he end of t he 1990s, and for t he first part of t he new millennium, Arsenal were our
challengers. There was no one else on t he horizon. Liverpool and Newcast le had brief spells of
prominence. Blackburn had t heir t it le-winning year. But if you look at our hist ory prior t o Jos
Mourinhos arrival at Chelsea, t here was no consist ent t hreat t o our dominance out side of
Arsenal. Chelsea were a good Cup t eam, but t hey could never quit e scale t he peak of t he
Premier League.
When Blackburn came wit h an assault we knew it was unlikely t o last because t here was no
hist ory t o sust ain an achievement of t hat magnit ude. Their League t it le win was great for
foot ball and for Jack Walker, t he benefact or who brought such fine players t o t he club, Alan
Shearer especially. That was a t remendous t ime for Blackburn. Experience t ells you, t hough,
only t o worry about t he challengers who have a t radit ion of bidding for t he big prizes. When
Arsenal and Unit ed were locked t oget her for so long, you knew t he Gunners were sust ained by
hist ory and a st rong ident it y.
At t heir ground, in my penult imat e year as Unit ed manager, I had lunch in t he boardroom and
said t o myself: This is class. Real class. At Highbury I would st udy t he bust of Herbert
Chapman and feel t hat any suspicion of nost algia was out weighed by t he sense of solidit y and
purpose t hose marble halls conveyed. Achievement was always t here, from Herbert Chapman
and t he 1930s, all t he way t hrough.
Their dressing rooms are marvellous. The advant ages of building a new st adium from
scrat ch are enormous. You have a blank sheet . Every det ail you see in t he Arsenal home
dressing room reflect s Arsnes specificat ions. He has covered every requirement for a foot ball
t eam. In t he cent re of t he room is a marble-t opped t able where t hey put all t he food. Aft er a
game, everyone t ucks in. Anot her expression of class. The st aff have t heir own quart ers.
So I never ceased t o be concerned at t he high qualit y Arsenal could bring t o our t ussles.
Hist ory helped us, but it helped t hem t oo, and t hey had t he right manager. Arsne was t he
right one because you always felt t hat , having been given t he chance t o manage in England,
he put his t ent down and was never going t o move it . All t he while, t here was speculat ion t hat
he might leave one day t o join Real Madrid. I never t hought Arsne would leave Arsenal. Ever.
Id say t o myself: Were going t o have t o put up wit h it . Hes going t o be here forever. Id bet t er
get used t o it .
At t imes it was very edgy. Alt hough Arsne would never come in for a drink aft er games, Pat
Rice, his assist ant , would always cross t he t hreshold for a glass, unt il t he pizza fight at Old
My recollect ion of t hat fabled incident is t hat when Ruud van Nist elrooy came int o t he
dressing room, he complained t hat Wenger had been giving him st ick as he left t he pit ch. Right
away I rushed out t o say t o Arsne: You leave my players alone. He was incensed at losing
t he game. That was t he reason for his combat ive behaviour.
You should at t end t o your own players, I t old him. He was livid. His fist s were clenched. I was
in cont rol, I knew it . Arsne had a t hing about Van Nist elrooy. I remember him saying hed had a
chance t o sign Ruud but had decided he was not good enough t o play for Arsenal. I agreed
wit h him in t he sense t hat Van Nist elrooy may not have been a great foot baller. But he was a
great goal-scorer.
Anyway, t he next t hing I knew I had pizza all over me.
We put food int o t he away dressing room aft er every game. Pizza, chicken. Most clubs do it .
Arsenals food was t he best .
They say it was Cesc Fbregas who t hrew t he pizza at me but , t o t his day, I have no idea
who t he culprit was.
The corridor out side t he dressing room t urned int o a rabble. Arsenal had been defending a
49-game unbeat en record and had been hoping t o make it 50 on our t urf. It seemed t o me t hat
losing t he game scrambled Arsnes brain.
That day creat ed a division bet ween us, wit hout doubt , and t hat rift ext ended t o Pat Rice,
who st opped coming in for a drink aft er games. The wound was not fully healed unt il t he
Champions League semi-final in 2009, when Arsne invit ed us int o his room aft er t he game
and congrat ulat ed us. When we played t hem at Old Trafford a few weeks lat er, Arsne came
in wit h Pat , just for a few minut es.
In foot ball you do see incident s t hat reflect normal conflict s in life. In our home lives,
somet imes. You know when your wife t urns t hat machine off and wont t alk t o you. Christ ,
what have I done? you t hink.
Have you had a good day? you ask. Yeah, she mumbles. Then t he anger passes and
normalit y ret urns. Foot ball is like t hat . I would have hat ed t he silence bet ween Arsne and me
t o go on so long t hat it became poisonous.
At my end of it , I had a formula for defeat . Aft er saying my bit in t he dressing room, always,
before going t hrough t hat door t o face t he press, t o face t he t elevision, t o speak t o t he ot her
manager, I said t o myself, Forget it . The games gone. I always did t hat .
Whenever people came t o my room at t he ground aft er a game, I always made sure t here
was a good at mosphere. There was no gloom, no frost iness. No blaming t he referee.
When Ast on Villa beat us at Old Trafford in t he 200910 season, it was t he first t ime t hey
had beat en us on our t urf in decades. Mart in ONeill, whose conversat ion I always enjoy,
pract ically moved int o my office wit h his wife and daught er. It felt like an hour and a half. It was
a really good night . John Robert son, Mart ins assist ant , and a few of my friends joined us and it
t urned int o a real get -t oget her. I ended up needing a driver t o t ake me home.
When we lost in t he FA Cup t hird round t o Leeds Unit ed, t he Leeds physio, Alan Sut t on,
couldnt st op laughing and smiling in my office. As he left I said, Youre st ill bloody laughing!
I cant help it , he said. It was t he first t ime in my Old Trafford career t hat Leeds had beat en
us on our soil and he was just incapable of not grinning. His pleasure was infect ious. You have
t o say t o yourself, Im a human being, I must keep my dignit y.
I was hospit able in t hat way t o all t he managers who joined me aft er t he game.
I saw a change in Arsne in t he last few years. When t he Invincibles were forming, we were in
t ransit ion. Around 2002, we were rebuilding t he side. The Arsenal side of 200102 won t he t it le
at our ground, of course, and were accorded a st anding ovat ion by our support ers. An at t ribut e
of Manchest er Unit ed fans is t hat t hey will always acknowledge class. There were t imes when I
would t hink, bit t erly, Go on, go and applaud t hem, why dont you? Meanwhile, Ill go int o t he
dressing room and pick our players up. But t hat is how t hey are. I remember t heir st anding
ovat ion for t he Brazilian Ronaldo aft er his Champions League hat -t rick against us. As he left
t he pit ch, Ronaldo seemed bemused, like his manager. St range club, t his, t hey must have
t hought . Gary Linekers last game in England for Spurs was also warmly received. But t here is a
lot t o be said for it . It brings foot ball t o it s zenit h. If you see class, excit ement , ent ert ainment ,
t here is an obligat ion t o acknowledge it .
Those people have seen all t he best Unit ed t eams, so t hey know what a good side is. They
have t he necessary reference point s. They know what a t op player is as well. On t op of t hat ,
you have t o acknowledge when you are beat en. There is not hing t o be done. Sulking is fut ile.
The Old Trafford game in 2002 was a non-event for me, in one sense, even if we were chasing
second place. It was already obvious t hat Arsnes t eam were going t o win t he League. There
was a sense of dest iny.
In t hose moment s of defeat and accept ance, t here would be a dawning, for me, of where we
needed t o go. My feeling was always: I dont like t his, but well have t o meet t he challenge.
Well have t o st ep up a mark. It wouldnt have been me, or t he club, t o submit t o apocalypt ic
t hought s about t hat being t he end, t he finish of all our work. We could never allow t hat .
Every t ime t hose moment s poked us in t he eye, we accept ed t he invit at ion t o regroup and
advance again. Those were mot ivat ing passages. They forced me on. Ill go furt her: I cant be
sure t hat wit hout t hose provocat ions I would have enjoyed t he job so much.
In lat er years we learned more about Arsenals t hinking. Arsne had a t emplat e of how he
sees his players and t he way t hey play. We didnt need t o win t he ball against Arsenal, we
needed t o int ercept it . You need good players who can int ercept . We worked out t hat when
t he ball was played int o Fbregas wit h his back t o goal, he would t urn it round t he corner and
meet t he ret urn pass. He would t wist t he pass round t he corner t hen run t o get it back on t he
ot her side of t he defender. So we would say t o our players: St ay wit h t he runner, t hen
int ercept t he pass. Then we count er-at t acked quickly.
They were more dangerous at Old Trafford t han t heir own ground. Away from home, t hey
didnt feel obliged t o t hrow everyt hing at us. They were more conservat ive.
Barcelona were far more organised t han Arsenal. When t hey lost t he ball t hey would hound
it . Every one of t heir players would be aft er it t o win it back. Arsenal didnt have quit e t hat
dedicat ion t o t he t ask of regaining possession. Then again, somet imes Barcelona would
imit at e Arsenal in over-elaborat ing, because t hey enjoyed it so much. Against Real Madrid at
t he Bernabu in 2009, Messi was playing one-t wos in t he Real Madrid penalt y box: not just one
but t wo or t hree, while t he Madrid defenders were all over t he place. They won 62, but for a
t ime I t hought t hey would t hrow t he game away.
We all have t o put our hands up t o having players who were over-physical at t imes, but
Arsne could never do t hat , which was a weakness. It s not a crime t o admit guilt when a
player is sent off. You should feel bad, because hes let his t eam down. I had some issues wit h
Paul Scholes. I even fined him for t he silly t hings. I dont get upset when a player is booked
when he was on for t he t ackle, but if he is sent off for a st upid challenge and Scholesy was
guilt y of t hat he would be fined. But if you expect a player t o go t hrough a season wit hout
infringing t he laws of t he game, youre asking for miracles.
Arsnes soft er cent re in my lat er years reflect ed t he players he brought t o t he club. Samir
Nasri becomes available, so Arsne t akes him. Rosick becomes available, so he t akes him,
because hes his t ype of player. Arshavin becomes available, so in he comes. When you acquire
a lot of t hose players, t hey are almost clones. The t eam Arsne inherit ed gave him a st art in
English foot ball.
We st ayed on t hese parallel t racks right t o t he end. And of course we were unit ed by a
desire t o find and develop young players in our own image.
Then again, Aaron Ramsey said before we played Arsenal one t ime t hat he had chosen
Arsnes t eam over mine because Arsenal produce more players t han Man Ut d.
I t hought : What world is he in? I t hink a young boy can get manipulat ed int o saying t hings. It
was his own decision t o reject Unit ed, and I have no problem wit h t hat . I t hought he made t he
wrong choice, I must say, t hough he would have faced more compet it ion at our place t o make
t he first t eam. Arsenal had not produced many of t heir own players. They had developed
players, which is not t he same t hing. They bought t hem from clubs in France and all over t he
place. The only t ruly homegrown player I could t hink of was Jack Wilshere.
Giggs, Neville, Scholes, Flet cher, OShea, Brown, Welbeck: all produced at Man Ut d.
There I go again. I could never be anyt hing ot her t han compet it ive wit h Arsne, my rival for
17 years.
EACH t ime a member of our great homegrown generat ion left t he club, I would count t hose left .
Two managed t o st ay t o t he end of my t ime: Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. Gary Neville almost
made it t hrough wit h me. Even now I can visualise t he six of t hem t aking t he mickey out of
each ot her as boys aft er t raining. Scholesy would t ry t o hit t he back of Nicky But t s head wit h
t he ball or Garys head more oft en. He was a devil for t hat . Those half-dozen young men
were inseparable.
These were solid human beings: t he sort you hat ed losing. They underst ood t he club and it s
purpose. They would march wit h you, defend t he principles on which we operat ed. Any parent
would recognise t hat moment when a 21-year-old walks in and says t hey are going t o buy
t heir own place, or move in wit h t heir girlfriend or t ake a job in some ot her t own. They leave
you. Foot ball was t he same for me. I became great ly at t ached t o t he men who were wit h me
from t heir t eenage years, t he so-called Class of 92. I saw t hem grow from 13 years of age.
Nicky But t was a prime example. He always reminded us of t he cart oon charact er wit h t he
freckles, big ears and buck t eet h on t he front page of t he comic, Mad. That mischief, t hat
devilment . They were so long under my care t hat t hey felt like family t o me. I would chast ise
t hem more t han ot her players because t hey felt like relat ives more t han employees. Nicky was
always up t o somet hing, a jack t he lad. He was also brave as a lion, incapable of shirking any
He was one of t he most popular players t o have played at our club. He was a real
Manchest er lad. Down t o eart h and ment ally t ough. Like Phil Neville, Nicky reached t he point
where he wasnt playing oft en enough t o sat isfy his compet it ive urges. That prompt ed him t o
look elsewhere for openings. Once again we let him go very cheaply, for 2 million. Those men
didnt owe us a penny. We had acquired t hem for not hing t hrough our academy. The money for
Nicky was a t oken sum t o ensure he left for t he best deal. Right t o t he end of his playing days,
he would refer t o us as his club.
Behind my back, Im sure t hose lads resent ed bearing t he brunt of my annoyance. Oh, me
again, t hey probably t hought . Why dont you give him over t here some?
The first person I would give st ick t o was Giggsy, bless him. As youngst ers t hey would never
answer back. Wit h t ime, Ryan learned t o defend himself. Nicky might also ret aliat e now and
t hen. Gary would have a go. But t hen Gary would answer his shadow back. He has t o have an
argument every day. He would be up at six oclock wit h t he papers, t ext ing Di Law or lat er
Karen Shot bolt , our press officers: Have you read t his in t he Telegraph or The Times?
We always said of Gary t hat he woke up angry. His was an argument at ive nat ure. He is a
fort hright guy. Where he sees error, sees flaws, he at t acks t hem. His inst inct was not t o
negot iat e his way t hrough an impasse, but st rike hard wit h his opinions. There was no
consensus wit h Gary. He was explosive. I would see a small issue escalat e in his mind. But wit h
me he knew where t he limit s of my pat ience were. I would say: Gary, go and annoy someone
else. Then he would laugh and t he drama would be defused.
If I t ry t o imagine t hose 20 years wit hout t he homegrown lads, I find it hard t o visualise t he
base of t he t eam. They provided our st abilit y. Manchest er Unit ed are recognised for t he great
players we found in t he 26 years I was t here, from Bryan Robson and Norman Whit eside and
Paul McGrat h onwards, t hrough t o Cant ona and Ronaldo. But t hose homegrown boys carried
t he spirit of Manchest er Unit ed inside t hem. That s what t hey gave t he club: spirit . They were a
great example t o our coaching st aff of what could be achieved t hrough yout h development ,
and a beacon t o t he young players coming t hrough. Their presence t old t he next 19-year-old
coming up t he line: This can be done. The next Cant ona can be creat ed here at our academy,
on our t raining ground.
I will always remember Paul Scholes first day at our club. He came in wit h a lit t le guy called
Paul OKeefe. His fat her, Eamonn, had played at Evert on. They were st anding behind Brian
Kidd, who had t old me he was bringing in t wo lads he liked t he look of. They were 13. Where
are t hese t wo young kids? I asked Brian. They were so small t hey were invisible behind Brians
They were about 4 feet 8 inches t all. I looked at t his t iny pair and t hought : How are t hese
t wo going t o become foot ballers? It became a st anding joke at t he club. When Scholesy came
int o t he yout h t eam, I said, in t he coaches room: That Scholes has got no chance. Too small.
When he joined us properly at 16 he was st ill minuscule. But he really did shoot up. By 18, he
had risen t hree or four inches.
Paul never said a word. He was except ionally shy. His fat her had been a good player and
t hey had shared a nickname, Archie. When I harboured t hose init ial doubt s about his size, I had
never seen him play in a game, t hough I had looked at him in t raining at t he school of
excellence. At t he indoor cent re we mainly t aught t echnical skills. When he progressed t o play
for t he A yout h t eam, he was a cent re-forward. Hes not got t he pace t o play cent re-forward, I
said. They played him just behind a st riker. In one of t he early games at The Cliff, he hit one on
t he drop just out side t he box and it st opped my breat h wit h it s power.
Hes good, but I dont t hink he has any chance of making it . Too small, said Jim Ryan, who
was wat ching wit h me. It became a st ock phrase at t he club. Scholesy: t oo small.
As his t ime wit h us rolled on, Paul Scholes encount ered problems wit h his ast hma. He didnt
play in t he yout h t eam t he year t hey won t he FA Yout h Cup. Beckham joined t he t eam only in
t he lat er rounds because he had grown gangly and weak. Simon Davies, who played for Wales,
was t he capt ain. Robbie Savage was also in t he side. The majorit y of t hem went on t o be
int ernat ionals. Anot her, Ben Thornley, would have earned a cap, but for major knee t rouble.
As a young forward, in t he hole, Scholes would be guarant eed 15 goals a season. When he
developed int o a cent ral midfield player, he had t he brain for t he passing game and a t alent for
orchest rat ion. He must have been a nat ural. I loved wat ching t eams t rying t o mark him out of
t he game. He would t ake t hem int o posit ions t hey didnt want t o go t o, and wit h a single t ouch
would t urn t he ball round t he corner, or feint away and hit t he reverse pass. Opponent s would
spend a minut e t racking him and t hen be made t o appear inconsequent ial and somet imes
even foolish. They would end up galloping back t o t heir own box. He would dest roy a marker
t hat way.
Paul endured several disappoint ment s wit h long-t erm injuries but would always come back
bet t er. He was a superior player aft er his eye problem and aft er his knee injury. He would ret urn
In his early t hirt ies, he was prone t o occasional bout s of frust rat ion as t he compet it ion for
midfield places int ensified. I had Darren Flet cher and Michael Carrick t o consider in t he t wo
cent ral posit ions. I confess, I made an error here. Taking people for grant ed is not a mist ake
you are necessarily aware of at t he t ime, and it is hard t o correct unt il you are confront ed by
t he effect on t he vict im. My at t it ude was t hat in t imes of need I could always go back t o
Scholesy. He was a loyal servant , always ready and willing t o st ep in. Carrick and Flet cher
would be my new first -choice pairing and Scholes would be t he ageing support . It was in my
mind for t oo long t hat Paul was coming t o t he end of his career.
In t he 2009 Champions League final in Rome, which we lost t o Barcelona, I sent Paul on in
t he second half. Anderson had made only t hree passes in t he first half. Scholes made 25 in t he
last 20 minut es of t he game. You t hink you know everyt hing in t his game. You dont . Taking
people for grant ed and t hinking you can always go back t o t hem as t hey approach t he end is
wrong. You forget how good t hey are.
At t he end, consequent ly, I used him a lot more and rest ed him at t he right t imes. People
would ask me t o pick my best Man Unit ed t eam. I would find it incredibly difficult . You couldnt
leave out Scholes and you couldnt leave out Bryan Robson. They would bot h give you at least
t en goals a season. But t hen t hat raises t he quest ion: how can you leave out Keane? You
would have t o play t he t hree of t hem. But if you do t hat , who do you play wit h Cant ona, who
was always bet t er playing wit h anot her forward? Try picking one st riker from McClair, Hughes,
Solskjaer, Van Nist elrooy, Sheringham, Yorke, Cole, Rooney and Van Persie. You couldnt
disregard Giggs. So it always felt like an impossible t ask t o select a best XI, yet you would have
t o say Cant ona, Giggs, Scholes, Robson and Crist iano Ronaldo could never be left out of a
Man Unit ed side.
Scholes was probably t he best English midfielder since Bobby Charlt on. Since I have been in
England, Paul Gascoigne was t he best of t hose who could lift you from your seat . In his last
few years, Paul Scholes elevat ed himself above Gascoigne. One, for longevit y, and t wo, for
improving himself in his t hirt ies.
He was such a brilliant long passer t hat he could choose a hair on t he head of any t eam-
mat e answering t he call of nat ure at our t raining ground. Gary Neville once t hought he had
found refuge in a bush, but Scholesy found him from 40 yards. He inflict ed a similar long-range
missile st rike, once, on Pet er Schmeichel, and was chased round t he t raining ground for his
impert inence. Scholesy would have made a first -class sniper.
As a player myself, I never possessed t he innat e abilit y of a Cant ona or a Paul Scholes: eyes
in t he back of t he head. But I could see it in ot hers because I wat ched so many games. I knew
how import ant t hose players were t o a t eam.
Scholes, Cant ona, Vern. Beckham had good vision t oo. He was not t he sort who could
t hread great passes t hrough, but he could see t he ot her side of t he pit ch all right . Laurent
Blanc had good vision. Teddy Sheringham and Dwight Yorke could see what was happening all
around t hem. But of t he players in t he t op echelon, Scholes was t he best of t hat t ype. When
we were winning easily, Scholes would somet imes t ry somet hing daft , and I would say, Look,
hes get t ing bored now.
Ryan Giggs was t he biggest noise from t hat generat ion. He was t he one most likely t o be
ident ified as a wonder boy. Awarding him a first -t eam debut at 16 landed us wit h a problem we
had not expect ed: t he Giggs phenomenon.
An It alian agent phoned me when Ryan was a kid and asked, What do your sons do? I said:
Marks doing a degree, Jasons going int o t elevision, Darren is an apprent ice here. He said: Sell
me Giggs and I can make t hem rich. Nat urally I declined t he offer.
The George Best comparison st uck t o him immediat ely and was impossible t o dislodge.
Everyone want ed a piece of him. But Giggs was smart . See t he manager, he would say t o
anyone seeking an int erview or a t ie-up. He didnt want t o grant int erviews and found a way t o
t ransfer t he blame for t he refusal on t o me. He was clever.
Bryan Robson approached Ryan one day t o recommend Harry Swales as an agent . He had
checked it wit h me first . Bryan was coming t o t he end and was sure Harry was t he right man
for Giggs. He was right . Harry is fant ast ic. Got engaged at 81 t o a Swiss lady he met on t he
plat form of a railway st at ion. She was lost . He is a former sergeant -major wit h a handlebar
moust ache. He looked aft er Ryan really well. Ryan has a st rong mot her, t oo, and his
grandparent s were very, very good people.
To st ret ch his first -t eam career t o t wo decades, Ryan had t o develop a met iculous fit ness
programme. Yoga, and his preparat ion rout ines, were at t he root of his longevit y. Ryan was
religious about yoga. Twice a week aft er t raining, an expert would come in t o guide him
t hrough t he exercises. That became vit al t o him. In t he days when he was suscept ible t o
hamst ring injuries, we were never sure how much we could play him. His hamst rings were a
const ant concern. We would leave him out of games t o have him ready for ot hers. By t he end,
only his age would prompt us t o give him a rest . He would play 35 games a season because his
fit ness was fant ast ic.
Ryans int elligence helped him make t he sacrifices in his social life. He is a reserved kind of
guy but , of all t hat bunch, he was t he one t hey looked up t o. He was t he king, t he man. There
was a brief period when he and Paul Ince would wear daft suit s but it soon passed. Ryan st ill
has t he suit t hat caused me t o blurt , What t he hell is t hat ?
Incey was a fan of flash dressing and he and Giggs were good pals. They were a duo. But
Ryan has led a highly professional life. He is revered around t he club, where everyone defers
and looks up t o him.
When his pace det eriorat ed we played him more in t he cent re of t he park. We no longer
expect ed him t o flash round t he out side of defenders t he way he did as a boy. Not many
people not iced t hat even in his lat er incarnat ion he ret ained his change of pace, which is
somet imes more import ant t han raw speed. His balance, t oo, was unaffect ed.
In t he aut umn of 2010 he was brought down by West Hams Jonat han Spect or in t he
penalt y box, and I seized my chance t o set a quiz quest ion. How many penalt ies had Ryan
Giggs won in his Manchest er Unit ed career? Answer: five. Because he always st ays on his feet .
He st umbles but never goes down. I would ask him, aft er a heavy foul in t he box, why he had
declined t o go down, which he would have been ent it led t o do, and he would look at me as if I
had horns. He would wear t hat vacant look. I dont go down, he would say.
Ryan is a calm boy, very even-t empered in adversit y. St range t o say, he was never a great
subst it ut e unt il his lat er years. He was always bet t er st art ing a game. But he played a great
role as a sub in t he 2008 Champions League final in Moscow, and against Wigan when we won
t he League, coming on t o score our second goal. He removed t he doubt we had about him
being a good impact player and was an amazing asset t o have off t he bench.
Giggs t urned his back on t he fame and t he branding; he lacked t he t emperament for t hat
level of exposure. His personalit y was more int rovert ed. To lead t hat life, you need great
energy t o be t rot t ing all over t he world and put t ing your face in front of a camera. It also
requires a cert ain vanit y: t he belief t hat t his is what you were made for. You read about act ors
always knowing t hey want ed t o be on t he st age or in films. I never had t hat magnet ic
at t ract ion t o fame.
My hope was t hat players who had grown up wit h us would carry t hings on at Carringt on
and maint ain t he cont inuit y, much as Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, say, had at
Bayern Munich. They underst and how t he club funct ions and t he st andard of player needed t o
keep t he show rolling along. Whet her t hat leads in t he end t o management cannot be known,
because it depends how t he coaching side develops. But Giggs and Scholes are bot h
int elligent men who underst and Unit eds soul and were great players t hemselves, so all t he
right st uff was t here.
Ryan could definit ely be a manager because hes so wise and players invariably respect him.
His relat ive quiet ness would not be a barrier. There are plent y of non-vocal managers. But your
charact er must be st rong. To deal wit h a club like Manchest er Unit ed, your personalit y has t o
be bigger t han t hose of t he players. Or, you have t o believe it is, t o cont rol t he whole pict ure.
You have big players, wealt hy players, world-famous players, and you have t o rule over t hem,
st ay on t op of t hem. There is only one boss of Manchest er Unit ed, and t hat s t he manager.
Ryan would need t o cult ivat e t hat side of himself. But so did I, from 32 years of age.
At school we would be asked: What do you want t o be when you grow up? I would say: A
foot baller. Fireman was a more popular answer. To say foot baller implied no urge t o be
known across t he world, merely t o earn a living by playing t he game. Giggs would have been
t hat t ype.
You can be dest ined by your nat ure t o chase a cert ain ending, and David Beckham always
had t hat air of knowing where he was going. He was comfort able wit h t hat lifest yle and keen
t o at t ain t hat st at us. None of t he ot hers would have even dreamed about worldwide
recognit ion. It was not part of t hem. Imagine Gary Neville wit h fashion phot ographers: Can you
bloody hurry up?
They were all lucky t o have t he prot ect ion of really good families. The Nevilles are really solid
people. The same was t rue for all of t hem. It was a blessing, for t hem and for us. They know
t he value of a good upbringing: keeping your feet on t he ground; manners; respect for older
generat ions. If I had called someone from an older generat ion by t heir first name, my dad would
have clipped me on t he ear. Mist er, t o you, he would have said.
All t hat has disappeared now. All my players would call me gaffer or boss. Lee Sharpe came
in one day and asked, How you doing, Alex? I said: Were you at school wit h me?
Even bet t er, a young Irish boy, Paddy Lee, saw me moving up t he st airs of The Cliff, as he
was coming down, wit h Bryan Robson behind me, and said, All right , Alex?
I said: Were you at school wit h me?
No, he said, pert urbed.
Well dont call me Alex!
I get t he giggles now recalling t hese moment s. Behind t he fierce response I would be
laughing inside. Wee Paddy Lee was t errific at animal impressions. Every Christ mas he would
do ducks, cows, birds, lions, t igers everyt hing. Even ost riches. The players would be rolling
about . Paddy went t o Middlesbrough for a year but didnt quit e make it .
Wee George Swit zer was anot her. Typical Salford boy. In t he t raining ground cant een he
was brilliant at barking t hings out and disguising where it had come from, so t he vict im would
scan t he room t rying t o spot t he perpet rat or.
Hi boss! Or Archie! t o Archie Knox. For a long t ime it was impossible t o nail t he culprit .
There were no clues in t he sea of faces at mealt imes.
But one day I caught him. All right , son? I said. You do t hat again and youll run round t he
pit ch t ill youre dizzy.
Sorry, boss, Swit z st ut t ered.
Despit e t he image of me as someone who want ed obedience at all t imes, I loved people wit h
a bit of devil in t hem. It was refreshing. You need self-confidence, a bit of nerve. If youre
surrounded by people who are scared t o express t hemselves in life, t hey will be equally
fright ened when it really mat t ers, on t he pit ch, in games. Those lads from t he 1992 class were
never scared of anyt hing. They were might y allies.
FROM adversit y, t he really illust rious clubs ret urn t o t heir cycle of winning. Maybe I was lucky t o
have joined Unit ed in a t roubled phase of t heir hist ory. The League t it le had not been won for
19 years and I inherit ed a cult ure of low expect at ion. We had become a Cup t eam, and t he
fans ant icipat ed a good run in t he knock-out compet it ions more t han in League act ion, where
t heir hopes were kept in check.
My predecessors Dave Sext on, Tommy Dochert y and Ron At kinson were successful men,
but in t heir years t here was no consist ent or sust ained challenge for t he championship. The
same was t rue of Liverpool in t he years when Unit ed were on t op from 1993 onwards, but I
could always feel t heir breat h on my neck from 25 miles away.
When a club of Liverpools hist ory and t radit ion pull off a t reble of cup wins, as t hey did in
2001, wit h t he FA, League and UEFA t rophies under Grard Houllier, you are bound t o feel a
t remor of dread. My t hought t hat year was: Oh, no, not t hem. Anybody but t hem. Wit h t heir
background, t heir herit age and t heir fanat ical support , as well as t heir t errific home record,
Liverpool were implacable opponent s, even in t heir fallow years.
I liked and respect ed Grard Houllier, t he Frenchman who t ook sole charge when t he joint -
manager experiment wit h Roy Evans was ended by t he Anfield board. St even Gerrard was
st art ing t o emerge as a yout hful force in midfield, and t hey could summon t wo sensat ional
goal-scorers in Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler.
The big cult ural change was invest ing power in someone from out side t he Liverpool religion.
The succession of int ernal appoint ment s from Shanks t o Bob Paisley t o Joe Fagan t o Kenny
Dalglish t o Graeme Souness t o Roy Evans maint ained consist ency of purpose. Towards t he
end of Kennys first spell in charge, you could sense a shift . The t eam had grown old and
Liverpool were st art ing t o make unusual purchases: Jimmy Cart er, David Speedie. These were
unt ypical Liverpool signings. Graeme Souness made t he right move but t oo quickly, breaking up
an ageing t eam t oo fast . One mist ake was t o discard one of t he best young players, St eve
St aunt on. Graeme would admit t hat himself. There was no need t o let St aunt on go. Graeme is
a good guy but hes impet uous. He cant get t here quickly enough. And his impet uosit y cost
him in t hat period.
A virt ue of dealing wit h Liverpool back t hen was t hat t hey would all come int o my office mob-
handed aft er t he game. I inherit ed t he t radit ion of every member of our st aff going in t o see
t hem at Anfield and each one on t heir side reciprocat ing at Old Trafford. The Liverpool boot -
room men had far more experience in t hat regard t han me, but I learned quickly. Win, lose or
draw, t here would be a full t urn-out and a rapport bet ween t he t wo managerial clans. Because
t here was such a divide bet ween t he t wo cit ies and such compet it ive t ension on t he field, it
was even more import ant t o ret ain our dignit y, what ever t he result . It was vit al, t oo, t hat we
concealed our weak point s, and Liverpool were equally guarded in t hat respect .
Grard had been a visit ing t rainee t eacher in Liverpool during his course at Lille Universit y,
and had examined t he club wit h an academics eye. He was not ent ering Anfield blind t o it s
t radit ions. He underst ood t he et hos, t he expect at ions. He was a clever man; affable, t oo. Aft er
he was rushed t o hospit al following a serious heart at t ack, I said t o him, Why dont you just
st ep upst airs?
I cant do t hat , Grard replied. I like working. He was a foot ball man. Heart t rouble could not
break his addict ion.
Expect at ion always bears down on Liverpool managers and I t hink t hat brand of pressure
pierced Kennys defences in t he end. At t he t ime he abandoned t he role of iconic player and
moved int o t he dug-out , he possessed no managerial background. The same disparit y
undermined John Greig at Rangers. Possibly t he great est Rangers player of all t ime, John
inherit ed a disint egrat ing t eam t hat could not be rest ored t o an even keel. The emergence of
Aberdeen and Dundee Unit ed was no help. Playing in t he glamour role up front as one of
Liverpools finest players and t hen graduat ing t o manager almost t he next day was very
difficult for Kenny. I remember him coming t o see me in t he Scot land camp and asking for
advice about a job he had been offered in management . It was only lat er I realised he had been
t alking about t he big one.
Is it a good club? I had asked him.
Aye, it s a good club, he said.
So I t old him: if it was a good club, wit h good hist ory, some financial leeway, and a chairman
who underst ands t he game, he would have a chance. If only t wo of t hose variables could be
t icked off, he was in for a bat t le.
Wit hout my int ensive educat ion at Aberdeen, I would have been poorly qualified t o t ake over
at Manchest er Unit ed. I st art ed at East St irling wit hout a penny. I enjoyed t hat , wit h 11 or 12
players. Then I went t o St Mirren wit hout a dime. I freed 17 players in my first season: t hey
werent good enough. They had 35 before I st art ed swinging my machet e. There, I would order
t he pies and t he cleaning mat erials and t he programmes. It was a full educat ion.
When Grard st art ed import ing large numbers of foreign players, I t hought t he t reble-winning
season offered proof t hat t he policy might rest ore t he club t o it s pomp. The likes of Vladim r
micer, Sami Hyypi and Diet mar Hamann had est ablished a st rong plat form on which Houllier
could build. Any Cup t reble has t o be t aken seriously. You might say fort une smiled on t hem in
t he FA Cup final against Arsenal, because Arsne Wengers t eam bat t ered t hem in t hat mat ch
before Michael Owen won it wit h t he second of his t wo goals. It wasnt t he individuals t hat
worried me around t hat t ime so much as t he name: Liverpool. The hist ory. I knew t hat if t his
upsurge cont inued t hey would become our biggest rivals again, ahead of Arsenal and Chelsea.
A year aft er t hat Cup t reble, t hey finished runners-up, but t hen fell away t o fift h aft er Grard
brought in El Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao and Bruno Cheyrou, from which many comment at ors drew a
line of cause and effect . Cheyrou was one we looked at when he was at Lille. He had no pace
but a nice left foot . A st rong lad, but not quick. Diouf had a good World Cup wit h Senegal and
made a name for himself. You could underst and Grards ant ennae t wit ching. I was always
wary of buying players on t he back of good t ournament performances. I did it at t he 1996
European Championship, which prompt ed me t o move for Jordi Cruyff and Karel Poborsk. Bot h
had excellent runs in t hat t ournament , but I didnt receive t he kind of value t heir count ries did
t hat summer. They werent bad buys, but somet imes players get t hemselves mot ivat ed and
prepared for World Cups and European Championships and aft er t hat t here can be a levelling
Wit h Diouf t here was a t alent but it needed nurt uring. He was a persist ent t horn in your
flesh, and not always in a nice way. Hed be silly on t he pit ch, but he had a right compet it ive
edge about him, and he had abilit y. Joining an august club like Liverpool was not compat ible
wit h his rebellious side because he found it hard t o conform t o t he discipline you need t o be
successful. Grard soon found t hat out . Wit h t he number of high-int ensit y games you are
going t o play against Arsenal and Chelsea, you need players of a good t emperament . And, in
my opinion, Diouf had a dodgy one. Cheyrou just never made it . He didnt have t he pace t o play
in t he Premier League.
The Spice Boy cult ure was anot her dragon Grard had t o slay. I would hear st ories of
Liverpool players nipping across t o Dublin for recreat ion. I felt t hat St an Collymores arrival was
hardly conducive t o st abilit y. I nearly bought Collymore myself because t here was an incredible
t alent . But when I wat ched him play for Liverpool, t here was no great urgency about him, and I
began t o t hink what a lucky guy I had been for not buying him. I can only assume he would
have been t he same at Unit ed. Inst ead I t ook Andy Cole, who was always brave as a lion and
always gave his best .
Before t he upswing under Houllier, Liverpool had fallen int o t he t rap t hat had caught Unit ed
years before. They would buy players t o fit a jigsaw. If you look at Man Unit ed from t he mid-
1970s t o t he mid-1980s, t hey were buying players such as Garry Birt les, Art hur Graham from
Leeds Unit ed, Pet er Davenport , Terry Gibson, Alan Brazil: t here seemed t o be a desperat ion. If
someone scored against Unit ed t hey would be signed: it was t hat kind of short -t erm t hinking.
Liverpool acquired t he same habit . Ronny Rosent hal, David Speedie, Jimmy Cart er. A
succession of players arrived who werent readily ident ifiable as Liverpool players. Collymore,
Phil Babb, Neil Ruddock, Mark Wright , Julian Dicks.
Grard bought a wide mix of players t o Anfield: Milan Baro, Luis Garc a, micer and
Hamann, who did a fine job for him. I could see a pat t ern emerging in Grards recruit ing. Under
Ben t ez I could observe no such st rat egy. Players came and went . There was a t ime when I
looked at his first XI and felt t hey were t he most unimaginat ive Liverpool side I ever went up
against . In one game against us, he played Javier Mascherano in cent ral midfield and had his
back four, as usual, but played St even Gerrard wide left , wit h Albert o Aquilani off t he front . He
t ook Dirk Kuyt off and put Ryan Babel on t he left , moving Gerrard t o t he right . The t hree played
in a pack t hrough t he middle. Babel was on as an out side-left but not once did he work t he
t ouchline. I cant know what his orders were, but on t he bench I remember saying it was a good
t ime t o bring him on, wide left , against Gary Neville. I t old Scholes: warn Gary t o concent rat e.
But Liverpool played wit h hardly any widt h at all.
Apparent ly Ben t ez came t o our t raining ground as a guest of St eve McClaren, but I dont
remember meet ing him. We received lot s of visit s from overseas coaches and it was hard t o
keep t rack of t hem all. We had people from China and Malt a and groups of t hree and four from
Scandinavian count ries. There was also a st eady flow of ot her sport smen: t he Aust ralia cricket
t eam, NBA players, Michael Johnson, Usain Bolt . Johnson, who runs a spring t raining
programme in Texas, impressed me wit h his knowledge.
Soon aft er Ben t ez arrived, I at t ended a Liverpool game and he and his wife invit ed me in for
a drink. So far, so good. But our relat ionship frayed. The mist ake he made was t o t urn our
rivalry personal. Once you made it personal, you had no chance, because I could wait . I had
success on my side. Ben t ez was st riving for t rophies while also t aking me on. That was
On t he day he produced his famous list of fact s det ailing my influence over referees, we
received a t ip-off t hat Liverpool would st age-manage a quest ion t hat would enable Ben t ez t o
go on t he at t ack. That s not unusual in foot ball. I had been known t o plant a quest ion myself.
Put it t his way, our press office had warned me, We t hink Ben t ez is going t o have a go at you
t oday.
What about ? I asked.
I dont know, but weve been t ipped off, t hey said.
So, on t elevision, Ben t ez put s his glasses on and produces t his sheet of paper.
Fact s.
The fact s were all wrong.
First , he said I int imidat e referees. The FA were scared of me, according t o Rafa, even
t hough I had just been fined 10,000 by t he FA t wo weeks previously, and I was failing t o
support t he Respect campaign. The Respect init iat ive had st art ed t hat season, yet Rafa was
going on about my crit icism of Mart in At kinson in a Cup t ie t he previous year, before t he new
guidelines had come int o place. So he was wrong in t he first t wo t hings he said. The media
loved it , even t hough t he fact s were inaccurat e. They were hoping it would st art a war, t hat I
would launch a rocket back.
In fact , all I said in reply was t hat Rafa was obviously bit t er about somet hing and t hat I was
at a loss t o explain what t hat might be. That was me saying t o him: look, youre a silly man. You
should never make it personal. That was t he first t ime he t ried t hose t act ics, and each
subsequent at t ack bore t he same personal edge.
My inquiries t old me t hat he had been irrit at ed by me quest ioning whet her Liverpool would
be able t o handle t he t it le run in, whet her t hey would buckle under t he pressure. Had I been
t he Liverpool manager, I would have t aken t hat as a compliment . Inst ead Ben t ez int erpret ed it
as an insult . If I, as Manchest er Unit ed manager, was t alking about Liverpool and dropping in
remarks t o make t hem wobble, my Anfield count erpart ought t o know t heyd got me worried.
When Kenny was in charge at Blackburn, and t hey were out in front in t he t it le race, I piped
up: Well, were hoping for a Devon Loch now. That st uck. Devon Loch popped up in every
newspaper art icle. And Blackburn st art ed t o drop point s. We ought t o have won t he League
t hat year but Rovers held on. There is no doubt we made it harder for t hem by raising t he
spect re of t he Queen Mot hers horse performing t he split s on t he Aint ree run-in.
The advance publicit y had been t hat Ben t ez was a cont rol freak, which t urned out t o be
correct , t o a point t hat made no sense. He displayed no int erest in forming friendships wit h
ot her managers: a dangerous policy, because t here would have been plent y from lesser clubs
who would have loved t o share a drink and learn from him.
In t he 200910 season he did come in for a glass at Anfield, but looked uncomfort able, and,
aft er a short while, said he needed t o go, and t hat was t hat . To Sammy Lee, his assist ant , I
said: At least t hat s a st art .
On t he day Robert o Mart nez, manager of Wigan At hlet ic, was quot ed as saying I had
friends who did my bidding in relat ion t o Ben t ez (big Sam Allardyce was one he was referring
t o), Robert o phoned me and put a call int o t he LMA t o ask whet her he should make a
st at ement correct ing t he st ory. Robert o t old me he had no connect ion wit h Ben t ez, who had
not helped him in any way. I t hink Mart nez had spoken t o a Spanish paper about t he way
Ben t ez saw us, his rivals in England, but was not endorsing t hat view himself. He was merely
t he messenger. You would t hink Ben t ez and Mart nez would have st ruck up an affinit y, being
t he only Spanish managers in England.
Ben t ez would complain about having no money t o spend, but from t he day he landed, he
doled out more t han me. Far more. It amazed me t hat he used t o walk int o press conferences
and say he had no money t o spend. He was given plent y. It was t he qualit y of his buys t hat let
him down. If you set aside Torres and Reina, few of his acquisit ions were of t rue Liverpool
st andard. There were serviceable players Mascherano and Kuyt , hard-working players but
not real Liverpool qualit y. There was no Souness or Dalglish or Ronnie Whelan or Jimmy Case.
Ben t ez did score t wo great successes in t he t ransfer market : Pepe Reina, t he goalkeeper,
and Fernando Torres, t heir st riker. Torres was a very, very t alent ed individual. We wat ched him
many t imes and t ried t o sign him when he was 16. We expressed our int erest t wo years before
he joined Liverpool, but we always felt t hat our cont act wit h him would end only in him receiving
an improved cont ract at At lt ico Madrid. We wat ched him in many yout h t ournament s and
always fancied him. He was ingrained in t he fabric at At lt ico, so I was surprised Liverpool were
able t o prise him away. Ben t ezs Spanish connect ions must have helped.
Torres was blessed wit h great cunning: a shrewdness t hat was borderline Machiavellian. He
had a t ouch of evil, t hough not in a physical sense, and he had t hat t ot al change of pace. In a
45-yard sprint he was no fast er t han several Liverpool players, but he had t hat change of pace,
which can be let hal. His st ride was decept ively long. Wit hout warning he would accelerat e and
slice across you. Conversely, Im not sure he was at his best when t hings were going against
him because his react ions could become pet t y. Perhaps he was spoilt at At lt ico Madrid,
where he was t he golden boy for so long. He was capt ain t here at 21.
He had a fine physique: a st rikers height and frame. And he was Liverpools best cent re-
forward since Owen or Fowler. Anot her st ar, of course, was St even Gerrard, who didnt always
play well against Man Unit ed, but was capable of winning mat ches by himself. We made a
show for him in t he t ransfer market , as did Chelsea, because t he vibe was t hat he want ed t o
move from Anfield, but t here seemed t o be some rest raining influence from people out side t he
club and it reached a dead end.
His move t o Chelsea seemed all set up. A quest ion kept nagging at me: why did Ben t ez not
t rust Gerrard as a cent ral midfield player? The one t hing we could be sure of in my lat er years
against Liverpool was t hat if t heir t wo cent ral midfielders won it off you t hey would not do
much wit h it . If Gerrard was in t here and he won it against you, you knew he had t he legs and
t he ambit ion t o go right forward and hurt you. I could never underst and why Liverpool so oft en
neglect ed t o play him cent re-mid. In 200809, when t hey finished second wit h 86 point s, t hey
had Alonso t o make t he passes and Gerrard furt her up t he pit ch behind Torres.
Anot her of our advant ages was t hat t hey st opped producing homegrown t alent s. Michael
Owen was probably t he last . If Michael had joined us at 12 years old, he would have been one
of t he great st rikers. In t he year he played in t he Malaysian yout h finals we had Ronnie
Wallwork and John Curt is t here on England dut y. When t hey ret urned I gave t hem a mont h off
sent t hem on holiday. Michael Owen was st raight int o t he Liverpool first t eam, wit h no rest
and no t echnical development . Michael improved as a foot baller in t he t wo years he had wit h
us. He was t errific in t he dressing room and was a nice boy.
I t hink t hat lack of rest and t echnical development in his early years count ed against him. By
t he t ime Houllier inherit ed him, he was already formed and was t he icon of t he t eam. There
was no opport unit y by t hen t o t ake him aside and work on him from a t echnical point of view. I
made a mist ake wit h Michael in t he sense t hat I should have signed him earlier. There would
have been no chance of him coming st raight t o Man Unit ed from Liverpool, but we should have
st epped in when he left Real Madrid for Newcast le. Hes a fine young man.
Of t he ot her Liverpool players who gave us t rouble, Dirk Kuyt was as honest a player as you
could meet . Im sure he was 6 feet 2 inches when he arrived and ended up 5 feet 8 inches
because he ran his legs int o st umps. Ive never known a forward player work so hard at
defending. Ben t ez picked him every game. But t hen, if somet hing happens in t he opposit ion
penalt y box, will he be sharp enough or is he exhaust ed from all t he scuffling?
Despit e my reservat ions about him as a person and a manager, Ben t ez persuaded his
players t o work t heir socks off for him, so t here must be some inspirat ional qualit y t here: fear,
or respect , or skill on his part . You never saw his t eams t hrow in t he t owel, and he deserves
credit for t hat .
Why did he not do as well as he might have at Anfield, from my perspect ive? Ben t ez had
more regard for defending and dest roying a game t han winning it . You cant be t ot ally
successful t hese days wit h t hat approach.
Jos Mourinho was far more ast ut e in his handling of players. And he has personalit y. If you
saw Jos and Rafa st anding t oget her on t he t ouchline, you knew you could pick t he winner.
You always had t o respect a Liverpool side. The same goes for some of t he work Ben t ez put
in, because t hey were a very hard side t o beat , and because he won a European Cup t here.
There were plus point s. He got lucky, but so did I, somet imes.
His mode on t he t ouchline was t o const ant ly move his players around t he pit ch, but I doubt
whet her t hey were always wat ching him or act ing on t hose inst ruct ions. No one could have
underst ood all t hose gest iculat ions. On t he ot her hand, wit h Mourinho, in a ChelseaInt er
mat ch, I not iced t he players sprint ed over t o him, as if t o say, What , boss? They were
at t ent ive t o his wishes.
You need a st rong manager. That s vit al. And Ben t ez is st rong. He has great fait h in himself
and hes sufficient ly st ubborn t o ignore his crit ics. He does t hat t ime and again. But he did win
a European Cup, against AC Milan in Ist anbul in 2005, which offered him some prot ect ion
against t hose who dismissed his met hods.
When Milan led 30 at half-t ime in t hat game, so t he st ory goes, some of t he Milan players
were already celebrat ing, pulling on commemorat ive T-shirt s and jigging about . I was t old Paolo
Maldini and Gennaro Rino Gat t uso were going crackers, urging t heir t eam-mat es not t o
presume t he game was over.
Liverpool won t he Cup t hat night wit h a marvellous show of defiance.
Aft er a brief spell in charge at Anfield, Roy Hodgson gave way t o Kenny again and Liverpool
embarked on anot her phase of major rebuilding. Yet few of t he signings made in Kennys t ime
haunt ed me at night . We looked at Jordan Henderson a lot and St eve Bruce was unfailingly
ent husiast ic about him. Against t hat we not iced t hat Henderson runs from his knees, wit h a
st raight back, while t he modern foot baller runs from his hips. We t hought his gait might cause
him problems lat er in his career.
St ewart Downing cost Liverpool 20 million. He had a t alent but he was not t he bravest or
t he quickest . He was a good crosser and st riker of t he ball. But 20 million? Andy Carroll, who
also joined for 35 million, was in our nort heast school of excellence, along wit h Downing and
James Morrison, who went on t o play for Middlesbrough, West Brom and Scot land. The FA
closed it down aft er complaint s from Sunderland and Newcast le. This was at t he t ime
academies st art ed. The Carroll signing was a react ion t o t he Torres windfall of 50 million.
Andys problem was his mobilit y, his speed across t he ground. Unless t he ball is going t o be in
t he box t he whole t ime, it s very difficult t o play t he way Andy Carroll does because defenders
push out so well t hese days. You look for movement in t he modern st riker. Surez was not
quick on his feet but has a fast brain.
The boys Kenny brought in from t he yout h set -up did well. Jay Spearing, especially, was
t errific. As a boy Spearing was a cent re-back, wit h John Flanagan at full-back, and Spearing
was easily t he best of t hem: feist y, quick, a leader. You could see he had somet hing. He was all
right in t he cent re of midfield, but it was hard t o visualise his long-t erm fut ure. His physique
perhaps count ed against him.
Kenny won t he League Cup, of course, and reached t he final of t he FA Cup, but when I heard
t hat he and his assist ant St eve Clarke had been summoned t o Bost on t o meet t he clubs
owners, I feared t he worst for t hem. I dont t hink t he prot est T-shirt s and defending Surez in
t he Pat rice Evra saga helped Kenny. As a manager your head can go in t he sand a bit ,
especially wit h a great player. If it had been a reserve player rat her t han Surez, would Kenny
have gone t o such lengt hs t o defend him?
The New York Times and Boston Globe edit orials about t he subsequent EvraSurez non-
handshake showed t he way t he debat e was going. Kennys problem, I feel, was t hat t oo many
young people in t he club idolised him. Pet er Robinson, t he clubs chief execut ive in t he glory
years, would have st opped t he sit uat ion escalat ing t o t he degree it did. The club has t o t ake
precedence over any individual.
The next man in, Brendan Rodgers, was only 39. I was surprised t hey gave it t o such a young
coach. A mist ake I felt John Henry made in Brendans first weeks in charge in June 2012 was t o
sanct ion a fly-on-t he wall document ary designed t o reveal t he int imacies of life at Liverpool. To
put t hat spot light on such a young guy was hard and it came across badly. It made no great
impact in America, so I could not work out what t he point of it was. My underst anding is t hat
t he players were t old t hey were obliged t o give t he int erviews we saw on our screens.
Brendan cert ainly gave yout h a chance, which was admirable. And he achieved a reasonable
response from his squad. I t hink he knew t here had been some sub-st andard buys. Henderson
and Downing were among t hose who would need t o prove t heir credent ials. In general you
have t o give players you might not rat e a chance.
Our rivalry wit h Liverpool was so int ense. Always. Underpinning t he animosit y, t hough, was
mut ual respect . I was proud of my club t he day we marked t he publicat ion of t he Hillsborough
report in 2012: a moment ous week for Liverpool and t hose who had fought for just ice.
What ever Liverpool asked for in t erms of commemorat ion, we agreed t o, and our host s made
plain t heir appreciat ion for our effort s.
I t old my players t hat day no provocat ive goal celebrat ions, and if you foul a Liverpool
player, pick him up. Mark Halsey, t he referee, st ruck t he right not e wit h his marshalling of t he
game. Before t he kick-off, Bobby Charlt on emerged wit h a wreat h which he present ed t o Ian
Rush, who laid it at t he Hillsborough Memorial by t he Shankly Gat es. The wreat h was
composed of 96 roses, one for each Liverpool support er who died at Hillsborough. Originally,
Liverpool want ed me and Ian Rush t o perform t hat ceremony, but I t hought Bobby was a more
appropriat e choice. The day went well, despit e some minor slanging at t he end by a t iny
minorit y.
For Liverpool t o ret urn t o t he level of us and Manchest er Cit y was clearly going t o require
huge invest ment . The st adium was anot her inhibit ing fact or. The clubs American owners
elect ed t o refurbish Fenway Park, home of t he Bost on Red Sox, rat her t han build a new arena.
To const ruct a major st adium t hese days is perhaps a 700 million ent erprise. Anfield has not
moved on. Even t he dressing rooms are t he same as 20 years ago. At t he same t ime, my
reading of t heir squad was t hat t hey needed eight players t o come up t o t it le-winning
st andard. And if you have made mist akes in t he t ransfer market , you oft en end up giving t hose
players away for very lit t le.
While Brendan Rodgers went about his work, Rafa Ben t ez and I had not seen t he last of
one anot her. He ret urned t o English foot ball as Chelseas int erim manager when Robert o Di
Mat t eo, who had won t he Champions League in May, was sacked in t he aut umn of 2012. In a
Unit ed press conference soon aft er Ben t ezs unveiling, I made t he point t hat he was fort unat e
t o inherit ready-made sides.
I felt his record needed placing in cont ext . He won t he Spanish League wit h 51 goals, in
200102, which suggest ed he was a skilled pragmat ist . But I found Liverpool hard t o wat ch
when he was manager t here. I found t hem dull. It was a surprise t o me t hat Chelsea called him.
When Ben t ez placed his record alongside Di Mat t eos, it would have been t wo League t it les
wit h Valencia, a European Cup and an FA Cup wit h Liverpool. In six mont hs, Di Mat t eo had won
t he FA Cup and t he European Cup.
They were comparable records. Yet Rafa had landed on his feet again.
FROM t he moment Manchest er Unit ed became a Plc in 1990, I was cert ain t he club would be
bought and t aken int o privat e ownership. Rupert Murdochs BSkyB were t he largest of t he
privat e bidders before Malcolm Glazer first t ook a st ake in 2003. Wit h our hist ory and our aura,
we were t oo big a prize t o be ignored by individual invest ors. The only surprise t o me, when t he
Glazer family moved in t o t ake cont rol, was t hat t here had not been a host of wealt hy suit ors.
Once t he Glazers had seized t heir opport unit y, Andy Walsh of t he Unit ed support ers group
called me t o say: You have t o resign. Andys a nice lad but t here was no t empt at ion for me t o
agree t o t hat request . I was t he manager, not a direct or. Nor was I one of t he shareholders who
had sold t he club. The t akeover was not down t o me in any way.
Well all be behind you, Andy said. My reply was: But what do you t hink would happen t o all
my st aff? The moment I left , most of my assist ant s would have been out as well. Some had
been wit h me for 20 years. The impact made on ot hers when a manager changes his posit ion
is somet imes lost on t hose out side t he circle.
It was a worrying t ime, I admit . One of my concerns was how much money we might have t o
invest in t he t eam. But I had t o be confident bot h in my own abilit y t o spot good players and
t he st ruct ure of t he organisat ion. The Glazers were buying a good solid club and t hey
underst ood t hat from t he st art .
My first cont act was a phone call from t he fat her, Malcolm. Two weeks lat er his sons Joel
and Avi came over t o set out t heir posit ion. They t old me t here would be no changes t o t he
way t he foot ball side was run. In t heir view, t he club was in good hands. I was a successful
manager. They had no concerns. They were t ot ally behind me. All t he t hings I want ed t o hear
from t hem, I heard t hat day. I know t here is always an element of window dressing. People t ell
you everyt hing is fine, t hen make a million alt erat ions. People lose t heir jobs; t here are cut backs
because debt s need t o be repaid. But Unit ed st ayed solid under t he new ownership,
irrespect ive of t he borrowings people t alked about and t he int erest payment s incurred.
Over t he years, several support er groups challenged me t o define my st ance in relat ion t o
t he clubs debt s and my answer was always: Im t he manager. Im working for a club owned by
people in America. That was my st andpoint . I never t hought it sensible t o upset t he
management side of t he club by adding t o t he debat e on models of ownership. If t he Glazers
had t aken a more confront at ional pat h, t hen it might have been different if, for example, t hey
had inst ruct ed me t o get rid of one of my coaches. Any changes t hat might have undermined
my abilit y t o run t he club would have alt ered t he whole dynamic, but t here was never t hat kind
of pressure. So do you t hrow down your t ools because some support ers want you t o walk
away from a lifet imes work?
When I first joined Unit ed, t here was a group of support ers known as t he Second Board.
They would meet in t he Grill Room and decide what t hey t hought was wrong wit h Manchest er
Unit ed. Back t hen, when my posit ion was more fragile, I was more at t uned t o t he damage t hat
might be done t o my posit ion should t hey t urn against me. Ot her Unit ed managers before me
had felt t he same way. In my playing days at Rangers, a group of powerful fans t ravelled wit h
t he first t eam and were influent ial lobbyist s. At Unit ed t here was a larger array of support ers
voices. In disgust at t he Glazer t akeover, some handed in t heir season t icket s and st art ed FC
Unit ed of Manchest er.
There is a price t o pay when you support a foot ball club, and t he price is t hat you cant win
every game. You are not going t o be a manager for a lifet ime. Unit ed are lucky t o have had t wo
for half a cent ury. Wit h losing and winning games, t he emot ions rise and fall. Foot ball nat urally
generat es dissent . I remember us losing a game at Rangers and t he support ers t hrowing bricks
t hrough t he windows.
There was no reason, beyond my age, for t he Glazers t o consider a change of manager in
t he summer of 2005. I never considered t hat possibilit y, never felt under t hreat .
The t ens of millions of pounds paid out in int erest t o service t he loans did arouse prot ect ive
feelings t owards t he club. I underst ood t hat , but at no st age did it t ranslat e int o pressure t o
sell a player or excessive caut ion on t he purchasing front . One of t heir st rengt hs was t heir
commercial depart ment in London, which brought in dozens of sponsorships globally. We had
Turkish airlines, t elephone companies in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Thailand, beer companies in
t he Far East . That sucked in t ens of millions and helped service t he debt . On t he foot ball side
we generat ed huge earnings. The 76,000 crowds helped a great deal.
So at no st age was I held back by t he Glazer ownership. Oft en we would lose int erest in a
player because t he t ransfer fee or wage demands had become silly. Those decisions were
t aken by me and David Gill. There was no edict from above t o spend only in line wit h t he clubs
debt s.
Inst ead our galaxy went on expanding. From 2007 more foreign t alent poured int o Carringt on
from Sout h America, Port ugal and Bulgaria. No import ed player in t hose years at t ract ed more
at t ent ion t han Carlos Tvez, who was at t he heart of a major cont roversy over t he relegat ion
of Sheffield Unit ed from t he Premier League and was t o end up in opposit ion t o us at
Manchest er Cit y, st aring down from t hat provocat ive billboard in his sky-blue shirt , underneat h
t he message: Welcome t o Manchest er.
The t ale begins when Tvez was at West Ham and David Gill was receiving calls from his
agent , Kia Joorabchian, saying t he boy would love t o play for Man Unit ed. We had heard t hat
kind of st ory many t imes. It was almost rout ine for agent s t o call saying t heir client had a
special feeling for our crest . My advice was t hat we should not involve ourselves in any
complicat ed dealings wit h t he Tvez camp. David agreed. It was clear t hat a consort ium of
people owned t he player. But , t o David, I also remarked: He does make an impact in games
wit h his energy and he has a decent scoring record. It would depend what t he deal was.
David t old me he could acquire Tvez on loan for t wo years, for a fee. That was t he way it
t urned out and Carlos did well for us in his first season. He scored a lot of import ant goals,
against Lyon, Blackburn, Tot t enham and Chelsea. There was a real ent husiasm and energy
about him. He wasnt blessed wit h great pace and wasnt a great t rainer. He would always like
a wee break, saying his calf was sore. In t he cont ext of t he way we prepared, t hat somet imes
annoyed us. We want ed t o see a genuine desire t o t rain all t he t ime. Top players have t hat .
But Tvez compensat ed quit e well wit h his ent husiasm in games.
In t he 2008 European Cup final in Moscow, he played and scored in t he penalt y shoot -out
against Chelsea. He was our first t aker. In t he game it self, I t ook Rooney off and left Tvez on
because he was playing bet t er t han Wayne. What plant ed a doubt in my mind was t hat in his
second season I signed Dimit ar Berbat ov, and t he emphasis was on Berbat ov and Rooney as
our forward part nership.
Wat ching Dimit ar at Tot t enham, I felt he would make a difference because he had a cert ain
composure and awareness t hat we lacked among our group of st rikers. He displayed t he abilit y
of Cant ona or Teddy Sheringham: not light ning quick, but he could lift his head and make a
creat ive pass. I t hought he could bring us up a level and ext end our range of t alent s.
So Berbat ovs arrival relegat ed Tvez t o more of a backup role. And around December in his
second season, we st art ed t o feel he wasnt doing especially well. The reason, I t hink, was t hat
hes t he t ype of animal t hat needs t o play all t he t ime. If youre not t raining int ensively, which
he wasnt , you need t o play regularly. During t hat wint er, David Gill asked, What do you want t o
do? I felt we ought t o wait unt il lat er in t he season t o make a decision. They want one now,
David said.
I replied, Just t ell t hem Im t rying t o get him more games so we can assess it properly,
because Berbat ov is in t he t eam a lot .
Tvez did influence plent y of out comes in t he second half of t he 200809 campaign,
especially against Spurs at home, when we were 20 down, and I sent him on t o shake t hings
up. He chased absolut ely everyt hing. He brought huge ent husiasm t o t he cause and was t he
one responsible for us winning t hat mat ch 52. His impact changed t he course of event s.
The 2009 Champions League semi-final pit t ed us against Arsenal and I was playing a t hree
of Ronaldo, Rooney and Park. That was my chosen group for t he final and apparent ly Tvez
was not impressed. We made a mess of t he final in Rome against Barcelona. We chose a bad
hot el. It was a shambles. We have t o hold our hands up about our poor planning.
Anyway, I brought Tvez on at half-t ime and just felt he was playing for himself a bit . From
what I could gat her, he had already made his mind up before joining Cit y. Aft er t he game in
Rome he said t o me: You never showed any great desire t o sign me permanent ly. I explained
t hat I had t o see how t he season played out and t hat he hadnt played enough games for me
t o be sure. David offered t he 25 million fee for him, but from what I can gat her it was as if he
were t alking t o t he wall. That led us t o t hink he had already elect ed t o move across t own.
The rumour, not confirmed, was t hat our Manchest er rivals had paid 47 million. Tvez
spoke t o Chelsea at some point , t oo, and I t hink his advisers played one against t he ot her. The
word was t hat Chelsea offered 35 million but t hat Cit y out bid t hem. To me t hese were
incredible sums. I wouldnt have paid t hat kind of money, fine player t hough he was. To me he
was an impact maker. It was a mist ake on my part , in t he sense t hat Berbat ov was a player I
fancied st rongly and I want ed t o see him succeed. But he is also t he sort who want s t o be
assured he is a great player. The conundrum wit h him and Tvez was always t here.
There was no disciplinary problem wit h Tvez of t he sort Robert o Mancini encount ered
when t he boy declined t o warm up for Cit y, apparent ly, in a Champions League game in
Germany, but t here was a major hoo-ha over his supposed role in Sheffield Unit eds demot ion
t o t he Championship in 2007. Tvezs goals had been saving West Ham from relegat ion when
t hey came t o our ground at t he end of t hat season. They were fined for breaching t hird-part y
ownership rules wit h Tvez, but no point s were deduct ed by t he Premier League. Inevit ably
Tvez scored against us for West Ham, which helped send Sheffield Unit ed down, and Neil
Warnock, t heir manager, t ried t o load t he blame on us for playing a supposedly weakened
t eam against t he Hammers.
We had a Cup final t he week aft er t hat West Ham game. Our squad was one of t he
st rongest in t he League and I had been changing t he t eam all season according t o
circumst ance. If you wat ch t hat mat ch, we had t wo or t hree penalt ies t urned down and t heir
goalkeeper had a fant ast ic game. They broke away and Tvez scored. West Ham were never
in t he game. We bat t ered t hem. I brought on Ronaldo, Rooney and Giggs in t he second half
but st ill we couldnt knock t hem over.
Meanwhile Mr Warnock accuses us of t hrowing t he game away. In t heir last game t hey faced
Wigan at home and all t hey needed was a draw. In early January, Warnock had let David
Unswort h go on a free t ransfer t o Wigan, and Unswort h t akes t he penalt y kick t hat knocks
Sheffield Unit ed out of t he Premier League. Could anyone wit h an open mind not say: I made a
mess of t hat , t here? Has he ever looked at himself in t he mirror and said, All we needed was a
draw at home and we werent good enough t o t ake a point off Wigan? The accusat ion was
In January 2007 we acquired a real arist ocrat for a t wo-mont h spell, at any rat e. Louis Saha
had ret urned at t he st art of t he season full of promise but picked up anot her injury. In Oct ober
Jim Lawlor, Unit eds chief scout , point ed out t o us t hat it was a wast e for Henrik Larsson t o be
playing in Sweden when he st ill had so much t o offer on a bigger st age. Helsingborgs, where
Henrik was playing, would not sell him, but I asked Jim t o ask t heir chairman what t hey would
t hink about him coming on loan in January. Henrik pushed t he boat in t hat direct ion wit h his
On arrival at Unit ed, he seemed a bit of a cult figure wit h our players. They would say his
name in awed t ones. For a man of 35 years of age, his recept iveness t o informat ion on t he
coaching side was amazing. At every session he was rapt . He want ed t o list en t o Carlos, t he
t act ics lect ures; he was int o every nuance of what we did.
In t raining he was superb: his movement , his posit ional play. His t hree goals for us were no
measure of his cont ribut ion. In his last game in our colours at Middlesbrough, we were winning
21 and Henrik went back t o play in midfield and ran his balls off. On his ret urn t o t he dressing
room, all t he players st ood up and applauded him, and t he st aff joined in. It t akes some player
t o make t hat kind of impact in t wo mont hs. Cult st at us can vanish in t wo minut es if a player
isnt doing his job, yet Henrik ret ained t hat aura in his t ime wit h us. He looked a nat ural Man
Unit ed player, wit h his movement and courage. He also had a great spring for a lit t le lad.
I could have signed him earlier. I was ready t o make t he bid when he was at Celt ic but
Dermot Desmond, Celt ics majorit y shareholder, rang me and said, Youve let me down, Alex,
youve got t ons of players, we need him.
A mont h aft er Henrik went back t o Sweden, we regist ered one of our great est European
vict ories: t he 71 win over Roma on 10 April, our highest Champions League score. There were
t wo goals each for Michael Carrick and Ronaldo, one from Rooney, Alan Smit h and even
Pat rice Evra, who scored for t he first t ime in Europe.
Top games of foot ball are generally won by eight players. Three players can be carried if
t heyre having an off night and work t heir socks off, or are playing a purely t act ical role for t he
t eam in order t o secure t he result . But half a dozen t imes in your career you achieve perfect ion
where all 11 are on song.
Everyt hing we did t hat night came off. For t he second goal we produced a six-man move of
one-t ouch passing. Alan Smit h scored from a Ryan Giggs pass bet ween t he t wo cent re-backs.
First t ime bang, in t he net . Brilliant goal. So you have t hese moment s when you say: we could
not have improved on t hat .
I remember t aking a t eam t o Not t ingham Forest in 1999 and winning 81. It could have been
20. Roma were a bloody good side t oo. They had Daniele De Rossi, Crist ian Chivu and
Francesco Tot t i, and we absolut ely slaught ered t hem. We had been beat en 21 in Rome,
where Scholes had been sent off for a suicidal t ackle right on t he t ouchline. The boy was
pract ically off t he pit ch when Paul arrived wit h his challenge. So we were under some pressure
in t he ret urn leg. Unt il t he goals st art ed flying in.
Wimbledon away in t he FA Cup in February 1994 was anot her classic. In a 30 win we
scored one goal wit h 38 passes. People t alk of t he best Man Unit ed goal being Ryan Giggs in
t hat FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, or Rooneys overhead kick against Manchest er Cit y,
but for me t hat goal at Wimbledon was sublime. Every player in t he t eam t ouched t he ball. In
t he first minut e of t he game, Vinnie Jones t ried t o do Cant ona. Crack. Down went Eric. All our
players ran t owards Jones, but Cant ona said, Leave him alone, because he was a fellow ex-
Leeds player, and may have felt a kinship. Then he pat t ed Jones on t he back as if t o say, You
can kick me if you like but you wont st op me. Cant ona was marvellous t hat day and scored
our first goal wit h a beaut iful volley t hat he t eed up for himself wit h his right foot .
People always said Wimbledon couldnt play. That s not t rue. The qualit y of t he service t o
t heir front players was high, especially t he crosses. Their set -piece delivery was t errific. They
were not devoid of t alent . What t hey did was use t hose t alent s as a weapon against weaker
people. If you didnt head t he ball, you were dead. If you couldnt handle set pieces you were
dead. If you want ed t o get int o a 5050 wit h t hem no chance. They were hard t o play
against . So t hat 30 win in t heir ground was special t o us.
Two big wins over Arsenal also st and out . In a 62 win at Highbury in t he League Cup in
1990, Lee Sharpe scored a hat -t rick. On anot her occasion, in February 2001, we beat t hem 6
1 at Old Trafford. An Irish family had bought an auct ion prize t o see us play at Liverpool in
December 2000, but were fog-bound and unable t o t ravel. We lost 10 t o Liverpool in a horrible
game. They rang me and asked, What are we going t o do? I t old t hem, Weve got Arsenal at
home soon. And t hey saw a 61 massacre. What a difference. It was 51 at half-t ime. Yorkie
t ore t hem apart .
Despit e our 71 win over Roma, our Champions League campaign was ended by a 30
defeat in Milan on 2 May. We had been forced t o field a full t eam on t he previous Sat urday in
order t o beat Evert on 42 at Goodison Park, while Milan had rest ed nine players for t heir game
against us, which was on t he Tuesday. We were simply not as well prepared as our It alian
opponent s. We conceded t wice in 15 minut es, it bucket ed wit h rain, and we just couldnt break
out of our own half. We simply werent ready for it . Winning on t he Sat urday had been a
mammot h t ask because we had been 20 down against Evert on, yet we won t he game t o
move five point s clear in t he League.
Along wit h Tvez and Larsson, ot her global t alent s joined us. Carlos, t hrough his Port uguese
connect ions, t old us t here was a young boy at Port o from Brazil called Anderson. He was 16 or
17. We kept an eye on him. He was in and out of t he t eam. A game here, an appearance from
t he bench t here. Then he played against us in t he Amst erdam t ournament and I resolved t o
act , but t he following week he broke his leg.
When his recovery was complet e, I sent Mart in over t o wat ch him in every game for four or
five weeks. Mart in said: Alex, hes bet t er t han Rooney.
For Christ s sake, dont say t hat , I t old him. Hell need t o be good t o be bet t er t han Rooney.
Mart in was adamant . At t hat st age, Anderson was playing off t he st riker. At t he end of t he
t ournament we moved t o buy bot h him and Nani, who I went t o see for myself. What at t ract ed
me t o Nani was his pace, st rengt h and aerial abilit y. He had t wo fine feet . All t he individual
at t ribut es were t here, which brought us round t o t he old quest ion: what t ype of boy was he?
Answer: a good one, quiet , could speak English reasonably well, never caused any problems at
Sport ing Lisbon, and was an excellent t rainer. My word hes a fit boy. Gymnast ic, t oo. His
at hlet ic read-out s were always first -class. So t he foundat ions were t here. Carlos went over
wit h David Gill: called int o Sport ing Lisbon t o sign Nani and t hen drove up t o Port o t o capt ure
Anderson. All in one day.
Two years on, we were able t o say t hat t he reasons for signing t hem were correct . There
were complicat ions wit h Anderson in t he wint er of 200910. He wasnt playing as much as he
would have liked t o and want ed t o ret urn home. He was Brazilian, and t he complicat ion, as
ever, was t he World Cup, which he was desperat e t o play in. His scheme was t o go t o Vasco
Da Gama for t he rest of t he season so he could play in t he Sout h Africa World Cup of 2010.
Youre not leaving here. Were not invest ing millions of pounds in a player so he can shoot off
t o Brazil, I t old him. Lovely personalit y, Anderson.
I have always respect ed Brazilian foot ballers. Name a Brazilian player who doesnt excel in
big games? They were born for t he big occasion. They have a special qualit y: deep pride in
t hemselves. Great belief. There is a myt h t hat Brazilians regard t raining as an onerous
int errupt ion t o a life of pleasure. Not t rue. They t rain conscient iously. The not ion t hat t hey hat e
t he cold is anot her fallacy. The t wo Da Silva brot hers for example: no t racksuit bot t oms, no
gloves out t hey go. No count ry can apply t he rich mix of ingredient s you gain from a t op
Brazilian player. Argent ines are deeply pat riot ic but I found t hey lack t he expressive
personalit ies of Brazilians.
Wit h Nani we were buying pure raw mat erial. He was immat ure, inconsist ent , but wit h a
wonderful inst inct for foot ball. He could cont rol t he ball wit h eit her foot , head t he ball and he
brist led wit h physical st rengt h. He could cross, shoot . When you buy a player wit h all t hose
t alent s, t he t rick is t o put t hem in order. He was a bit disorganised and needed t o be more
consist ent . It was inevit able t hat he would work in Ronaldos shadow because he was a winger
from Port ugal wit h some of t he same at t ribut es. Had he been from Serbia, no one would have
made t he comparison. But bot h Ronaldo and Nani had come t hrough Sport ing Lisbon, so t hey
were always being st udied side by side.
Ronaldo was blessed wit h out rageous t alent , and was brave, wit h t wo great feet and a
wonderful leap. It was perhaps daunt ing for Nani t o assert himself as a Man Unit ed st art er
against t hat backdrop. To be up against Ronaldo in t eam select ion was a problem in it self. In
his first year he was on t he bench a lot . Nani picked up t he language quickly but Anderson t ook
longer. Because hes Brazilian, t hough, he brought incredible self-belief t o t he job. Brazilians
t hink t hey can play against anybody.
I would say t o Anderson: Have you seen t his Neymar in Brazil?
Oh, great player. Fant ast ic.
Have you seen Robinho?
Wonderful. Incredible player.
Every Brazilian name I ment ioned would elicit t his response. He t hought everyone back
home was world class. When Brazil bat t ered Port ugal in a friendly, Anderson t old Ronaldo:
Next t ime well play our fift h t eam t o give you a chance. Ronaldo was not amused. That s t he
kind of count ry Brazil is. I love t hat st ory about t he compet it ion in Rio t o uneart h new No. 10s
and t housands t urning up. One boy t ravelled for 22 hours on a bus. It s a massive count ry, wit h
t alent everywhere.
I look back less fondly on our move for Owen Hargreaves, who was phenomenal in t he
summer of 2006 and was just t he t ype of player we needed t o fill t he gap left by Keane. We
st art ed t o put t oget her a bid for him. But I st udied his playing record and felt a t inge of doubt . I
didnt feel a st rong vibe about him. David Gill worked hard on t he deal wit h Bayern. I met
Owens agent at t he World Cup final in Berlin. Nice man, a lawyer. I t old him we could develop
Hargreaves at Unit ed. It t urned out t o be a disast er.
Owen had no confidence in himself what soever. He didnt show nearly enough det erminat ion
t o overcome his physical difficult ies, for my liking. I saw him opt for t he easy choice t oo oft en in
t erms of t raining. He was one of t he most disappoint ing signings of my career.
He went everywhere in search of cures for his various injuries: Germany, America, Canada. I
felt he lacked t he confidence t o overcome his injuries. It went from bad t o worse. He was away
in America for t he best part of a year. He saw Hans Mller-Wohlfahrt , t he club doct or at Bayern
Munich, for his calf. In t he games he did act ually play, I had no qualms about his cont ribut ion. He
was light ning quick and a great set -piece deliverer. He could play right -back, wide right or
cent ral midfield. I played him wide right in t he 2008 final against Chelsea, and when we st art ed
t o st ruggle against t heir midfield t hree, I put him in t he middle of t he park wit h Rooney wide
right and it worked. He had definit e value. But it was all lost in t he fog of his lack of games. Yet
Hargreaves was fant ast ic for England at t he 2006 World Cup, plugging gaps, racing t o t he ball.
In Sept ember 2011, we t ook a blast from Hargreaves about how he had been supposedly let
down by our medical st aff in his t ime wit h us. He claimed we had used him like a guinea pig for
t reat ment s for his t endonit is and various knee problems. We t ook legal advice and could have
proceeded against him, but t he doct or was not sufficient ly offended t o seek legal redress. We
did t he best for t hat lad. No mat t er what t he st aff did for him, he creat ed his own agenda.
I would say t o him, How are you t his morning?
Great , boss, he would reply. But I t hink Ill do somet hing on my own. Im feeling it a bit .
One of his allegat ions was t hat we picked him for t he Wolves game in early November 2010
when he had asked not t o be select ed. Rubbish. Three weeks before t hat fixt ure, he had
advised us t hat he would be ready for such and such a dat e, which happened t o be a
European t ie. I was reluct ant t o bring him back in a European game aft er he had been out for
so long. There was a reserve game t hat week, which he was meant t o play in, but he wit hdrew.
In t he week of t he Wolves game, t o my knowledge, he said not hing t o our st aff t o indicat e he
had a problem. My concern, which I expressed t o Mick Phelan, was t hat he would pick up an
injury in t he warm-up. My underst anding was t hat he t old one of t he players he was feeling his
hamst ring a bit . When he came in from t he warm-up, I specifically asked him: Are you all right ? I
said it t o reassure him. My message was: enjoy it . Well, he last ed five minut es. His hamst ring
went . But it was no surprise.
When I signed him, t here was somet hing about him I didnt like. The t hing every good leader
should have is an inst inct . Mine said t o me: I dont fancy t his. When he came over t o Old
Trafford for t he medical, I st ill had some indefinable doubt . He was very hail-fellow-well-met .
Almost t oo nice. Klberson also left me wit h doubt s, but only because he was so t imid, and
could barely look you in t he eye. He had good abilit y, Klberson, but he paid t oo much at t ent ion
t o what his fat her-in-law and wife want ed.
I read lat er t hat t he FA were going t o fast -t rack Hargreaves int o coaching. That s one of t he
t hings t hat s wrong wit h our game. That wouldnt happen in France or Germany or Holland,
where you would spend t hree years earning your st ripes.
Bb is t he only player I ever signed wit hout first seeing him in act ion. We have a good scout
in Port ugal who had flagged him up. This boy had been playing homeless foot ball and became
a t riallist for a second division t eam. He did really well. Our scout t old us, We need t o wat ch
him. Then Real Madrid were on his t ail. I know t hat s t rue because Jos Mourinho t old me Real
were ready t o sign him and t hat Unit ed had jumped in front of t hem. We t ook a wee gamble on
it , for about 7 million euros.
Bb came wit h limit at ions but t here was a t alent t here. He had fant ast ic feet . He st ruck t he
ball wit h venom, off eit her foot , wit h no drawback. He was not t he complet e player, but we
were coaching him t o be bet t er. We farmed him out t o Turkey and he injured his cruciat e knee
ligament aft er t wo weeks. We brought him home and put him on remedial work, t hen in t he
reserves. He did all right . He t rained well in t he short games, eight v. eight , goal t o goal. On t he
big pit ch his concept of t eam play needed work. Wit h feet like his he was capable of scoring 20
goals a season. He was a quiet boy, spoke reasonable English, and had obviously had a hard
upbringing wandering t he st reet s of Lisbon.
Wit h so many players coming in, I was proud of t he work we did on t hose who were t o end
up wit h ot her clubs. In t he spring of 2010, for inst ance, t here were 72 players t hroughout
Scot land, Europe and England who had been t hrough an apprent iceship at Man Ut d. Sevent y-
t wo.
Fabio Capello t old a good friend of mine t hat if you put gowns and masks on Man Ut d
players, he could spot t hem a mile away, which was quit e a compliment . Their behaviour and
t raining st and out . We had t hree in Denmark, one in Germany, t wo in Belgium, and ot hers all
over t he place in England. We had seven goalkeepers out t here, none of whom had made t he
first t eam: Kevin Pilkingt on, Michael Pollit t , Ben Williams and Luke St eele among t hem.
We were adept at ident ifying t he players who would become first -t eam regulars. There is
somet hing visible in a t op-grade Manchest er Unit ed player t hat forces you t o promot e him t o
t he first t eam. Darron Gibson was an example of one who brings you t o t hat crossroads where
a decision needs t o be made about whet her he is going t o be a first -t eam player.
In 200910 he was at t he st age where we were in danger of not being fair t o him. He had
different qualit ies t o most of my ot her midfielders. His main at t ribut e was t hat he could score
from out side t he box. Scholes was t he only ot her player who could do t hat , but he was coming
t o t he end. So t he judgment was a t ough one, as it was wit h Tom Cleverley, who was at
Wat ford, where he had scored 11 t imes from midfield. Cleverley had no physique, was wiry as
hell, but he was as brave as a lion, had good feet and could score a goal. David Gill said one
day, What are you going t o do wit h Cleverley next year? Hes scoring a lot of goals at Wat ford.
My answer was, Ill t ell you what Im going t o do, Im going t o play him, t o find out whet her he
can score goals for me as well as Wat ford.
Could he score six for me? Nobody else was get t ing half a dozen from midfield. Michael
Carrick had st ruck a high not e of five. If Cleverley could score six goals in t he Premier League
from midfield, he would become a considerat ion. The demarcat ion line was always: what can
t hey do and what can t hey not do? The can-do quest ion was: can t hey win me t he game? If
t hey could score six goals, I could ignore some of t he negat ives.
At 20 or 21, players would somet imes st agnat e. If t hey were not in t he first t eam by t hen
t hey could become disheart ened. I reached t hat moment in my own playing career. At 21 I was
fed up at St Johnst one and t ook papers out t o emigrat e t o Canada. I was disillusioned.
Foot balls not for me, I was saying. Im not get t ing anywhere. At t he Unit ed reserve level, we
encount ered t his dilemma all t he t ime. We would send players out on loan in t he hope t hey
would come back bet t er, but oft en sent t hem t o a level t hat would suit t hem more in t he long
t erm anyway, so t hey could find careers. We were proud t o have relocat ed t he 72 players I
t alked about elsewhere in t he game.
The ones who make it have a way of t elling you t hey are cert aint ies t o reach t he grade.
Welbeck is an example. At one point I t ipped him t o make Fabio Capellos 2010 World Cup
squad, but he had issues t o do wit h t he pace he was growing at . At 19 he was st ill shoot ing up
and encount ering problems wit h his knees. I t old him t o go carefully in t raining sessions and
save his best for mat ches. He was on course t o end up 6 feet 2 inches or 6 feet 3 inches t all.
But what a good player. Such a confident boy. I said t o him: One of t hese days Im going t o kill
you, because he was such a cocky so-and-so, and he replied, Ill probably deserve it . Touch.
He had an answer for everyt hing.
A const ant in our discussions about young players was whet her t hey could handle t he
demands of t he Old Trafford crowd and t he short pat ience span of t he media. Would t hey
grow or shrink in a Unit ed shirt ? We knew t he make-up of every young homegrown player who
came int o t he Unit ed st art ing XI, from t he t raining ground, from reserve t eam foot ball. By t he
t ime a player graduat ed from yout h or reserve t eam foot ball, we aimed t o be sure about t heir
t emperament s, sure about t heir charact ers and sure of t heir abilit ies.
But plainly, when we bought players in from abroad, we knew less about t hem, however hard
we invest igat ed t heir backgrounds, and t he peculiar swirl of playing for Unit ed could undo some
of t hese import ed names. In 200910, we were researching Javier Hernndez nicknamed
Chicharit o (it means lit t le pea). He was 21 years of age. We sent a scout out t o live in Mexico
for a mont h. The informat ion we received was t hat he was a family boy who was reluct ant t o
leave Mexico. Our cont act out t here helped us research his background down t o every det ail.
Unit eds support is odd in some respect s. We would sign a player for 2 million and some
fans would consider it a sign of weakness and believe we had lowered our st andards. Gabriel
Obert an was in t hat price range. He was greased light ning. But in t he final t hird of t he field, his
feet were somet imes all over t he place. His t ask was t o coordinat e his speed wit h his brain and
deliver t he hurt in t he final t hird of t he pit ch.
Mame Biram Diouf was recommended by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer t hrough his cont act s at
Molde in Norway. Hannover 96 and Eint racht Frankfurt were st art ing t o sniff around him when
we st epped up our int erest . So we sent Ole and a club official over and acquired him for 4
million euros. Again, t he background was right , t hough he never est ablished himself wit h us.
Chris Smalling was bought from Fulham in January 2010 wit h t he idea t hat he would join us
for t he st art of t he 201011 campaign. He had been playing wit h non-league Maidst one unt il
2008, but Roy Hodgson developed a high regard for him at Fulham. He cost us around 10
million. We moved for him when Rio Ferdinand st art ed having problems wit h his back and ot her
part s. We were on t o cent re-backs everywhere, all over. We wat ched t hem all t hrough 2009
10 and t hought Smalling was a young guy who would mat ure int o his frame. Long-t erm, I could
imagine a cent ral defence forming around Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans.
There was no rest ing on t he st at us quo, even in t he best t imes. The longer I st ayed, t he
furt her I looked ahead. Regenerat ion was an everyday dut y.
BEFORE t he Moscow Champions League final of 2008, I was t he reluct ant holder of possibly t he
worst record in penalt y shoot -out s. I had lost t wo semi-finals at Aberdeen, a European t ie at
Aberdeen, an FA Cup t ie at Old Trafford against Sout hampt on, an FA Cup final against
Arsenal and a European t ie in Moscow t hrough penalt y shoot -out s. Six defeat s and one vict ory
was t he inauspicious cont ext t o Carlos Tvez placing t he ball on t he spot at t he st art of our
shoot -out wit h Chelsea in Roman Abramovichs home t own.
Wit h t hose memories, you would hardly expect me t o have been opt imist ic. All t hose earlier
disappoint ment s were in my head as t he game st ret ched beyond ext ra t ime and t he mat ch
crept int o t he early hours of t he following day aft er a 10.45 p.m. kick-off. When Van der Sar
saved from Nicolas Anelka t o win t he t rophy for us, I hardly made it off my seat , because I could
barely believe we had won. I st ayed mot ionless for several moment s. Ronaldo was st ill lying on
t he t urf crying because he had missed his penalt y kick.
Our goalkeeping coach had compiled all t he video ana-lysis we could possibly need, and was
able t o pull t he dat a up on a screen t o show Van der Sar how each Chelsea player might t ake
his spot kick. For several days we had discussed t he order in which our players would st ep up.
They were all good, apart from Ronaldo, who had been scoring t hem all season. Giggs
execut ion was t he best : hard and low, inside t he post . Hargreaves bat t ered his int o t he t op
corner. Nani was a t ouch lucky because t he goalkeeper should have saved it and got a hand t o
it . Carricks was st raight forward. Ronaldo hesit at ed and st opped.
John Terry had only t o knock his in t o win t he game for Chelsea. At t hat point I was st ill and
calm, t hinking: What am I going t o say t o t he players? I knew I would have t o be careful wit h
my words in defeat . It would be unfair t o slaught er t hem aft er a European final, I t old myself,
because t hey had worked so hard t o get t here, and t hese are deeply emot ional moment s for
t hose in t he t hick of t he act ion. When Terry missed t he t ent h penalt y in t he sequence and we
headed int o sudden deat h, my opt imism ret urned. Andersons penalt y, t he first in t he do-or-die
st age, had lift ed our support ers because he had run t o t hem t o celebrat e, and t hey were t hen
buoyant again. The kicks were t aken int o our end of t he ground, which was an advant age.
In no sense was t his a convent ional European final. The t ime zone was t he first quirk, which
meant t he game had kicked off at 10.45 p.m. I always remember, t oo, t hat t he rain had
drenched me and ruined my shoes, so I at t ended t he vict ory part y in t rainers, for which I t ook
plent y of st ick from t he players. I knew I should have packed a spare pair of shoes. It was
bet ween 4 and 5 a.m. by t he t ime we sat down for t he buffet . The food was poor but t he
players gave Giggs a wonderful gift t o commemorat e him passing Bobby Charlt ons
appearance record. This was his 759t h game. On t he st age t hey all sang his name.
The game it self was a marvellous drama which drew some t errific performances from our
side. I t hought Wes Brown had one of his best games for Unit ed and set up Ronaldos opening
goal wit h an excellent cross.
In Chelseas semi-final, Michael Essien had played right -back, and I decided while wat ching
Avram Grant s t eam t hat Ronaldo would play wide left t o make life uncomfort able for Essien, a
midfielder by t rade.
For our goal, Ronaldo out -jumped Essien, so t he plan worked. A midfielder playing right -back
against an at t acker of Ronaldos brilliance was a big ask, and our man t ore him apart . Moving
Ronaldo left opened t he door for someone t o play wide right . I chose Hargreaves, who was
quick, had energy and could cross t he ball. He did well in t hat role. In t he cent re of midfield we
had Scholes and Carrick, t hough Scholes was t o come off wit h a bleeding nose. His breat hing
was st art ing t o become congest ed. Giggs went on in his place and prospered.
Despit e t he cult ure shock of Moscow and t he hot el, our preparat ion had been smoot h. In t he
semi-finals we had beat en Barcelona, drawing 00 over t here and winning by a single goal at
our place. Scholes goal was magnificent , a t ypical t hunderbolt from 25 yards. In t he first 20
minut es at Camp Nou we played well, as we oft en did against t hem, st riking t he bar and
missing a penalt y. When t hey t ook a grip on t he game we just ret reat ed t owards t he box,
which we might have done again in t he 2009 and 2011 finals, had I not been det ermined t o win
t hose games our way.
You could call t hat t act ically naive if you wish, but I disagree. We were t rying t o st rengt hen
our philosophy about winning in t he right manner. My t hought on t wo semi-finals was t hat we
endured a lot of heart -st opping moment s. We lived on t he edge of t he box, or inside it ,
desperat e t o escape. At Old Trafford, in an even game, we ought t o have won by more, wit h
our good count er-at t acking. Equally, when t hey brought on Thierry Henry for t he last 15
minut es, t hey besieged us in our penalt y box. It was agony on t he t ouchline, looking at my
wat ch. Lat er I called it t he great est example of t he fans get t ing behind our men. Every
clearance from our box raised a cheer, unusually. Henry missed a sit t er. We showed great
charact er. The t eam absorbed immense pressure and maint ained t heir concent rat ion.
Aft er t he game I also said: They cant be shrinking violet s here. They have t o be men, and
t hey were men t hat night .
We always fancied our chances of adding t o t he European Cups of 1968 and 1999, provided
we could t ake cont rol of t he ball quickly in Moscow, which we did from t he st art . Our game was
full of t hrust and invent ion and we might have been t hree or four goals up. I st art ed t o t hink it
would be a massacre.
Goals can t urn games upside down, however, and Chelsea enjoyed a dash of luck just before
half-t ime, equalising t hrough Frank Lampard, which set us on t he back foot . Chelsea
progressed from t here and were t he bet t er side for 25 minut es of t he second half. Drogba
st ruck a post . That was my signal t o t hink fast about how we might regain a hold on t he game.
I sent Rooney wide right and brought Hargreaves int o a more cent ral posit ion, which put us on
t op in t he game again. By t he end I felt we were t he superior group of players.
Caught in t he ebb and flow of event s at pit ch level, you can never be quit e sure whet her t he
spect acle in front of you is ent ert aining. But everyone felt t his was a t errific piece of t heat re,
one of t he best European Cup finals. It was sat isfying t o be part of a show t hat displayed our
League in such a good light . I must give credit t o Edwin van der Sar for t he int elligence of his
shot -st opping. As Anelka jogged t owards t he penalt y spot I was t hinking dive t o your left .
Edwin kept diving t o his right . Except for t he penult imat e Chelsea kick, which Salomon Kalou
t ook, when Edwin dived t o his left . So when Anelka approached his moment of t rut h, he must
have been t he first Chelsea player t o ask himself: I wonder whet her hes going t o dive t o his
right or his left ? Van der Sar kept point ing t o his left t o unnerve t he t aker. Yes, Anelkas
penalt y was poor, but Edwin chose t he right way t o dive.
Avram Grant is a nice man. My fear was always t hat he might not be st rong enough for t hat
group of Chelsea players. Their behaviour in t he final was t errible, dragging t hemselves out for
t he second half one at a t ime, giving t he referee st ick on t he way int o t he dressing room. A
t eam goes out t oget her, t hey dont amble out one by one. The referee had been urging t hem
t o get a move on, but t hey just ignored him. At t he int erval t hey t ried every t rick in t he book.
That might have played on t he referees mind when Drogba was sent off.
The red card for Drogba followed a clash wit h Carlos Tvez, which brought Vidi over t o
support his t eam-mat e. Up went Drogbas hand t o flick Vidas face. If you lift your hands, youve
no chance. My underst anding was t hat t he referee asked t he linesman who t he offender had
been. And boomph, Drogba was off. By t hen we had already rest ored our hold on t he game.
Drogbas dismissal was not t he t urning point . Giggs had a shot cleared off t he line. We creat ed
chances in ext ra t ime and should have killed t hem off. Chelsea, in my view, played for t he draw
and gambled on winning t he shoot -out .
Though he was removed from t he fray t hat night , Drogba was always a handful for us. He
was a powerful, big lad, but what marked him out in my book was a t alent for spect acular goals,
say, on t he t urn, from 30 yards. I was surprised t o see him missing from t he t eam-sheet against
us in a game during Carlo Ancelot t is finals weeks in charge. Torres st art ed, but Drogba came
on t o score and force Chelsea back int o t he mat ch.
From t hat Chelsea t eam, which we found it difficult t o play against , t he goalkeeper, Pet r
ech, was out st anding. I should have signed him at 19 when I had my chance. Inst ead, Chelsea
t ook him t hat summer for 8 million.
John Terry was always an influence in t heir t eam. Ashley Cole always gave t hem energy
going forward. And Frank Lampard was incredibly reliable and consist ent from box t o box. He
avoided defensive work a bit in his prime, but he was end t o end and hardly missed a game.
Wit h Drogba, t hey were t he core, t he cent ral five. They were a powerful presence in t he
dressing room.
At no point before t he game did I accept t hat Chelsea would be under more pressure t han
us by virt ue of Abramovichs Moscow background, t hough he was t here in t he st ands, gazing
down on his vast invest ment . I didnt see t hat as a fact or in t he game it self. Securit y was my
main concern. Moscow is a cit y of great myst eries. Ive read books on t he Russian Revolut ion
and on St alin, who was worse t han t he czars, killing his own people t o collect ivise agricult ure.
We t ook t wo chefs wit h us, and t he food was most ly fine, unlike in Rome, where it was a joke, a
What a season Ronaldo had in t hat European Cup winning campaign. Fort y-t wo goals for a
winger? In some games he played cent re-forward, but he was essent ially a wide man in our
syst em. In every game he would creat e t hree chances for himself. I wat ched him one night at
Real Madrid and he had about 40 shot s on goal.
Moscow was a relief, above all, because I always said Manchest er Unit ed ought t o be
achieving more in Europe. It was our t hird European Cup vict ory and t ook us closer t o
Liverpools five. I always felt we would mat ch Liverpools t ot al wit hin a reasonable st ret ch of
t ime, even aft er t he t wo defeat s t o Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, because we had earned ext ra
respect in Europe. Wit h a win in eit her of t hose Barcelona finals, we would have been on four,
equal wit h Bayern Munich at t he t ime, and wit h Ajax.
In our moment of t riumph t here was no champagne t o be found at t he Luzhniki St adium. In
t he absence of t he real st uff, st aff were dispat ched t o a bar t o buy some kind of fizzy liquid.
Heaven knows what it was. I cant even offer you a glass of champagne, I apologised t o Andy
Roxburgh, who came int o our dressing room t o congrat ulat e us. What ever was in t hose
bot t les, we shook it about and made a fuss. There was a lot of hilarit y and nonsense, wit h t he
players giving each ot her st ick. Youre pleased and proud of t hem. I was soaked t o t he skin
from t he rain, and forced t o change int o my t racksuit . There was no sign of Abramovich and I
dont recall any Chelsea players coming in.
The 1999 final in Barcelona, when we beat Bayern Munich, fell on t he lat e Sir Mat t Busbys
birt hday. Somet imes you hope t he gods are wit h you, or t hat old Mat t is looking down. Im not a
great believer in coincidences, but t here is such a t hing as fat e, and I wondered whet her it
played a hand in bot h vict ories. Mat t had t aken our club int o Europe when t he English League
was firmly set against it . Mat t was shown t o be right because English foot ball has had some
glorious night s in Europe.
Wit h a major t rophy in your possession, you should always buy players t o refresh t he squad
and avoid t he risk of st agnat ion. It was in t he weeks aft er Moscow t hat we added Dimit ar
Berbat ov t o our squad. Berbat ov had been on our t arget list before he moved t o Spurs. He had
t alent in abundance: good balance, composure on t he ball and a fine scoring record. He was a
good age, t all, at hlet ic. I felt we needed a bit more composure in t he last t hird of t he field, t he
at t acking t hird.
But it ended up as a scrap wit h Daniel Levy, t he Tot t enham chairman, which left us reluct ant
t o ret urn t o Spurs for players. This was our second t rip on t he Big Dipper following our move for
Michael Carrick. You come off dizzy. You cant discuss bot h sides of t he issue wit h Daniel. It s
about him, and Tot t enham, not hing more, which is no bad t hing from his clubs perspect ive.
FI RST of all, you must t ell t hem t he t rut h. There is not hing wrong wit h present ing t he hard fact s
t o a player who has lost his form. And what I would say t o anyone whose confidence was
wavering is t hat we were Manchest er Unit ed and we simply could not allow ourselves t o drop
t o t he level of ot her t eams.
Faced wit h t he need t o confront a player who had performed below our expect at ion, I might
have said: That was rubbish, t hat . But t hen I would follow it up wit h, For a player of your
abilit y. That was for picking t hem back up from t he init ial blow. Crit icise but balance it out wit h
encouragement . Why are you doing t hat ? Youre bet t er t han t hat .
Endless praise sounds false. They see t hrough it . A cent ral component of t he manager
player relat ionship is t hat you have t o make t hem t ake responsibilit y for t heir own act ions, t heir
own mist akes, t heir performance level, and finally t he result . We were all in t he result s indust ry.
Somet imes a scabby win would mean more t o us t han a 60 vict ory wit h a goal feat uring 25
passes. The bot t om line was always t hat Manchest er Unit ed had t o be vict orious. That
winning cult ure could be maint ained only if I t old a player what I t hought about his performance
in a climat e of honest y. And yes, somet imes I would be forceful and aggressive. I would t ell a
player what t he club demanded of t hem.
I t ell young managers now: dont seek confront at ion. Dont look for it , because you can bet
your life it will come your way. If you seek a clash, t he player is placed in a count er-at t acking
role, which gives him an advant age. When t he former Aberdeen, Unit ed and Scot land capt ain
Mart in Buchan went t o manage Burnley, he punched t he capt ain on t he first Sat urday. That
was a good st art , Mart in, I t old him.
He was a very principled guy, Mart in Buchan. In his playing days, he moved t o Oldham and
was given a 40,000 signing-on fee, which was a lot of money back t hen. St ruggling for form,
he handed t he 40,000 back t o t he board. He couldnt bring himself t o keep money he felt he
had not earned. Imagine t hat happening t oday.
In general, across my career, people always assumed I had elaborat e Machiavellian
st rat egies. In realit y I didnt set out t o mast er t he dark art s. I did t ry t he odd t rick. Saying we
always finished t he campaign at a higher gallop and wit h height ened resolve could be
classified as a mind game, and I was int rigued t o see Carlo Ancelot t i, t he Chelsea manager,
t wig it , in t he wint er of 2009. To paraphrase, he said, Alex is saying Unit ed are st ronger in t he
second half of t he season, but we are, t oo.
I did it every year. Wait t ill t he second half of t he season, I would say. And it always worked.
It crept int o t he minds of our players and became a nagging fear for t he opposit ion. Second
half of t he season, Unit ed would come like an invasion force, hellfire in t heir eyes. It became a
self-fulfilling prophecy.
Tapping my wat ch was anot her psychological ploy. I didnt keep t rack of t he t ime in games. I
kept a loose eye on it but it was t oo hard t o work out how long might be added for a st oppage
t o have an accurat e sense of when t he game should end. Heres t he key: it was t he effect it
had on t he ot her t eam, not ours, t hat count ed. Seeing me t ap my wat ch and gest iculat e, t he
opposit ion would be spooked. They would immediat ely t hink anot her 10 minut es were going t o
be added. Everyone knew Unit ed had a knack of scoring lat e goals. Seeing me point t o my
t imepiece, our opponent s would feel t hey would have t o defend against us t hrough a spell of
t ime t hat would feel, t o t hem, like infinit y.
They would feel besieged. They knew we never gave up and t hey knew we specialised in
lat e drama. Clive Tyldesley said it , in his ITV comment ary on t he 1999 Champions League final,
at t he beginning of st oppage t ime: Unit ed always score, which was comparable t o Kennet h
Wolst enholme in t he 1966 World Cup final. That s a mind game.
There is a psychological dimension also t o handling individual players. Wit h errant behaviour
it helps t o look for a moment t hrough t heir eyes. You were young once, so put yourself in t heir
posit ion. You do somet hing wrong, youre wait ing t o be punished. What s he going t o say? you
t hink. Or, What s my dad going t o say? The aim is t o make t he biggest possible impact . What
would have made t he deepest imprint on me at t hat st age of life?
A managers advant age is t hat he knows t he player want s t o play. Fundament ally, t hey all
want t o be out t here on t he park. So when you deprive t hem of t hat pleasure youre t aking
away t heir life. It becomes t he ult imat e t ool. This is t he great est lever of power at your
Wit h t he incident wit h Frank McGarvey at St Mirren, I was consist ent in t elling him, Youre
never going t o play again. He believed t hat . For t hree weeks he believed it . He finished up
begging me for anot her chance. In his mind was t he idea t hat all t he power was on my side.
Freedom of cont ract wasnt a realit y t hen.
People t alked non-st op about my mind games. Every t ime I made a public ut t erance, a
swarm of analyst s would look for t he hidden meaning, when 98 per cent of t he t ime t here was
none. But psychological pressure has it s place. Even superst it ions, because everyone has one.
A woman said t o me at Haydock races one day in 2010: I see you on t he t elevision and
youre so serious, yet here you are laughing and enjoying yourself.
I t old her, Well, do you not want me t o be serious at work? My job is about concent rat ion.
Everyt hing t hat goes on in my brain has t o be beneficial t o t he players. I cannot make
mist akes. I dont t ake not es, I dont rely on video evidence, and I have t o be right . It s a serious
business and I dont want t o be making mist akes.
I made plent y, of course. In a Champions League semi-final against Borussia Dort mund, I was
convinced Pet er Schmeichel had made an error. But at t hat t ime I wasnt wearing my
spect acles at games. Pet er said: It t ook a deflect ion.
Deflect ion, my arse, I shout ed. No deflect ion.
When I saw t he replay lat er, I could see t he ball had made a violent change in direct ion. So I
st art ed wearing my glasses t o games. I couldnt afford t o make mist akes like t hat , t o
embarrass myself. If you ask a defender, Why did you t ry t o play him offside? and his reply is, I
didnt t ry t o play him offside, you need t o know youre correct in your assert ion.
It makes no sense t o offer players an easy chance t o t ell t hemselves, The managers lost it .
If t hey lose fait h in your knowledge, t hey lose fait h in you. That grasp of t he fact s must be kept
at a high level, for all t ime. You have t o be accurat e in what you say t o t he players. Trying t o be
right could be fun, t oo. It wasnt all a quest for t he t rut h. A game we would play was t rying t o
guess t he opposit ions st art ing XI. One night I made my usual confident predict ion about who
would play. When t he t eam came under t he door, for a Champions League game, Ren
announced, Boss, t heyve made six changes.
I froze, t hen saw my opport unit y. Indignat ion would get me out of t his hole. See t his? I
barked at t he players. Theyre t aking t he piss out of us. They t hink t hey can come here wit h
t heir reserve t eam!
An early experience was playing Covent ry in t he FA Cup, at Old Trafford, aft er we had
knocked Man Cit y out in t he t hird round. The week before, I had been t o wat ch Covent ry play
Sheffield Wednesday. You wouldnt believe how bad Covent ry were. Archie Knox and I drove
home wit hout a care. Guess what ? Covent ry were brilliant against us at Old Trafford. Teams
who came t o our ground oft en became a different species. Different t act ics, different
mot ivat ion; everyt hing. From t hose early lessons, I learned always t o prepare in home games
for t he opposit ions best t eam, best t act ics, best performance, and make sure t hey were not in
t he game.
The bet t er t eams would always come t o Old Trafford looking t o give us a fright . Arsenal,
especially; Chelsea, t o an ext ent , and oft en Liverpool. Cit y, when t he Sheikh Mansour era
st art ed, would also arrive wit h not iceably enhanced ambit ion. Clubs managed by ex-
Manchest er Unit ed players would also be bold. St eve Bruces Sunderland, for example, were
not shy on our t urf.
My longevit y rendered me immune in t he end t o t he normal whispering and speculat ion t hat
would envelop ot her managers aft er t hree defeat s in a row. My success insulat ed me against
t he media calling for an execut ion. You saw t hat wit h ot her clubs but not wit h me. That gave
me st rengt h in t he dressing room. Those benefit s t ransferred t hemselves t o t he players. The
manager would not be leaving so nor would t he players. The coaches and t he backroom st aff
would not be leaving because t he manager was st aying. St abilit y. Cont inuit y. Rare, in t he
modern game. In a bad run we didnt panic. We didnt like it , but we didnt panic.
I like t o t hink, also, t hat we were conscious of t he spirit of t he game. Johan Cruyff said t o me
one night back in t he 1990s, Youll never win t he European Cup.
You dont cheat and you dont buy referees, he said.
I t old him: Well if t hat s t o be my epit aph, Ill t ake it .
A cert ain t oughness is required in professional foot ball and I learned t hat early on. Take
Dave Mackay I played against him at 16 years old. At t he t ime I was wit h Queens Park and
playing in t he reserves. Dave was coming back from a broken t oe and was t urning out for t he
reserves at Heart s, who had a great t eam during t hose years.
I was inside-forward and he was right -half. I looked at him, wit h his big, bull-like chest ,
st ret ching. The first ball came t o me and he was right t hrough me. In a reserve game.
I t hought : Im not going t o t ake t his.
The next t ime we came t oget her I wired right int o him.
Dave looked at me coldly and said, Do you want t o last t his game?
You boot ed me t here, I st ammered.
I t ackled you, said Dave. If I boot you, youll know all about it .
I was t errified of him aft er t hat . And I wasnt afraid of anyone. He had t his incredible aura
about him. Fabulous player. I have t he pict ure in my office of him grabbing Billy Bremner. I t ook a
risk one day and asked him, cheekily, Did you act ually win t hat fight ? I was t here at Hampden
Park when t hey picked t he best Scot t ish t eam of all t ime and Daves name was absent .
Everyone was embarrassed.
I could crit icise my t eam publicly, but I could never cast igat e an individual aft er t he game t o
t he media. The support ers were ent it led t o know when I was unhappy wit h a performance. But
not an individual. It all went back t o Jock St ein; I would quest ion him all t he t ime about
everyt hing. At Celt ic he was always so humble. It almost became annoying. When I was
quizzing him about Jimmy Johnst one or Bobby Murdoch, Id expect him t o t ake credit for his
t eam select ion or t act ics, but Jock would just say, Oh, wee Jimmy was in such great form
t oday. He would never praise himself. I want ed him t o announce, just once: Well, I decided t o
play 433 t oday and it worked. But he was just t oo humble t o do it .
Jock missed a Celt ic t rip t o America aft er a car crash and Sean Fallon had sent t hree players
home for misbehaving. No, I wouldnt have done t hat , and I t old Sean so, Jock t old me when I
pressed him t o t ell me how he would have dealt wit h it . When you do t hat you make a lot of
enemies, he said.
But t he support ers would underst and, I argued.
Forget t he support ers, Jock said. Those players have mot hers. Do you t hink any mot her
t hinks t heir boy is bad? Their wives, t heir brot hers, t heir fat her, t heir pals: you alienat e t hem.
He added, Resolve t he disput e in t he office.
Somet imes ice works as well as fire. When Nani was sent off in a game at Villa Park in 2010, I
didnt say a word t o him. I let him suffer. He kept looking at me for a crumb of comfort . I know he
didnt t ry t o do what he did. Asked about it on TV, I called it naive. I said he wasnt a malicious
player but t hat it was a t wo-foot ed t ackle and he had t o go. St raight forward. There was no
last ing damage. I merely said he had made a mist ake in a t ackle, as we all have, because it s an
emot ional game.
People assumed I was always waging psychological war against Arsne Wenger, always
t rying t o cause det onat ions in his brain. I dont t hink I set out t o provoke him. But somet imes I
did use mind games in t he sense t hat I would plant small inferences, knowing t hat t he press
would see t hem as psychological forays.
I remember Brian Lit t le, who was t hen managing Ast on Villa, calling me about a remark I had
made before we played t hem.
What did you mean by t hat ? he asked.
Not hing, I said. I was baffled. I t hought you were up t o your mind games again, Brian said.
When he put t he phone down, apparent ly, Brian couldnt st op t hinking: What s he up t o? What
was he t rying t o say?
Though it served me well t o be unnerving rival t eams, quit e oft en I unset t led opponent s
wit hout even meaning t o, or realising t hat I had.
BARCELONA were t he best t eam ever t o line up against my Manchest er Unit ed sides. Easily t he
best . They brought t he right ment alit y t o t he cont est . We had midfield players in our count ry
Pat rick Vieira, Roy Keane, Bryan Robson who were st rong men, warriors; winners. At
Barcelona t hey had t hese wonderful mit es, 5 feet 6 inches t all, wit h t he courage of lions, t o
t ake t he ball all t he t ime and never allow t hemselves t o be bullied. The accomplishment s of
Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andrs Iniest a were amazing t o me.
The Barcelona side t hat beat us at Wembley in t he 2011 Champions League final were
superior t o t he t eam t hat conquered us in Rome t wo years earlier. The 2011 bunch were at
t he height of t heir powers and brought t remendous mat urit y t o t he job. In bot h inst ances I had
t o wrest le wit h t he knowledge t hat we were a really good t eam but had encount ered one t hat
had handled t hose t wo finals bet t er t han us.
I wish we could have played t he Rome final again t he next day. The very next day. There
was a wonderful at mosphere in Romes St adio Olimpico, on a beaut iful night , and it was my
first defeat in a European final, in five out ings. To collect a runners-up medal is a painful act
when you know you could have performed much bet t er.
Bravery was a prerequisit e for confront ing t hose Barcelona sides. They were t he t eam of
t heir generat ion, just as Real Madrid were t he t eam of t heirs in t he 1950s and 1960s, and AC
Milan were in t he early 1990s. The group of world-beat ers who formed around Messi were
formidable. I felt no envy t owards t hese great sides. Regret s, yes, when we lost t o t hem, but
jealousy, no.
In each of t hose t wo European Cup finals, we might have been closer t o Spains finest by
playing more defensively, but by t hen I had reached t he st age wit h Manchest er Unit ed where it
was no good us t rying t o win t hat way. I used t hose t act ics t o beat Barcelona in t he 2008
semi-final: defended really deep; put myself t hrough t ort ure, put t he fans t hrough hell. I want ed
a more posit ive out look against t hem subsequent ly, and we were beat en part ly because of
t hat change in emphasis. If we had ret reat ed t o our box and kept t he defending t ight , we might
have achieved t he result s we craved. Im not blaming myself; I just wish our posit ive approach
could have produced bet t er out comes.
Beat ing us in Rome accelerat ed Barcelonas development int o t he dominant t eam of t heir
era. It drove t hem on. A single vict ory can have t hat cat alyt ic effect . It was t heir second
Champions League win in four seasons and Pep Guardiolas t eam were t he first Spanish side
t o win t he League, Copa del Rey and Champions League in t he same campaign. We were t he
reigning European champions but were unable t o become t he first in t he hist ory of t he modern
compet it ion t o defend t hat t it le.
Yet we shouldnt have lost t hat game in t he Et ernal Cit y. There was a way t o play against
Barcelona, as we proved t he year before. There is a way t o st op t hem, even Messi. What we
did, 12 mont hs previously in t he away leg, was t o deploy Tvez off t he front and Ronaldo at
cent re-forward, so we could have t wo areas of at t ack. We had t he penet rat ion of Ronaldo and
Tvez t o help us get hold of t he ball.
We st ill found it hard, of course, because Barcelona monopolised possession for such long
periods and in t hose circumst ances your own players t end t o lose int erest . They st art
wat ching t he game: t hey are drawn int o wat ching t he ball weave it s pat t erns.
Our idea was t hat when we had any semblance of possession, Ronaldo would go looking for
space and Tvez would come short t o get on t he ball. But t hey were busy spect at ing. I made
t hat point t o t hem at half-t ime. Youre wat ching t he game, I said. Were not count er-at t acking
at all. Our met hod was not t hat of Int er Milan; t hey defended deep and played on t he count er-
at t ack t hroughout . We were in at t ack mode in t he second half.
A major inhibit ing fact or in Rome, I will now say, was t he choice of hot el. It was a shambles.
For meals we were in a room wit h no light ; t he food was lat e, it was cold. I t ook a chef t here and
t hey dismissed him, ignored him. On t he morning of t he game, t wo or t hree of our t eam were
feeling a bit seedy, part icularly Giggs. A few were feeling under t he weat her and one or t wo
played t hat way. The role Giggs was assigned came wit h a high workload t hat was
incompat ible wit h t he slight bug in his syst em. It was t oo big a t ask for him t o operat e on t op of
Sergio Busquet s, Barcelonas defensive midfielder, and t hen advance as a st riker and come
back in t o cover again.
You would never t hink about crit icising Ryan Giggs, not in any shape or form, aft er what he
achieved at our club. It was just a pit y he was below his normal energy level t hat night in Rome.
We st art ed t he game really well, however, wit h Ronaldo t hreat ening t he Barcelona defence
t hree t imes: first , from a dipping free kick, t hen t wo shot s from dist ance, which heaped
pressure on Vict or Valds, t heir goalkeeper. But t en minut es in, we conceded a really awful
goal on account of our midfields failure t o ret reat in t ime t o st op Iniest a making a pass t o
Samuel Et oo. Et oo st ruck t he shot and Edwin van der Sar didnt quit e deal wit h it as t he ball
slipped inside t he near post .
Barcelona began wit h Messi wide right , Et oo t hrough t he middle and Thierry Henry wide left .
Just prior t o t he goal, t hey pushed Et oo wider right and Messi int o midfield, as a deep cent ral
st riker. They changed Et oo t o t he right -hand side because Evra had been breaking away from
Messi, early on. Evra was racing forward persist ent ly and t hey changed t heir shape t o st op him.
Aft erwards Guardiola acknowledged t hat point . Messi had been moved t o save him from
having t o deal wit h Evra.
By making t hat alt erat ion, Barcelona creat ed a posit ion for Messi he enjoys, in t he cent re of
t he park. That s where he played from t hen on, in t hat hole, which made life hard for t he back
four because t hey were unsure whet her t o push in against him or st ay back and play safe.
Aft er Et oos goal, and wit h Messi cent ral, Barcelona had an ext ra man in midfield. Iniest a and
Xavi just went boomp-boomp-boomp, kept possession all night . They were superior t o us at
ball-circulat ion. I wont wast e t ime cont est ing t hat fact .
Conceding t he ball t o Guardiolas men came at an awful price because t heir numerical
superiorit y in midfield reduced you t o a spect at ing role again. To count eract t heir passing
game, I sent on Tvez for Anderson at half-t ime and wat ched him miss a fine chance when he
went round a defender but decided t o beat him a second t ime, pulling t he ball back in and
losing it . Barcelonas clinching goal came an hour aft er t heir first : a header, unusually, by Messi,
from a cross by Xavi.
Lat er I discussed Barcelonas evolut ion wit h Louis van Gaal, t heir former Dut ch coach. The
basis of t heir philosophy was laid down by Johan Cruyff, a t errific coach who conceived t heir
ideas about widt h and ball-circulat ion, always wit h an ext ra man in midfield. Aft er Bobby
Robson, t hey went back t o t he Dut ch way, wit h Van Gaal and Frank Rijkaard. What Guardiola
added was a met hod of pressing t he ball. Under Pep t hey had t his t hree-second drill,
apparent ly, where t he defending t eam would be allowed no more t han t hree seconds on t he
Aft er t he win in Rome, Guardiola said: Were fort unat e t o have t he legacy of Johan Cruyff
and Charly Rexach. They were t he fat hers and weve followed t hem.
What I could never quit e underst and is how t heir players were able t o play t hat number of
games. They fielded almost t he same side every t ime. Success is oft en cyclical, wit h doldrums.
Barcelona emerged from t heirs and went in hot pursuit of Real Madrid. I dont like admit t ing, we
were beat en by a great t eam, because we never want ed t o say t hose words. The biggest
concession we ever want ed t o make was: t wo great t eams cont est ed t his final, but we just
missed out . Our aim was t o at t ain t hat level where people said we were always on a par wit h
Europes best .
To beat Barcelona in t hat cycle you needed cent re-backs who could be really posit ive. Rio
and Vidi were at an age where t heir preference was t o defend t he space. Not hing wrong wit h
t hat . Quit e correct . But against Barcelona it s a limit ed approach. You need cent re-backs who
are prepared t o drop right on t op of Messi and not worry about what is happening behind
t hem. OK, hell drift away t o t he side. That s fine. Hes less of a t hreat on t he side t han he is
t hrough t he cent re.
They had four world-class players: Piqu, t he t wo cent re-midfield players and Messi. Piqu
was wit hout doubt t he most underrat ed player in t heir t eam. He is a great player. We knew
t hat when he was a youngst er player wit h us. At a European conference, Guardiola t old me he
was t he best signing t hey had made. He creat ed t he t empo, t he accuracy, t he confidence and
t he penet rat ion from t hat deep posit ion. That s what we t ried t o nullify by shoving our st rikers
on t op of t hem and being first t o t he ball or forcing t hem t o offload it . For t he first 20 or 30
minut es it worked really well, but t hen t hey score. They wriggle out .
They had t his wonderful t alent for escapology. You put t he bait in t he river and a fish goes
for it . Somet imes it doesnt , t hough. Xavi would pass t he ball t o Iniest a at a pace t hat
encouraged you t o t hink you were going t o win it . And you were not going t o win it , because
t hey were away from you. The pace of t he pass, t he weight of t he pass, and t he angle, just
drew you int o t errit ory you shouldnt have been in. They were brilliant at t hat form of decept ion.
The Premier League desperat ely want a more lenient policy on work permit s. There would be
a danger in such a laissez-faire approach. You could flood t he game wit h bad players. But t he
big clubs should be grant ed t hat freedom, because t hey have t he abilit y t o scout t he best
players. That s a bit elit ist , I know, but if you want t o win in Europe, one way round it is t o
change t he work permit st at us in favour of t he clubs. In t he EU we could t ake players at 16.
Two years lat er, our clubs converged on t he final again, t his t ime at Wembley. We had t he
same int ent ion as in Rome, st art ed well, and were t hen just overrun in t he middle of t he pit ch in
a 31 defeat . We st art ed wit h Edwin van der Sar in goal, Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidi and Evra
across t he back, Giggs, Park, Carrick and Valencia in midfield and Rooney and Hernndez up
front .
We didnt handle Messi. Our cent re-backs werent moving forward ont o t he ball. They were
want ing t o sit back. Yet t he preparat ion for t hat game was t he best I have seen. For 10 days
we pract ised for it on t he t raining ground. You know t he problem? Somet imes players play t he
occasion, not t he game. Wayne Rooney, for example, was disappoint ing. Our t act ic was for him
t o raid int o t he spaces behind t he full-backs and for Hernndez t o st ret ch t hem back, which he
did, but we failed t o penet rat e t hose spaces behind t he full-backs. For some reason, Ant onio
Valencia froze on t he night . He was nervous as hell. I dont mean t o be over-crit ical.
We never really at t acked t heir left -back, who had just come back from an illness and hadnt
played a lot of games. We t hought t hat would be a big plus point for us eit her him or Puyol
playing t here. Valencias form leading up t o t he final had been excellent . He t ort ured Ashley
Cole t wo or t hree weeks before Wembley and had t wist ed t he blood of t he full-back at
Schalke. You might be bet t er going back t o your box against Barcelona, but we should have
been bet t er at pushing on t op of Messi. Michael Carrick was below his best t oo.
The first newsflash t hat night was t hat I had left Dimit ar Berbat ov out of t he mat ch-day
squad. Inst ead, Michael Owen t ook t he st rikers seat on t he bench. He obviously t ook it badly
and I felt rot t en. Wembley has a coachs room, nice and privat e, where I explained t he reasons
for my decision. Dimit ar had gone off t he boil a bit and wasnt always t he ideal subst it ut e. I t old
him: If were going for a goal in t he last minut e, in t he penalt y box, Michael Owen has been very
fresh. It probably wasnt fair but I had t o t ake t hose decisions and back myself t o be right .
I signed Berbat ov in t he summer of 2008 because he had t hat lovely balance and composure
in t he at t acking areas. I t hought it would balance out t he ot her players I had in t he t eam, but
by doing so I creat ed an impasse wit h Tvez, who wasnt having it . He was sub, playing, t hen
sub again. In fairness t o Tvez, he always made an impact . He would get about t he game. Yet
it definit ely caused t hat blockage and gave his camp somet hing t o bargain wit h at ot her clubs.
Berbat ov was surprisingly lacking in self-assurance. He never had t he Cant ona or Andy Cole
peacock qualit y, or t he confidence of Teddy Sheringham. Hernndez also had high confidence:
he was bright and breezy. Berbat ov was not short of belief in his abilit y, but it was based on his
way of playing. Because we funct ioned at a cert ain speed, he was not really t uned int o it . He
was not t hat t ype of quick-reflex player. He want s t he game t o go slow and t o work his way
int o t he box in his own t ime. Or hell do somet hing out side t he area and link t he play. His asset s
were considerable. Alt hough we had a few inquiries for him in t he summer of 2011, I was not
prepared t o let him go at t hat st age. We had spent 30 million on him and I was not willing t o
writ e t hat off just because he had missed a few big games t he previous season. We might as
well keep him and use him.
In t raining he pract ised get t ing t o t he ball fast er. But when t he play broke down he was
inclined t o walk. You couldnt do t hat at our place. We had t o regroup quickly or we would be
t oo open, wit h t oo many players up t he pit ch. We needed people t o react t o us losing t he ball
so t he opposit ion would be under pressure quickly. But he was capable of great moment s. He
also had a huge appet it e, of Nicky But t proport ions. Head down at meal-t imes, and somet imes
wit h food t o t ake home as well.
Berbat ov wouldnt have feat ured in t he Wembley game, even if he had been on t he bench. I
had been forced t o t ake off Fbio and send on Nani, which left me wit h only t wo opt ions. I
want ed t o get Scholes on because I needed an experienced player t o orchest rat e our passing,
so Paul came on for Carrick. We had t alked about Scholesys ret irement for many mont hs and I
had t ried t o t alk him round, t o ent ice him wit h one more season, but his view was t hat 25
games a season were not enough. He also admit t ed his legs t ended t o be empt y in t he last
2530 minut es. He had survived t wo knee operat ions and an eye problem t hat had kept him
out for mont hs at a t ime, yet he was st ill playing at t hat high level. Phenomenal.
The goal he scored at his t est imonial t hat summer was a beaut y. He gave Brad Friedel in
goal no hope. It was a rocket . Eric Cant ona, t he visit ing manager, was applauding. On Talksport
lat er I heard a present er say Paul wasnt in t he t op four of modern English players. His
assert ion was t hat Gascoigne, Lampard and Gerrard were all bet t er players. Absolut e
Aft er our second Champions League final defeat t o Barcelona, I had t o ask: what is t he
problem here? Fact No. 1is t hat some of our players fell below t he level t hey were capable of. A
cont ribut ing fact or might have been t hat we were accust omed t o having most of t he
possession in games. When t hat advant age t ransferred it self t o t he opposit ion it might have
damaged our confidence and concent rat ion. There was some credence in t he t heory t hat our
players were unset t led by having t o play a subservient role: even a player such as Giggs, or Ji-
Sung Park, who, in t he quart er-final against Chelsea, t ackled everybody and was up and down
t he pit ch all day. We never saw him, in t hat way, against Barcelona, whose st art ing XI was:
Valds; Alves, Piqu, Abidal, Mascherano; Busquet s, Xavi, Iniest a; Messi, Villa and Pedro.
They t ook t he lead t hrough Pedro from one of Xavis count less clever passes but Rooney
equalised for us aft er a quick exchange wit h Giggs. But t hen t he Barcelona carousel really
st art ed spinning, wit h Messi at t he cont rols. He and Villa scored t he goals t hat finished us off in
Van der Sars last game for t he club.
I made an error at half-t ime. I was st ill focusing on winning t he game and t old Rooney he
needed t o keep running int o t hose gaps behind t he full-backs. Well win t he game if you keep
doing t hat , I urged him. I forgot t he big issue wit h playing Barcelona. So many of t heir games
were effect ively won in t he first 15 minut es of t he second half. I should have ment ioned t hat t o
my players. I might have been bet t er assigning Park t o mark Messi for t he first 15 minut es and
pushing Rooney wide left . If we had employed t hose t act ics, we might just have sneaked it . We
would st ill have been able t o count er-at t ack. Those changes would have left Busquet s free, so
maybe we would have been driven back t owards our box, but wed have posed more of a
t hreat , wit h Rooney at t acking from a wide left posit ion.
I had int ended t o replace Valencia aft er 10 minut es of t he second half, but t hen Fbio was
at t acked by cramps again and I was forced t o re-jig around his injury. My luck in finals was
generally good. Favour desert ed me in t his one. On t he balance of all t hose big games and t he
success I had enjoyed, I could hardly st art pit ying myself at Wembley, t he scene of Unit eds win
over Benfica in 1968.
We t hought we might have a chance at corner kicks but t hey never came our way. As our
defeat was confirmed, t here was no smugness about Barcelona. Not once did t hey flaunt t heir
superiorit y. Xavis first move aft er t he final whist le was t o make a move for Scholes jersey.
Foot ballers should have a role model. They should be saying t o t hemselves: Hes where I want
t o get t o. I had it wit h Denis Law. Denis was a year and a half older t han me and I looked at him
and said, That s what I want t o be.
In t he days aft er t hat loss I began t aking a serious look at t he coaching in our academy. Gary
Neville, Paul Scholes and I exchanged a lot of opinions. I looked at appoint ing anot her t echnical
coach t o t he academy. Our club was always capable of producing great players and
Barcelonas next wave were not bet t er t han ours. No way. Thiago was on a par wit h Welbeck
and Cleverley but t here was no fear about t he rest of t heirs coming t hrough.
Looking ahead is vit al. We were on t o Phil Jones long before t hat Champions League final. I
t ried t o buy him in 2010 but Blackburn would not sell. Ashley Young was bought t o replace
Giggs. The goalkeeping sit uat ion was all set t led in December. Grant ed, David de Gea had a
t orrid st art t o his Unit ed career, but he would develop. Smalling and Evans were out st anding
prospect s. We had Fbio and Rafael, and Welbeck and Cleverley were coming t hrough; Nani
was 24, Rooney 25. We had a nucleus of young t alent .
We shed five t hat summer because wit h Jones joining it wasnt going t o be easy for Wes
Brown or John OShea t o make t he st art ing XI. They were good servant s t o me. The horrible
part of management is t elling people who have given t heir all for you t hat t here is no longer a
place for t hem in your plans. Aft er t he Premier League t it le parade, in t he rain, we ret urned t o
t he school from where we had st art ed t he procession. I spoke t o Darron Gibson and asked him
how he saw his fut ure. Perhaps it wasnt t he perfect place t o begin t hat discussion, but he got
t he gist of what I was t hinking. He was off on holiday t hat night so we needed t o st art t he
conversat ion. Wes Brown, I st ruggled t o reach by t elephone. It was horrible t o let players of
t hat experience and loyalt y t o me go.
I lost five players aged 30 and above and let Owen Hargreaves go. We were bringing back
Welbeck, Cleverley, Mame Diouf and Macheda from loan spells, and signing t hree new players.
The average age of t he squad was reduced t o around 24.
Wit h Scholes and Neville, my plan was t o let t hem roam about t he place, wit h t he yout h
t eam, academy and reserves, t hen t he t hree of us would sit down for an assessment of how
st rong we were. I was going t o place a big burden on t hem t o shape t he fut ure, because t hey
knew bet t er t han anyone what it t ook t o be one of our players. It s somet hing Id want ed t o do
for years and years: feed my t op players int o t he st ream.
Scholes was a man of excellent opinions. His assessment s were brilliant . Always in one line.
There were no maybes. When we had a problem wit h Van Nist elrooy, Paul was inst ant ly clear
t hat Ruud could not be allowed t o cause disrupt ion. His language was blunt . Gary asked him,
Are you sure, Scholesy? just winding him up.
At t hat point , on t he coaching side, we had Brian McClair, Mick Phelan, Paul McGuinness, Jim
Ryan and Tony Whelan. They were all Unit ed players or academy graduat es. I want ed t o
st rengt hen t hose areas. Clayt on Blackmore and Quint on Fort une did a few bit s on t he
development side.
Aft er t he inquest , I t old myself: When we play Barcelona next t ime in a Champions League
final, I would have Jones and Smalling, or Smalling and Evans, right on t op of Messi. I wasnt
going t o let him t ort ure us again.
THE best piece of advice I ever received on t he media front was from a friend called Paul
Dohert y, who was t hen at Granada TV. Great lad, Paul. He sought me out one day and said:
Ive been wat ching your press conferences and Im going t o point somet hing out t o you. Youre
giving t he game away. Youre showing your worries. Look in t hat mirror and put t he Alex
Ferguson face on.
Appearing beleaguered is no way t o handle t he press. Showing your t orment s t o t hem is no
way t o help t he t eam or improve your chances of winning on a Sat urday. Paul was right . When
he gave me t hat advice I was displaying t he st rains of t he job. I couldnt allow a press
conference t o become a t ort ure chamber. It was my dut y t o prot ect t he dignit y of t he club and
all t hat we were doing. It was import ant t o be on t he front foot and cont rol t he conversat ion as
much as possible.
Before I went t hrough t hat door t o face t he world, I t rained myself, prepared myself ment ally.
Experience helped. I reached t he point in my Friday press conferences where I could see t he
line a journalist was pursuing. Somet imes t hey agreed a part y line, t elling one anot her: Right ,
you st art t hat , Ill go t he ot her way. I could read t hem all. Experience gave me t hat . Plus, t he
int ernal mechanism st art s t o work fast er. I loved it when a journalist asked a big long quest ion
because it allowed me t ime t o prepare my answer. The hard ones were t he short quest ions:
Why were you so bad?
That kind of pit hy inquiry can cause you t o elongat e your response. You st ret ch it out while
youre t rying t o t hink, and end up just ifying your whole world t o t hem. Theres an art t o not
exposing t he weaknesses of your t eam, which is always your first priorit y. Always. You might
have a game t hree days lat er and t hat , t oo, should be at t he forefront of your t hought s when
being int errogat ed. Winning t hat game is what count s, not scoring int ellect ual point s in a news
The t hird object ive is not t o make a fool of yourself by answering st upidly. Those were t he
considerat ions working away in my brain as I was being grilled. The skills, t hat great er
awareness, t ook years t o acquire. I remember being on t elevision as a young player and
blubbing about a six-game suspension I had received from t he Scot t ish Foot ball Associat ion. I
said on air: Aye, t hat s t he St ar Chamber just ice t hey operat e in Scot land.
Right away, a let t er from t he SFA came flying in t o t he club. Thinking you have a dut y t o be
int erest ing, you can say somet hing you regret . I was right t hat day in Scot land but I finished up
having t o writ e a let t er t o explain myself. The manager asked me: Where t he hell did you get
t hat one from t he St ar Chamber just ice line?
I couldnt hide t he origins of my speech. I was reading a book and just t hought it sounded
good, I t old him.
Of course my longest and biggest media bust -up was wit h t he BBC, which last ed seven
years unt il I decided enough was enough in August 2011. There were many annoyances from
my perspect ive, including an art icle in Match of the Day magazine, but t he st ep t oo far was a
document ary called Fergie and Son, broadcast on 27 May 2004, on BBC3, which feat ured a
horrible at t ack on my son Jason. They looked at t he t ransfers of Jaap St am t o Roma and
Massimo Taibi t o Reggina in relat ion t o Jasons involvement wit h t he Elit e Sport s Agency.
Before t he broadcast went out , t he Unit ed board cleared me, Jason and Elit e of any
wrongdoing in t ransfers, but decided t hat Jason could no longer act for t he club on t ransfer
The BBC would not apologise and t he allegat ions t hey made were not t rue.
In t he aft ermat h, Pet er Salmon of t he BBC came up t o see me and I t old him, You wat ch
t hat programme and t ell me whet her it does t he BBC credit . I want ed t o sue t hem, but my
solicit or and Jason bot h opposed t he idea. Salmon assumed his old friendship wit h me from
Granada TV would end t he st andoff.
The BBCs a Manchest er firm now, he said.
Great , I said. And you need t o apologise. No answer. His plan was t o get me t o address t he
Fergie and Son programme in an int erview wit h Clare Balding. Why would I do t hat ? But we did
agree t o differ in t he end and I resumed my int erviews wit h BBC st aff. By t hen I had made my
point .
More generally Sky t elevision changed t he whole media climat e by making it more
compet it ive and adding t o t he hype. Take t he coverage of t he Surez bit ing incident in t he
spring of 2013. I was asked about it in a press conference. The headline on my answer was:
Ferguson feels sympat hy for Liverpool. They asked me a quest ion about Surez and I said, I
know how t hey feel because Cant ona received a nine-mont h ban for kung-fu kicking a fan. My
point was never mind t en games, t ry nine mont hs. Yet t hey ran a headline suggest ing I felt
sorry for Surez.
Anot her headline was: Ferguson says Jos Mourinho is going t o Chelsea. The quest ion t hey
had asked me was: Who will be your main challenger next year? I replied t hat Chelsea would
be t here next season and added t hat if t he papers were right and Mourinho was going back, it
would give t hem a boost . The headline became: Ferguson says Mourinhos going back t o
I had t o t ext Mourinho t o explain. He t ext ed back and said, It s OK, I know, I saw it . That
headline ran every t en minut es. Mourinho did end up back at Chelsea but t hat s not t he point .
So t here was an int ensit y and volat ilit y about t he modern media I found difficult . I felt t hat by
t he end it was hard t o have relat ionships wit h t he press. They were under so much pressure it
was not easy t o confide in t hem. When I first came t o Manchest er, I was wary of some but
wasnt guarded in t he way I was in my final years. Charact ers like John Bean and Pet er Fit t on
were decent lads. Bill Thornt on. David Walker. St eve Millar. Decent guys. And I had my old
friends from Scot land.
On t ours we used t o have a night out wit h t he press lads. One evening we ended up back in
my room and Beano was in st riking form, t ap-dancing on my t able. Anot her night I was in bed,
at about 11 oclock, when t he phone rang and a voice said: Alex! Can you confirm or deny t hat
you were seen in a t axi wit h Mark Hughes t onight ?
It was John Bean. I t old him, It would be very difficult , John, because he was playing for
Bayern Munich t onight in a European t ie.
John said: Oh yes, I wat ched t hat game.
I banged down t he phone.
John t hen t urns up on t he Friday. A million apologies, Alex. I know youll accept my apology.
And sat down.
Lat t erly we had a lot of young report ers who dressed more casually t han t he men I had
known in my early years. Maybe it was a generat ional t hing, but it just didnt sit well wit h me. It s
a difficult job for t hose young report ers because t hey are under so much pressure from t heir
edit ors. Forget off t he record. It doesnt exist any more. I banned a couple of report ers in 2012
13 for using off-t he-record remarks. I banned anot her for saying Rooney and I never spoke in
t raining sessions and t hat everyone at t he club could see it . Not t rue.
I didnt read all t he papers, but from t ime t o t ime our media st aff would point t hings out t hat
were inaccurat e. The process can drain you. Years ago I used t o t ake act ion, but it ends up
cost ing you money. As for an apology, 40 words t ucked away on page 11 was a long way from
a st ory wit h banner headlines on t he back page. So what was t he point ?
In banning report ers I would be saying: Im not accept ing your version of event s. Again, I was
in a st rong posit ion, because I had been at Man Unit ed a long t ime and had been successful. If I
had been some poor guy st ruggling on a bad run of result s, t he scenario would have been
different . In most cases I felt an underlying sympat hy because I knew t hat ext rapolat ion or
exaggerat ion was a product of t he compet it ive nat ure of t he business. Newspapers are up
against Sky t elevision, websit es and ot her social media channels.
Any Premier League manager should have an experienced press officer, someone who
knows t he media and can act quickly on st ories. You cant st op t hem all but you can warn t he
aut hor when t he fact s are wrong and seek correct ions. As a backup, a good press officer can
ext ricat e you from t rouble. Every day, for 24 hours, Sky News is rolling. A st ory will be repeat ed
over and over again. Dealing wit h t he press is becoming more and more problemat ic for
Say Paul Lambert is having a bad t ime at Ast on Villa. The press conference is bound t o be
dominat ed by negat ivit y. Only someone who knows t he press can t rain a manager for t hat .
When I had my bad spell at Unit ed, Paul Dohert y t old me: Youre t ense, youre bait for t hem.
Before you get in t hat press conference, look in t he mirror, rub your face, get your smile on, get
your act t oget her. Be sure t hey cant eat you up.
That was marvellous advice. And t hat is what you have t o do. Most t imes you have t o go
wit h t he flow and make t he best of it . A st andard quest ion is: do you feel pressure? Well, of
course you do. But dont give t hem a headline. I held my press conferences before t raining. A
lot of managers hold t heirs aft erwards. In t hat scenario, you are concent rat ing on your t raining
session and not t hinking about t he press. For a 9 a.m. press conference I would have been
briefed by Phil Townsend, our direct or of communicat ions, on what might come up.
He would t ell me, for example, t hat I might be asked about t he Luis Surez bit ing incident ,
say, or t he Godolphin doping scandal in racing, or a possible move for a player such as
Lewandowski. I always st art ed by t alking about players who would be available for t hat
part icular game. Then t he emphasis would usually swit ch t o issues around t he game,
personalit ies. The Sundays would oft en look t o build a piece around one subject . Michael
Carricks good form, for inst ance.
I was generally fine in press conferences. The most difficult challenge was how t o address
t he problem of bad refereeing. I was penalised for making remarks about referees because my
reference point was t he st andards I set for foot ball, not mat ch officials. I wasnt int erest ed in
t he st andards referees set t hemselves. As a manager I felt ent it led t o expect refereeing levels
t o mat ch t hose of t he game t hey were cont rolling. And as a group, referees arent doing t heir
job as well as t hey should be. They t alk of refereeing now as a full-t ime job, but t hat s
Most st art at 16 or so, when t hey are kids. I admire t he impulse t o want t o referee. The game
needs t hat . I want ed t o see men such as t he It alian Robert o Roset t i referee here. Hes 6 feet 2
inches t all, a commanding figure, built like a boxer, and he flies over t he pit ch, calms players
down. Hes in cont rol. I liked t o see t he t op referees in act ion. I enjoyed observing proper
aut horit y, properly applied.
It would have been hard t o get rid of a Premier League referee on grounds of incompet ence
or weight . They all have lawyers. The union is very st rong. Plus, young referees are not coming
t hrough, so t hey cling t o t he ones t hey have.
Refereeing was t he one area of t he game where maybe I should have walked away from
int erviews wit hout expressing my opinions. The following week, I might be t he beneficiary of a
decision in our favour; so t o go overboard aft er one bad decision could be int erpret ed as
select ive out rage.
I support The Referees Associat ion. At Aberdeen I would bring t hem int o t raining t o help
t hem get fit . I like st andards. I like t o see a fit referee. And I dont t hink t hat levels of fit ness are
high enough current ly in t he English game. How far t hey run is not t he correct st andard of
measurement . It s how quickly t hey cover t he ground. If t heres a count er-at t ack on, can t hey
reach t he right end of t he pit ch in t ime? In fairness, if you look at our 2009 Champions League
semi-final against Arsenal, when Roset t i was t he referee, he was st ill 20 yards behind t he play
when we put t he ball in t he net . It t ook us nine seconds t o score. So youre asking t he referee
t o run 100 yards in nine seconds. Only Usain Bolt could manage t hat .
As a rule, I felt t hat t he Foot ball Associat ion t end t o go aft er t he high-profile t arget s
because t hey know it will bring favourable publicit y. If you look at t he Wayne Rooney incident
against West Ham, when he swore int o t he camera, we felt t hey pressurised t he referee, and
Rooney ended up wit h a t hree-mat ch suspension. The just ificat ion was t hat it s not nice for
children t o see a player swear int o a TV camera. I can see t hat , but how oft en have you seen
players swear over t he years?
It was never really possible t o work out who was running English foot balls governing body.
You would get Exet er schools having a say. Greg Dyke, t he new chairman, has t o reduce t he
numbers involved in decision-making. A commit t ee of 100 people cant produce sensible
management . These commit t ees are set up t o honour peoples cont ribut ion t o t he game
rat her t han make t he organisat ion run smoot hly. It s an inst it ut ional problem. Reformers go in
t here 6 feet 2 inches t all and come out 5 feet 4 inches.
Our behaviour in big games was generally excellent . One newspaper cit ed t he case of t he
referee Andy DUrso being harassed by Roy Keane and Jaap St am, which we st amped on. Me
saying, It s none of t heir business, evident ly irked t he FA. I also point ed out t hat t his was t he
League Cup, not t he FA Cup. I was never much impressed wit h t he work of t he FAs
compliance unit .
When I crit icised Alan Wiley for his physique in t he aut umn of 2009, I was making a wider
point about t he fit ness of referees. In my opinion Alan Wiley was overweight when I made t hat
point aft er a 22 draw wit h Sunderland at Old Trafford. The comment t hat landed me in hot
wat er was: The pace of t he game demanded a referee who was fit . He was not fit . You see
referees abroad who are as fit as but chers dogs. He was t aking t hirt y seconds t o book a
player. He was needing a rest . It was ridiculous.
Lat er I apologised for any personal embarrassment caused t o Alan Wiley and said my
int ent ion had been t o highlight a serious and import ant issue in t he game. But , 16 days aft er
t he Sunderland game, I was charged by t he FA wit h improper conduct . I had t wice been
banned from t he t ouchline, in 2003, and again in 2007 for having my say about referee Mark
Clat t enburg. Lat er I was fined 30,000 and banned from t he t ouchline for five mat ches for my
comment s about referee Mart in At kinson in t he wake of our 21 defeat at Chelsea. Aft er my
comment s about Alan Wiley, former referee Jeff Wint er suggest ed a FIFA-st yle st adium ban
might be appropriat e.
By t he end, I felt we hadnt had a really t op Premier League referee for a long t ime. I know
Graham Poll had t hat arrogant st reak, but he was t he best decision-maker. He had such an
ego t hat it det ract ed from his performances, and when he ent ered one of his st roppy moods
he could be difficult for you. He was t he best judge of an incident over my t ime at Manchest er
Unit ed.
When a referee is working in front of 44,000 at Anfield, or 76,000 at Old Trafford, and he
gives a goal t hat goes against t he home t eam, and t he crowd scream, it does affect a lot of
t hem. That s anot her dist inct ion: t he abilit y t o make decisions against t he t ide, against t he roar
of t he crowd. The old saying t hat a referee was a homer does apply. It s not t o say a ref is
cheat ing, more t hat t hey are influenced by t he force of emot ion in t he crowd.
Anfield was probably t he hardest place for a mat ch official t o be object ive, because it was
such a closed-in, volat ile environment . There is an int imidat ion fact or, from fans t o referees, not
just at Liverpool but across t he game.
Fort y years ago, crowds were not frenzied t he way t hey are t oday. So perhaps it would
serve a higher purpose for t he referee t o at t end a press conference wit h his supervisor
alongside him and explain how he saw it . For inst ance, I would have found it int erest ing t o hear
from t he Turkish referee who handled our Champions League t ie against Real Madrid at Old
Trafford in March 2013, and list en t o what he had t o say about Nanis sending-off, which was
A brief referees press conference might have been a st ep forward. You cant st op progress.
Take foot ball boot s: I was t ot ally against t he modern boot , yet manufact urers were pouring
money int o foot ball and t herefore could not be challenged. The level of gimmickry is now very
high, t o get young kids t o buy pink boot s, orange boot s. A lot of clubs use t he kit
manufact urers as part of t he deal t o sign a player: we can get you a deal wit h Nike or adidas,
and so on. They have t o get t heir money back, and it s t hrough boot s.
As an audience we are never ever going t o be sat isfied wit h referees, because we are all
biased t owards our own t eams. But full-t ime referees have not been successful, except in
t erms of man-management . It s impossible for a person t o do his normal job and st ill follow t he
kind of t raining programme referees are assigned. So t he syst em is flawed. There should be
full-t ime referees who report t o St Georges Park every day. You may say how are t hey going
t o t ravel from Newcast le t o Burt on-upon-Trent every day? Well, if we signed a player from
London, we found him a house in Manchest er. Robin van Persie, for example. If t hey want t he
best refereeing syst em, t hey should be as professional as t he Premier League clubs, wit h t he
money t he game now has.
Mike Riley, t he head of t he Professional Game Mat ch Officials Board, once claimed t hey
lacked t he finance t o t ake such st eps. If he is right , it is incredible t hat foot ball lacks t he
resources for proper professional refereeing, wit h 5 billion in revenues from t elevision. That is
ridiculous. Think of t he sums available in parachut e payment s t o clubs relegat ed t o t he
Championship. If referees are going t o be full-t ime, t he syst em should reflect t hat . It should be
done properly.
In Europe, Champions League referees have an arrogance about t hem because t hey know
t hey wont see you again t he following weekend. I was in four finals and t here was only one
where t he referee could be recognised as a t op official: Pierluigi Collina, in t he Barcelona final of
Ive lost t wo import ant European t ies t o Jos Mourinho, not because of t he performance of
t he players but because of t he referee. The Port o game in 2004 was unbelievable. The worst
decision he made t hat night was not t he disallowed Scholes goal t hat would have put us 20
in front . When Ronaldo broke away wit h a few minut es t o go, he was brought down by t he left -
back. The linesman flagged for a free kick but t he referee chose t o play on. Port o went up t he
park, got a free kick, Tim Howard parried it out and t hey scored in injury t ime. So we had plent y
of experience of bad decisions against us in Europe.
I was at an AC MilanInt er game and a senior Int er official said t o me: Do you know t he
difference bet ween t he English and t he It alians? In England t hey dont t hink a game can ever
be corrupt . In It aly t hey dont t hink a game can not be corrupt .
In England, on t he plus side, t here was an improvement in man-management . That was
good. The communicat ion bet ween mat ch officials and players was much more const ruct ive.
People in aut horit y have t o be able t o make decisions, and a lot of t hem lacked t he abilit y t o
reach t hem quickly. The human element t ells you a referee can be wrong. But t he good ones
will make t he correct decisions more oft en t han not . The ones who make t he wrong ones are
not necessarily bad referees. They just lack t hat t alent for making t he right calls in a t ight t ime
It was t he same wit h players. What makes t he difference in t he last t hird? It s your decision-
making. We were on t o players about it all t he t ime. If I were st art ing again, I would force every
player t o learn chess t o give t hem t he abilit y t o concent rat e. When you first learn chess you
can be t hree or four hours finishing a game. But when youve mast ered it and st art playing 30-
second chess, t hat s t he ult imat e. Quick decisions, under pressure. What foot ball is all about .
IN t he build-up t o us winning our 19t h English League t it le, t here was t his const ant quest ion
about us beat ing Liverpools record. My view was t hat we would pass t heir haul of 18
championships at some point anyway, so t here was no need t o make a fuss about it in t hat
part icular season. I want ed our at t ent ion focused on t he campaign it self. But it was somet hing
I always felt we needed t o achieve.
The SounessDalglish Liverpool t eams were t he benchmark for English foot ball in t he 1980s,
when I made my first foray int o management sout h of t he border. Those Liverpool sides were
formidable. I had suffered against t hem wit h Aberdeen and brought t hose memories wit h me t o
Manchest er. In one European t ie we had lost 10 at Pit t odrie, played really well for t he first 20
minut es at Anfield, but st ill ended up 20 down at half-t ime. I did my usual t hing in t he dressing
room and, as t he players were leaving, one, Drew Jarvie, said, Come on, lads, t wo quick goals
and were back in it .
We were 30 down on aggregat e, at Anfield, and he was t alking about t wo quick goals as if
t hey were ours t o t ake. I looked at Drew and said: God bless you, son. Lat er t he players would
hammer Drew wit h t he quot e. They would say, We werent playing Forfar, you know.
When t hat great Liverpool side were 10 up against you, it was impossible t o get t he ball off
t hem. It would be boomp-boomp around t he park. Souness would spread t he play. Hansen,
Lawrenson, Thompson: what ever t he combinat ion at t he back, t hey were comfort able on t he
ball. When I moved t o Unit ed, t hey st ill had Ian Rush, John Aldridge, t hat calibre of player.
Buying John Barnes and Pet er Beardsley just elevat ed t hem again.
I said at t he t ime: I want t o knock t hem off t heir perch. I cant act ually remember saying t hat ,
but t he line is at t ribut ed t o me. Anyway, it was a represent at ion of how I felt , so I have no
object ion t o it being in t he newspaper cut t ings. Manchest er Unit eds great est rival, t hough it
changed t owards t he end, was Liverpool hist orically, indust rially and foot ball-wise. The
games were always emot ionally int ense event s.
Our League success in 1993 opened t he door, and by t he t urn of t he cent ury we had added
a furt her five championships. In 2000 I looked at Liverpool and knew t here was no easy way
back for t hem. They were in for a long haul. Yout h development was spasmodic. You had no
feeling t hat Liverpool were a t hreat again. The impet us was all wit h us. On t he day we reached
18 t it les t o mat ch t heir record, I knew fine well we were going t o pass t hem, t he way our club
was operat ing.
The weekend of our 19t h coronat ion was an ext raordinary one for t he cit y of Manchest er.
Cit y won t heir first t rophy since t he 1976 League Cup, wit h a 10 win over St oke in t he FA Cup
final, and we drew 11 at Blackburn wit h a 73rd-minut e penalt y by Rooney. In 1986, when I
arrived, Liverpool led Unit ed 167 in League t it les won. This was t he season in which Chelsea
had spent 50 million on Fernando Torres and Cit y had invest ed 27 million in Edin Deko
while Javier Hernndez t urned out t o be a bargain for us at 6 million.
We went 24 games unbeat en before losing at Wolves on 5 February 2011, and finished wit h
only four defeat s. A t urning point in t he race was t he 42 win at West Ham in early April, aft er
we had been 20 down at t he int erval. I made t he point t hat several of our players had
sampled success for t he first t ime and would want more, Valencia, Smalling and Hernndez
among t hem.
Winning t he t it le was t he most import ant aim t hat season, wit h t he 19 as a bonus. By t he
t ime I finished we had moved on t o 20, which was a number t hat t he fans chant ed wit h great
relish. There was no evidence in my final season t hat Liverpool, despit e some excellent
performances, possessed a t eam who might win t he League. I was coming out of t he Grand
Nat ional meet ing wit h Cat hy in April 2013 and t wo Liverpool fans came up alongside t o say,
Hey Fergie, well hammer you next season. They were good lads.
Well, youll need t o buy nine players, I said.
They looked crest fallen. Nine?
One said: Wait t ill I t ell t he boys in t he pub t hat . I t hink he must have been an Evert on fan. I
dont t hink we need nine, said t he ot her as he t raipsed away. I nearly shout ed, Well, seven,
t hen. Everyone was laughing.
That summer we knew Manchest er Cit y were emerging as t he t eam we would have t o beat .
The danger no longer emanat ed from London or Merseyside. It was so close you could smell it .
An owner wit h t he means t o make t his a serious municipal cont est st ood bet ween us and
cont rol of t he cit y. We cont inued down our pat h of building up st rengt h for t he fut ure and
hoped it would see us t hrough.
The big player we needed t o replace was Edwin van der Sar. Alt hough most people
assumed Manuel Neuer was going t o be our t arget (he was on our agenda), we had scout ed
David de Gea for a long t ime, right t hrough from when he was a boy. We always t hought he
was going t o be a t op goalkeeper.
In t he summer of 2011, also, Ashley Young had a year t o run on his cont ract at Ast on Villa.
He was a solid buy: English, versat ile, could work eit her side of t he pit ch, could play off t he
front , and had a decent goal-scoring record. Given t hat Ji-Sung Park was coming up t o 31, and
wit h Ryan Giggs advancing age, I t hought it was a good t ime t o move for Young. Giggs was
never going t o be a t hrust ing out side-left any more in t he way he had been in t he past .
We picked up Young for 16 million, which was a reasonable fee, maybe a pound or t wo
more t han we expect ed t o pay, wit h him in t he final year of his cont ract . But we concluded t he
deal quickly.
Ashley ran int o t rouble against QPR in t he 201112 season, when Shaun Derry was sent off
and our player was accused of diving. I left him out for t he next game, and t old him t hat t he last
t hing he needed as a Manchest er Unit ed player was a reput at ion for going down easily. It
wasnt a penalt y kick against QPR and Shaun Derrys sending-off was not rescinded. Ashley
did it t wo weeks in a row but we st opped it . Going t o ground t oo willingly was not somet hing I
t olerat ed.
Ronaldo had issues wit h t he same t endency early in his career, but t he ot her players would
give him st ick for it on t he t raining ground. The speed he was t ravelling at , you had only t o
nudge Crist iano t o knock him over. We spoke t o him many t imes about it . He fouled me, he
would say. Yes, but youre overdoing it , youre exaggerat ing it , we would t ell him. He
eradicat ed it from his game and became a really mat ure player.
Luka Modri was an example of a player in t he modern game who would never dive. St ays on
his feet . Giggs and Scholes would never dive. Drogba was a prominent offender. A Barcelona
game at St amford Bridge in 2012 was t he worst example. The press were never hard on him,
except in t hat Champions League fixt ure. If t he media had been t ougher on him five years
earlier, it would have been bet t er for t he game.
The purchase of Phil Jones was a long-t erm plan from when Sam Allardyce was Blackburn
manager. When Rovers beat us in t he FA Yout h Cup, I called Sam t he next day and said, What
about t he boy Jones?
Sam laughed and said, No, hell be in t he first t eam on Sat urday, which he was. And he
st ayed t here. Sam was a big fan of Jones. Blackburn wouldnt sell him in t he 2011 January
t ransfer window because t hey were in a relegat ion bat t le. By t he end of t he season, every club
was on his t ail: Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea. He spoke t o all four clubs but we managed t o coax
him t o Unit ed, at 19 years of age.
At t he point we signed Phil, I was unsure what his best posit ion would be. Lat er I came t o
feel it would be at cent re-back. He gave us versat ilit y. He could play almost anywhere. In t he
2011 Communit y Shield I t ook Ferdinand and Vidi off at half-t ime and assigned Jones and
Evans t o push right on t op of t he opposit ion. Evans is good at t hat t oo: breaking int o t he
middle of t he pit ch. Vidi and Ferdinand were more old school. They have got good heads,
underst and t he game well, dont get caught out . They were a great part nership. Increasingly,
t hough, I could apply variat ions at cent re-back, and Jones was a major part of my t hinking.
Evans, I t hink, needed a shake. He didnt appreciat e me signing Jones and Smalling. It caused
him t o quest ion my opinion of him. But he proved himself in his own right and did increasingly
well for us. It s always grat ifying when a player responds t o new arrivals by redoubling his own
effort s.
Tom Cleverley, anot her young hopeful, was t he vict im of a shocking t ackle against Bolt on
early in t hat season, which killed his year in many ways. He came back aft er about a mont h and
we played him right away against Evert on. A recurrence of t he injury t hen kept him out for
about t hree mont hs. The plan was t o send him off for an operat ion, which he didnt want . It
would have kept him out for nine mont hs. He want ed t o carry on, and it worked, but by t hat
t ime I had Scholes and Carrick back. I was never able t o place Tom in t he side regularly.
Hes a very clever player, t he boy. Very int elligent . Hes mobile and a good finisher. He was in
t he London Olympic squad, which pleased me because he needed a challenge t o lift his self-
belief right up. Darren Flet cher, meanwhile, was bat t ling a colonic illness. In t he summer of 2012,
it was possible he might have an operat ion, but he needed t o be well t o go under t he knife.
Wit h a set back he had, he was going t o be out unt il December. The previous season I had him
wit h t he reserves t o do some coaching. He enjoyed t hat . Scholesy had gone back t o t he first
t eam. Darren delivered a couple of half-t ime t alks in reserves games and was impressive.
De Gea, who was 20 when we signed him for 24 million euros from At lt ico Madrid, had a
t orrid t ime t o begin wit h. It was obvious he lacked t he physique of Van der Sar or Schmeichel.
That part of his body needed t o be developed and we devised a programme t o help him add
muscle mass. A complicat ion for him was t hat we lost Ferdinand and Vidi in our first game of
t he 201112 League campaign: a 21 win at West Bromwich Albion, in which he allowed a
weak shot from Shane Long t o slip t hrough. I described t he bat t ering he received in our penalt y
box at West Brom as his welcome t o England.
Vidi was out for six weeks and Rio for t hree. De Gea t hen had Smalling and Jones playing in
front of him. Young players. He did all right but was a few degrees short of infallible. There were
issues wit h his handling of t he players in front of him. By t he t ime we played Liverpool in
Oct ober, he conceded t he first goal from a corner kick. He should have dealt wit h t hat bet t er:
not just him but Evans and Smalling, t he cent re-backs on t hat occasion.
Their posit ioning was bad, which locked De Gea in t o his six-yard area, but it s t he
goalkeeper who t akes t he blame for t hose rocky moment s. In t he decisive Premier League
game against Cit y at t he Et ihad St adium t he following April, Jones blocked him in and st opped
him get t ing out t o deal wit h t he corner kick t hat led t o Kompanys goal. There was progress t o
be made on t hat front . As t he season wore on, t hough, he was more and more effect ive and
self-assured. Some of his saves were miraculous. Our inst inct s were correct all along. He was
one of t he worlds best young keepers and we were proud t o have him wit h us, where he could
develop as so many ot hers had before. At Real Madrid, in t he first leg of our Champions
League round of 16 t ie in February 2013, he saved brilliant ly from Ronaldo, Fbio Coent ro and
Sami Khedira.
David couldnt speak t he language and he had t o learn t o drive, anot her illust rat ion of how
young he was. It could never be easy for a goalkeeper coming t o England from Cont inent al
Europe at 20 years of age. If you recall t he big goalkeeping moves of t he last t wo decades or
so, Buffon was out st anding from t he moment he arrived at Juvent us as a t eenager. But very
few who have made a move on t he scale of De Gea going t o Unit ed have clicked st raight
away. We always looked t o invest in t he fut ure, t hough. He will be one of t he very best and I
was delight ed when he was named in t he PFA t eam of t he year in my last season.
Jones was unfort unat e in t hat 201112 season in sust aining a succession of niggling
injuries. Young could look back on an encouraging season in which he scored eight goals. For a
winger, t hat s not bad. He can draw on a good underst anding of t he game and a high st amina
level. Wit h an ext ra half-yard of pace, his arsenal would have been complet e, but his speed
was hardly deficient , and he developed a knack of slipping inside on t o his right foot his
st rongest foot and delivering from t here. He was excellent t hrough t he middle as well, but we
were blessed wit h many opt ions in t hat area of t hat field. I was very pleased wit h Ashley,
t hough. He was a quiet boy and a good t rainer. The t hree of t hem Jones, Young and De Gea
were good sort s.
Briefly t he idea was moot ed of an England comeback for Paul Scholes, but it was never a
serious possibilit y. Paul would t ire at t he end of games in his lat er years because he was not
born wit h t he genes of Ryan Giggs, and he had lit t le int erest in playing int ernat ional foot ball
again. Scholesy st ill offered us a t empo and a plat form for our game when he ret urned in
January 2012. There was nobody bet t er in t he rhyt hm sect ion of our t eam. In fairness, t he FA
came t o accept Pauls aversion t o being recalled. Fabio Capellos assist ant approached him
before t he 2010 World Cup but t here was no approach ahead of Euro 2012 in Poland and
Michael Carrick was anot her int erest ing case st udy. No England manager appeared t o
regard him as a st art ing midfield player. Michael grew up sit t ing on t he England bench and he
had no desire t o spend all summer in t hat observers role at Euro 2012. As it t urned out , he
t ook t he opport unit y t o clear out his Achilles.
Michaels handicap was, I feel, t hat he lacked t he bravado of Frank Lampard and St even
Gerrard. Lampard, for me, was a marvellous servant for Chelsea, but I didnt t hink of him as an
elit e int ernat ional foot baller. And I am one of t he few who felt Gerrard was not a t op, t op player.
When Scholes and Keane were in our t eam, Gerrard seldom had a kick against us. Wit h
England, Michael Carrick suffered in t he shadow of t hose t wo big personalit ies.
Playing Lampard and Gerrard was a night mare for England managers because t hey were
incompat ible in a 442 format ion. The t eam funct ioned bet t er wit h Hargreaves in cent ral
midfield, in 2006. By t he bye, in t he World Cup quart er-final against Port ugal in 2006, which
England lost , I t old St eve McClaren t hat he and Eriksson should have had t he players
celebrat ing and buoyant aft er get t ing t o penalt ies wit h 10 men, following Rooneys dismissal. A
sense of achievement against t he odds should have t aken hold among Erikssons penalt y
t akers. Lit t le t hings like t hat count . It would have lift ed Englands players.
I had some st range dealings on t he England front . Aft er Capello resigned, t he FA wrot e t o
me t o ask me not t o t alk about t he England managers job. At t he t ime, everyone was t out ing
Harry Redknapp as t he probable successor, and all I did was endorse t he popular view t hat
Harry would be ideally suit ed t o t he role. I dont know why t hey jumped on me t hat way. Clearly
t hey had it in mind t hat Harry was not going t o be t he next England manager, even t hough
everyone assumed he would.
I was offered t he England job on t wo occasions. Adam Crozier, chief execut ive of t he FA
from 2000 t o 2002, came t o see me before Eriksson was appoint ed in 2001. The first t ime was
before t hat , when Mart in Edwards was chairman, around t he t ime Kevin Keegan t ook t he reins
in 1999.
There was no way I could cont emplat e t aking t he England job. Can you imagine me doing
t hat ? A Scot sman? I always joked t hat I would t ake t he posit ion and relegat e t hem: make
t hem t he 150t h rat ed count ry in t he world, wit h Scot land 149.
The England job requires a part icular t alent and t hat skill is t he abilit y t o handle t he press.
St eve McClaren made t he mist ake of t rying t o be pally wit h one or t wo. If you cut 90 per cent
out , t he ot hers are aft er your body. If one person gives you favourable coverage, t he ot hers will
hound you. No, it wasnt a bed of nails I was ever t empt ed t o lie on.
BACK in t he sanct uary of our home, Cat hy said, That was t he worst day of my life. I cant t ake
much more of t his. The aft ernoon of Sunday 13 May 2012 was crushing. To neut rals it was t he
most t hrilling end t o a Premier League t it le race in hist ory. For us t here was only t he painful
knowledge t hat we had t hrown away a commanding lead. We had broken t he Man Unit ed rule
of not surrendering a posit ion of power. Manchest er Cit y were Englands champions.
I felt pret t y ragged myself, but I could see t he dist ress in my wife. Cat hy, I began, we have a
great life, and weve had a fant ast ic period of success.
I know, she said, but Im not going out . There are t oo many Cit y fans in t he village.
Somet imes you forget t hat set backs can affect your family more t han you. My t hree sons
grew used t o t he cycle of t riumph and disast er. The grandchildren were t oo young t o
underst and it . Nat urally it was worse t his t ime because Man Cit y were t he ones celebrat ing at
our expense. And worse, because wed had t he League in our grasp and t hrown it away. Of all
t he set backs I endured, not hing compared t o losing t he League t o Cit y.
I had faced 14 Man Cit y managers since 1986, st art ing wit h Jimmy Frizzell. Finally a manager
from across t own had beat en me t o t he line in a t it le race. A year lat er, Robert o Mancini
became t he 14t h Cit y manager t o lose or leave t he job before I st ood down. Robert o went
aft er t he FA Cup final defeat by Wigan At hlet ic in May 2013. By t hen we were League
champions again, for t he 20t h t ime. We had t urned t he t ables on Cit y. But I would not be t aking
t hem on again.
At t he st art of t he 201112 campaign, I felt it was bet ween us, Cit y and Chelsea. Aft er a
really good st art , one of our best , I found myself having t o change t he t eam a lot t o
accommodat e injuries. Our 82 vict ory over Arsenal was t heir heaviest defeat since 1896,
when t hey lost 80 t o Loughborough Town. It could have been 20. It act ually reached t he point
where I felt please, no more goals. It was a humiliat ion for Arsne. The climat e at Arsenal was
hardly serene t o begin wit h. But we played some fant ast ic foot ball t hat day. Wit h t he missed
chances on eit her side, it might have been 124 or 125.
Arsenal played a young boy in midfield; I had hardly heard of him Francis Coquelin and he
barely played again. He was complet ely out of his dept h. The player who really disappoint ed
me t hat day was Arshavin, who could have been sent off for t wo t errible t ackles, over t he t op
of t he ball. There had been a change in Arshavin. You make a ment al not e when a player who
usually get s whacked by everybody else t urns it round and st art s hunt ing down opponent s. His
behaviour shocked me. Arshavin cont ribut ed not hing t o t hat game. It s disappoint ing, even as
an opposing manager, t o see t his. Event ually Arsne t ook him off and sent on a younger
replacement . They had players missing, obviously, and were not t he same wit hout Fbregas
and Nasri.
For t hat reason I had discount ed Arsenal as t it le challengers. For me, Per Mert esacker, t he
cent re-back, wasnt a major signing. Weve seen plent y of t hat t ype of player in Germany over
t he years. I didnt t hink he would be a handicap, but nor did I believe he would lift Arsenal t o a
higher t ier. They needed players who could direct ly influence t heir performances and result s.
I saw t his t heme developing in Arsenals t ransfer t rading. We wat ched Marouane Chamakh,
t he Arsenal st riker, at Bordeaux. We had good scout s in France but t hey never rat ed him.
Olivier Giroud was anot her purchase. Arsne seemed willing t o buy French players of t hat
st andard and I felt he might be overest imat ing French foot ball.
Aft er t he 82 win over Arsenal came t he farce of a 61 home defeat t o Cit y. We bat t ered
t hem for 40 minut es in t hat game. Absolut ely bat t ered t hem. We should have been t hree or
four up. The referee allowed Micah Richards t o boot lumps out of Ashley Young, overlooking
five fouls in a row. At half-t ime we were really cont rolling t he game. Then we had a man sent
off just aft er t he break. If you wat ch it again, Mario Balot elli pulls Jonny Evans first , but our
cent re-back t hen brought him down and was dismissed.
So at 20 down I made a change and brought on Phil Jones, who kept flying forward. We
dragged it back t o 31 and t he crowd went crazy. A famous comeback was on t he cards.
Flet cher had scored a wonderful goal, so we began at t acking, and t hen conceded t hree goals
in t he last seven minut es. Suicide.
It looked humiliat ing but it was act ually self-annihilat ion. There was never a point in t he
game when Cit y looked a superior side t o us. At 30 up t hey were in a comfort zone, t hat s fair
t o say, but t hey were not playing a st yle of foot ball t hat was t earing us apart .
The last passage of play was a disgrace. It was comedy. And it led me t o lean on Rio
Ferdinand not t o gamble any longer wit h his pace, which had declined. At his quickest , Rio
would show t he at t acker where t o knock t he ball and t hen t ake it off him. Now he was t rying
t hat wit h David Silva and wasnt able t o beat him in t he sprint . That game was a wat ershed for
De Gea was shell-shocked. Six goals flew past him and he didnt have a hand in any of t hem.
We also lost Welbeck, who was becoming a useful asset for us.
Aft er t he final whist le, I informed t he players t hey had disgraced t hemselves. Then we set
about fixing our at t ent ion on t he defensive part of t he t eam. There was a leak in t here t hat we
needed t o correct . That remedial work led us int o a period of st abilit y where we were st rong at
t he back. We worked on players coming back int o t he right posit ions, on concent rat ion and on
t aking t he defending more seriously.
We fell nine point s behind Man Cit y wit h t hat 61 defeat , but by New Years Day t he gap
was down t o t hree point s. Losing t o Blackburn Rovers at home was a real shocker, especially
as it coincided wit h my 70t h birt hday, t hough t hat was not hing new t o me. On my 50t h we
were beat en 41 by Queens Park Rangers. Id suspended Evans, Gibson and Rooney for
having a big night out and t urning up for t raining dishevelled. Carrick and Giggs were injured. All
of which forced me t o play Rafael and Ji-Sung Park in t he middle of t he pit ch. Blackburn played
well t hat day. We pulled it back t o 22 and t hey received a corner kick, which De Gea didnt
handle properly, and Grant Hanley grabbed t he winner.
In t he meant ime, Unit ed managed t o name a st and aft er me wit hout me knowing anyt hing
about it . When I walked ont o t he pit ch, t he t wo t eams lined up t o mark my 25 years as Unit ed
manager, which was really nice. The Sunderland players, OShea, Brown, Bardsley and
Richardson, all former Unit ed men, were smiling broadly and very appreciat ive. I felt proud of
t hat . I was t old t o walk t o t he cent re circle t o meet David Gill, who had an object at his feet . I
assumed he was going t o make a present at ion t o me. But as I reached him, David t urned me
t owards t he Sout h St and. Apparent ly only he and t he company who did t he work were aware
of what was going on. It was all carried out under a cloak of absolut e secrecy.
David made a speech and t hen t urned me round t o see t he let t ering. You get some churning
moment s in your life when you feel, I dont deserve t his. This was one. David had worked hard
t o t hink of an appropriat e acknowledgement of t he 25 years. That s what it was about . David
t hrew me off by saying, We want t o build a st at ue of you, but do you t hink we should wait unt il
youve finished t he job? His last words during t hat conversat ion were, We must do somet hing,
but were not sure what it should be. The answer he came up wit h was humbling. I had been
Unit ed manager for 1,410 games. The moment didnt cause me t o t hink any more deeply about
ret irement . But aft er t he last game of t he season in 201112, I said t o my boys, That may be
it . One more season and t hen t hat s me, because it did t ake a lot out of me. That last minut e
t ook it all out of me.
Going out of t he Champions League in t he group st age was my fault . I t ook t he compet it ion
for grant ed. We had come t hrough previous group st ages comfort ably and looking at t his one I
felt it would be st raight forward, t hough of course I never said t hat publicly.
I rest ed players: t wo or t hree when we played Benfica away. We came away wit h a draw and
played quit e well. Then, against Basel, we were 20 up and cruising, but ended up drawing 3
3. They had won t heir first game so it put t hem t wo point s in front of us already. We won our
next t wo games against Cluj, but Benfica and Basel were st ill in t he chase.
We played well but only drew at home wit h Benfica, which meant t hat if we lost in Basel we
would be out . The pit ch was very soft in Swit zerland and we lost Vidi in t he first half t o a
serious injury. They had a couple of good forwards in Frei and St reller and won t he game 21.
Against Basel at home, t he players had been complacent defensively, not get t ing back t o t he
In t he Carling Cup we were eliminat ed by Cryst al Palace, who prepared well against our
young players. The League Cup is always regarded now as a bonus t ournament . We were also
knocked out of t he FA Cup in t he fourt h round aft er beat ing Man Cit y earlier in t he compet it ion.
Because t he focus was now on t he Premier League, we didnt make much headway in t he
Europa League, going out t o At hlet ic Bilbao in early March wit h a 32 defeat at home. I want ed
t o win t he Europa League and represent us in t he right way. But our home record in Europe
was poor: one win from five games.
At t hat point t he malaise hit s you. Youve been knocked out of t he Champions League
group st age, youve had a 61 defeat t o Man Cit y and youre out of t he Carling Cup, at home
t o Cryst al Palace. You have a challenge ahead. But we were good at t hose. We had t he
energy and wherewit hal t o concent rat e fully on t he League. Our form aft er t hat , apart from t he
Blackburn Rovers result , was t errific. Bet ween January and early March, we beat Arsenal and
Tot t enham away, defeat ed Liverpool and drew wit h Chelsea.
In February t he SurezEvra affair blew up again when Surez refused t o shake Pat rices
hand in a game at Old Trafford. I brought t he players t oget her on t he Tuesday of t he game
and t old t hem, I t hink you need t o be big. They were not inclined t o be nice about it . I st uck t o
my t heme: you need t o be bigger t han t hem. Gradually t hey changed t heir minds and came
round t o t he idea of a handshake. Ferdinand, t he most experienced player, also had t he
incident wit h John Terry and Ant on Ferdinand in his t hought s. By t he Friday t hey were fine wit h
it . There would be a handshake from Evras side.
Ive wat ched t he foot age several t imes. Surez seemed t o quicken as he passed Pat rice.
Perhaps he t hought no one would not ice t hat . As Surez passed him, Evra was annoyed and
said somet hing t o him. It was all over very quickly, but t he repercussions lingered.
When Kenny Dalglish gave his init ial pre-mat ch TV int erview, he gave t he impression t hat
Surez had agreed t o shake Evras hand. A club of Liverpools st at ure should have done
somet hing about t hat , but he played in t he game all t he same. I called Surez a disgrace t o
Liverpool and said t hey would be wise t o get rid of him. I also reprimanded Pat rice for
celebrat ing t oo close t o Surez as t he players walked off t he pit ch.
The whole saga had st art ed at Anfield wit h Pat rice sit t ing in t he corner looking aggrieved.
What s happened? I asked.
He called me a black , Pat rice said.
I t old him he would first have t o report it t o t he referee. I went int o t he referees room wit h
Pat rice and t old t he mat ch official, Look, Pat rice Evra says hes been racially abused.
Phil Dowd, t he fourt h official, began writ ing everyt hing down. The referee, Andre Marriner,
t old me he t hought somet hing had happened, but had no idea what it might have been.
Pat rice said it happened several t imes. Then t hey called in Kenny Dalglish. Lat er, when we
were having a drink, John Henry also came in. He was int roduced t o me but didnt say much.
St eve Clarkes son was pouring t he drinks. One or t wo from t he old school came in t o join us.
But not hing more was said. Then it exploded in t he papers. Lat er, Liverpool wore t hose T-
shirt s support ing Surez, which I t hought was t he most ridiculous t hing for a club of Liverpools
st at ure. I felt we handled it well, mainly because we knew we were in t he right . The FA asked
us severalt ime not t o discuss it , but Liverpool could not leave t he subject alone. David Gill
would not have allowed any manager t o handle it t hat way. Nor would Bobby Charlt on. They
are experienced people who know about life. There seemed nobody at Liverpool willing t o pull
Kennys horns in.
Surez came t o t he hearing and said he had called Evra Negrito. The specialist said yes,
you can call your friend Negrito, but you cant call a st ranger t hat , in an argument . Then it
becomes racist .
I left Evra out of t he Europa League game at Ajax five days aft er t he non-handshake at Old
Trafford because it was a t rying t ime for him and he needed a break. Hes a st rong wee guy. I
checked on his st at e of mind regularly and he would say: Im fine, I have not hing t o be
ashamed of, I feel Ive done t he right t hing. It s disgraceful what he said t o me.
He also said he was doing it purely for himself, on a point of principle, and was not t rying t o
fight a larger polit ical bat t le on behalf of black players.
I t hink Kenny was falling back on t he old chip on t he shoulder. The problem, I felt , was t hat
t here was no Pet er Robinson at Anfield. Pet er Robinson would never have allowed t he Surez
sit uat ion t o be handled t he way it was. The young direct ors t here idolised Kenny and t here
was no one t o say, Hey, behave yourself, t his is out of order, t his is Liverpool Foot ball Club.
Equally, no one could ever overst at e Kennys dignified and st at esmanlike handling of t he
Hillsborough t ragedy, which earned him a level of respect t hat no lat er polit ical difficult y could
Aft er t he grandst and unveiling of t he st at ue, anot her great honour was t he FIFA President ial
Award for 2011. At t he ceremony I was sit t ing beside Pep Guardiola and right in front of Messi,
Xavi and Iniest a. The t hree musket eers. I felt privileged t o be in t hat company. As I sat t here on
my own, t he t hree made t heir way t owards me t o shake my hand. Xavi said: Hows Scholes? In
his own vict ory speech, Messi said his Ballon dOr award should go t o Xavi and Iniest a. They
made me, he said. Messi is such a humble lad.
It was a really pleasurable night . Sepp Blat t er, t he FIFA president , had been very kind wit h his
words and t here were video messages from Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Jos Mourinho, Eric
Cant ona, Ronaldo and David Beckham. The point of t he award was t o recognise my 25 years
at Manchest er Unit ed. I said it was an honour in t he t wilight of my life. If you could have seen
me at t he end of t hat season, youd have t hought I was right .
I didnt use mind games wit h Cit y because I felt we were in cont rol. Pat rick Vieira, however,
did claim it was a sign of weakness for us t o bring Scholes back from ret irement in January
2012. In t hat campaign we had great moment um unt il we were beat en at Wigan, where we
really didnt play well. The one t hat killed us was t he home fixt ure against Evert on on 22 April.
Wit h seven minut es t o go, were winning 42, Pat rice Evra hit s t he post and Evert on go and
score. Inst ead of 52, it becomes 43. When we drew t hat game 44, I felt we had lost t he
League. Cit y won comfort ably at Wolves t o reduce our lead t o t hree point s, wit h t he
Manchest er derby at Cit ys ground t o come. It was self-dest ruct ion. I knew t he Cit y game away
was bound t o be t ough and I t hought t hey would play t o kill t he game, slow t he pace down,
give fouls away in our half and move t he ball t o Nasri and Silva t o dribble wit h. By t hen, Cit y
were versed in such clever t act ics.
At t he Et ihad St adium we want ed t he t wo wide players t o come in all t he t ime t o support
Rooney, on his own, and play Ji-Sung Park in Yaya Tours area t o work him all t he t ime. There
was nobody bet t er at t hat t han Park. Physically he was not in t he same league as Tour, who
was in out st anding form, but I needed t o t ry and negat e t he t hreat he posed on t hose
marauding runs of his. But I made a mist ake. Nani was t errible t hat night . We brought Valencia
on, who did a lot bet t er, but Cit y went 10 up and killed t he game. Smalling was caught out by
a David Silva corner for t he Vincent Kompany header just before half-t ime. It was hard t o t ake.
For t he first 20 minut es we were fine. Our possession of t he ball was good and we had a
couple of half-chances. What we decided t o do was keep t he channels t ight . Zabalet a kept
get t ing t o t he by-line and winning corner kicks. Not hing came from Clichys side. It was all
Zabalet a. And it was a corner kick t hat did for us.
If we had made it t o half-t ime at 00 we would have won t he game. We had a plan for t he
second half, a way t o play, t hat involved Welbeck coming on for Park. But Nigel de Jong did him
st raight away t hrough t he back, and t hat was Danny out for t he rest of t he season unt il he
played for England. De Jong was only booked for t he t ackle down Welbecks ankle.
Robert o Mancini was badgering t he fourt h official t hrough t he whole game: it was Mike
Jones, who I feel is not one of t he st ronger officials. When De Jong landed t hat t ackle on
Welbeck, Mancini came rushing out t o prot ect his player. I t old Mancini where t o go. That s
what our lit t le clash was about . Robert o t ried t o dominat e t he fourt h official and I had seen
enough. He want ed t he referee t o come over t o him and speak t o him so he could get t he
home crowd going. Andre Marriner left it t o Mike Jones t o sort out . Yaya Tour was t he one
who made t he difference, no doubt about t hat . He was t he best player against us in t he 10
game. He was brilliant .
There was no animosit y lat er. Robert o and I had a drink. Wit h t he except ion of Frank Sinat ra,
just about everyone was in t he office where we t ried t o t alk. The place was mobbed. I said t o
Mancini, This is ridiculous, how can we have a chat wit h all t hese people in t he room?
The one surprise about Mancini in his t ime as Cit y manager was his st ance over Carlos
Tvez. He had a chance t o make a st and over player power and I felt he should have t hrown
him out . Inst ead, aft er t heir clash at a Champions League game in Germany, Tvez went t o
Argent ina for t hree mont hs, playing golf, and t hen came back saying he want ed t o fight t o win
t he League for t hem.
Taking him back showed desperat ion. Or perhaps Sheikh Mansour int ervened t o end t he
st andoff. I do remember Mancini saying, Hell never play for me again. Say Edin Deko or
Balot elli were not happy and had disappeared for t hree mont hs: would t hey have been t reat ed
different ly from Tvez? Mancini made a rod for his own back. In t erms of his prest ige as a
manager, he let himself down.
I was t old t hat some of t he players and st aff didnt like him, but he was not t here t o be liked.
Result s backed up his met hods. He chose his players well, wit h a good balance and age range.
I believe he want ed t o avoid players over 30 and t hose under 24. His players were most ly in
t hat band of 24 t o 28. Most of t hem were at t heir peak, which, in t heory, gave him t wo t o t hree
years wit h t hat squad.
Tact ically you saw his It alian inst inct s. As soon as Cit y went in front , he would oft en play five
at t he back. He had t hat defensive ment alit y: give not hing away. That cost s you some games.
Goal difference was st ill a fact or, t hough. In our t wo remaining games, against Swansea and
Sunderland, we at t empt ed t o close t he gap. Against Swansea, Smalling and Giggs missed
chances. We could have gone in at half-t ime five up. We only scored one in t he second half, in
which Rooney and Cleverley bot h missed sit t ers. If we had won 50, we would have been five
goals adrift . In t he Sunderland game, t heir goalkeeper was out of t his world. Simon Mignolet .
His saves were incredible. We hit t he post t wice, Rooney hit t he bar; we could have won 80.
What a way t hat would have been t o win t he League: on goal difference.
In t he event , Rooneys 34t h goal of t he season from a Valencia cross was our only mark on
t he scoreboard. Our fans were wonderful. I kept looking at t he young boy from Sky, and he was
saying it was st ill 21 at Cit y. How long t o go? Five minut es added t ime. But I knew. Cit y scored
t wice in 125 seconds, t hrough Deko and Agero. Dekos was t imed at 91minut es 15
seconds, t hen Agero went right t hrough QPRs defence, exchanging passes wit h Mario
Balot elli, and st ruck t he shot t hat won t hem t he t it le for t he first t ime in 44 years. The clock
showed 93 minut es 20 seconds.
We were champions for 30 seconds. When our whist le blew we were champions. In fairness
t o our players, t hey knew t hey had ballsed it up. There were no excuses.
I t old t hem, You walk out of t hat door wit h your heads up. Youve got not hing t o be
ashamed of. Dont show any weakness. They underst ood t hat message. Their int erviews were
all posit ive. I did what I had t o do: congrat ulat e Cit y. I had no problem wit h t hat .
There is no point t ort uring yourself over what might have been in t he Cit yQPR game. In my
career at Manchest er Unit ed we came back t ime and t ime again and we would do it again. The
quest ion in my mind t hat summer was: would Cit y get bet t er? They had t he confidence from
winning t he League; t here were no boys in t heir t eam and t hey were a very experienced side, in
t hat mid-t went ies range. Money was not an object , but t he size of t he playing st aff and t he
wage bill were, in t he cont ext of t he Financial Fair Play regulat ions. I asked of us: could we get
t hrough t he following campaign wit h a bet t er injury record?
There was a young Paul Scholes missing from our t eam. We needed t hat kind of playmaking
influence. People spoke about Modri but we were reluct ant t o deal wit h Spurs aft er t he
Berbat ov carry-on.
Rafael was developing int o a really, really good player, but he made mist akes. Some players
can never st op making mist akes, it s heredit ary, but ot hers learn by t hem. Rafael was sent off
against Bayern Munich and t hen improved his disciplinary record dramat ically. Hes such a
compet it ive boy, quick and aggressive, and he believes in himself. He has a really posit ive
at t it ude t o t he game. One t hing we lacked was cover at left -back, where Pat rice Evra had
been averaging 4850 games a season. We needed t o fill t hat breach.
I said in a press conference, t o our fans: youd bet t er get used t o t his, because were going
t o be seeing a lot of t his new Man Cit y. There will be a lot of games bet ween us and t hey will
all be like t his. I would love t o have been in t heir Champions League group t he following t erm,
because it would have made us alive t o it . For t he 201213 campaign, I resolved t o leave no
man behind and t ake t he group st age much more seriously, t o win t he group.
Before t he final round of Premier League games, Mick Phelan and I had been t o Germany t o
see t he German cup final, t o wat ch Shinji Kagawa, Robert Lewandowski and Mat s Hummels
and I had t old him: Mick, t he only way Cit y will beat us t omorrow is if t hey score lat e on. Theyll
have a hard game against Queens Park Rangers. I wouldnt be surprised if QPR get a result ,
but if Cit y score lat e on, well lose t he League.
We finished wit h 89 point s: t he highest t ot al ever for a runner-up. The general feeling was
t hat we lacked a bit of st abilit y in t he defensive posit ions, part icularly wit h t he injury t o Vidi,
but once Evans and Ferdinand formed a part nership, we shot up t he t able. Our goal difference
was good and 89 point s was a healt hy ret urn. But t hose early depart ures from League Cup, FA
Cup and Champions League obliged us t o mark it down as a bad season.
I was sad but not demoralised. I felt I had a core of players who were sure t o improve. Rafael,
Jones, Smalling, De Gea, Cleverley, Welbeck, Hernndez. I had a nucleus who would be good
for t he long haul. The challenge was replacing Scholes. I dont know where you find t hose
players. A fit Anderson would make up part of t he gap. We were planning t o sign Kagawa and
t he young boy, Nick Powell, from Crewe. We had five nat ural cent re-backs. Plus Valencia and
Nani. Young would give us plent y of opt ions wide. We knew where t he challenge was: t he noisy
neighbours. It would suit us, I decided, if t hey fared bet t er in Europe and grew dist ract ed.
On t he Tuesday we were down t o go t o Belfast t o play in Harry Greggs t est imonial. It was
hard t o lift t he players, but it t urned out t o be quit e inspiring, because Harry Gregg has been a
great servant and t he support was wonderful. It helped us push t he disappoint ment t hrough
t he syst em.
A post script t o t hat painful denouement was a medical scare. I t ravelled t o Berlin t o see t he
Dort mundBayern German Cup final, t hen t o Sunderland, t hen back t o Manchest er, t hen t o
Belfast for Harry Greggs t est imonial and t hen back home, and on t o Glasgow, where I was
supposed t o speak at a Rangers funct ion, wit h a flight booked t o New York on t he Sat urday.
Shaving in Glasgow, I not iced a drip of blood. Then anot her and anot her. I just couldnt st op
t he flow and ended up in hospit al, where t hey caut erised it . The doct or t hought I would be all
right t o fly, but it didnt st op bleeding for t wo days, so we cancelled t he New York t rip. The
doct or came round on t he Friday, Sat urday and Sunday. It was painful but event ually set t led
I used t o get nosebleeds as a player, mainly from knocks. But t his was an especially bad one.
The cause was diagnosed as t oo many flight s, t oo much cabin pressure.
It was a wee warning. If you do t oo much, youre invit ing t rouble.
SHE always wait ed up for me. Even if I came t hrough t he door at t wo or t hree in t he morning,
Cat hy would be t here t o greet me. Why dont you go t o bed? I would say t o her over t he
phone as we t ravelled home. No, no, she would say, Ill wait t ill you get back. For 47 years she
maint ained t his line.
I could go about my work in foot ball knowing family life was complet ely t aken care of. Cat hy
is a remarkable person. David Gill was a genius t o persuade her t o unveil a st at ue of me at Old
Trafford. There is no way I could have coaxed her int o t he light like t hat .
The t rut h about Cat hy is t hat she has never changed. Shes a mot her, a grandmot her and a
housewife. That is her life. She doesnt court friendships. It s not t hat she discourages t hem,
more t hat she prefers t he company of family and a few close friends. She almost never went t o
t he foot ball. When I married her we would go t o dances at weekends, wit h friends from
Glasgow. She was always comfort able in Glaswegian company. But aft er our move t o Unit ed,
she wasnt a social animal at all. She displayed no inclinat ion t o go out on t he circuit and I
would go t o most funct ions and dinners on my own.
A house wit h gat es is useful for when Tory polit icians come canvassing. Cat hy would hear
t he local Conservat ives announce t hemselves t hrough t he Tannoy and say, Sorry, Mrs
Ferguson is out , Im t he cleaner. In all respect s she is fait hful t o her root s.
When I st opped playing at 32 and had pubs in Glasgow and managed St Mirren, my day
st art ed at Love St reet , where I would be unt il 11 oclock, and t hen t o t he pub, unt il 2.30 p.m.
Somet imes I would go home and somet imes direct ly t o Love St reet for t raining. Then it was
back t o t he pub, t hen home.
So t he children seldom saw me at t hat very early age. Cat hy brought t hem up. By t he t ime
t hey reached manhood, t hey were closer t o me, but have always had t he ut most love and
respect for t heir mum.
Going t o Aberdeen was a blessing because I didnt have t he pubs and t here was more of a
family life for t he five of us. I was t here all t he t ime unless we had a game. Darren was a ball
boy and Mark would go t o t he games wit h his pals. Cat hy would t ake Jason, who wasnt hugely
int erest ed in foot ball at t his st age.
But at 13 or 14 he t ook up playing and ended up represent ing Scot land Boys Club against
Wales. He wasnt a bad player. He was a lat e developer who was int erest ed in books. Hes a
very clever boy. When we moved t o Old Trafford he st ayed in Aberdeen t o cont inue his
st udies. Then he joined us in Manchest er, where he played for our B t eam a few t imes.
Darren was always a nat ural, wit h a left foot of great qualit y. Mark was a very good player
who appeared for Aberdeen reserves a few t imes. He went t o college and polyt echnic in
Sheffield for a land economy degree. Mark became a great success in t he Cit y. All my sons
have done well. They are all driven people, as is Cat hy, who is clever and has a det erminat ion
about her.
People used t o say I was like my dad. But people who really knew me said I was more like my
mot her, who was a very det ermined woman. My fat her was t oo, but was much quiet er. My
mot her, like all good mot hers, was t he boss. She ran t he family. Cat hy made all t he family
decisions in our house, t oo, which was fine by bot h of us.
When Darren was 14, Brian Clough called and said he want ed t o sign him for Not t ingham
Forest . Brian was full of cont radict ions. He would never answer t he phone t o me. It was always
Ron Fent on, Cloughs assist ant , who picked up t he receiver. At Aberdeen I went sout h t o see
Forest play Celt ic in t he UEFA Cup on rock-hard frost y ground. I knew Ron Fent on reasonably
well. As I ent ered t he direct ors lounge, Ron said, Alex, have you met t he boss? I hadnt , and
was quit e looking forward t o making his acquaint ance.
Ron int roduced me and Brian said, What did you t hink of t he game?
My opinion was t hat Celt ic had deserved t o win. I t hen t old him Forest would beat t hem at
Celt ic Park. Well young man, Ive heard enough, said Brian. And walked out . Archie Knox burst
out laughing.
In t he event , Darren st ayed wit h us at Unit ed. The problem was keeping him in t he first t eam.
Cat hy never forgave me for selling him. He st art ed t he first 15 games in t he year we won t he
League for t he first t ime. But , in a Scot land U-21s game, he sust ained a really bad hamst ring
t ear t hat kept him on t he sidelines for t hree mont hs. That was him out unt il February, and by
t hat t ime Bryan Robson was back fit . Neil Webb, Mick Phelan and Paul Ince were also on t he
scene. Then Roy Keane became available for 3.75 million. That killed Darren as a first -t eam
He came t o see me and said it wasnt working for him. He said he would need t o move. He
was also sensit ive t o t he difficult ies for me. So we sold him t o Wolves, a club in t urmoil, wit h big
expect at ions and a large fan base.
I wat ched Darren play t here a lot . He was easily t he best foot baller, but t hey changed
manager so many t imes aft er Graham Turner was sacked. Graham Taylor, Mark McGhee, Colin
Lee. When McGhee came in, his appearances st art ed t o dwindle.
He t hen moved t o Spart a Rot t erdam and once more did well. They changed t he coach while
he was away on holiday and t he new man didnt want him. He t hen came back t o Wrexham
and became set t led t here. As his playing career wound down, Barry Fry called from
Pet erborough and asked what Darren was doing. He ended up as manager t here and got t hem
promot ed t o t he Championship, where t hey punched well above t heir weight . Tensions crept in
wit h t he chairman and he resigned and went t o Prest on, which was a disast er, before a second
st int at Pet erborough displayed his qualit ies again.
Darrens approach is t o play penet rat ing foot ball wit h players who pass t he ball and move.
That s hard when youre bot t om of t he League because t eams down t here t end t o be
desperat e. It was poignant for me t o see Darren face t he st ruggles I encount ered in my early
years, wit h budget s and chairmen and players. I reminded him all t he t ime about t hat mot t o of
ours: Sweet er aft er difficult ies. My advice t o any young coach is t o be prepared. St art early.
Dont leave it unt il you are 40 t o acquire your coaching badges.
I was t ot ally opposed t o fast -t racking coaches. It is a disgrace. In Holland and It aly it might
t ake four or five years for you t o receive your badges. The reason t hey need t o go t hrough
t hat int ense, prolonged scrut iny is t o prot ect t hem from what s t o come in management . It cost
Darren 8,000 t o earn his badges at t he Warwick Business School. By fast -t racking big names,
t he FA rode roughshod over all t he people who scraped t oget her t o get t heir qualificat ions t he
proper way.
I didnt t ort ure myself about being away a lot or consumed wit h work during t he boys
childhoods. The reason was t hat we were all very close, regardless, and t he boys t hemselves
were very t ight -knit . They are in const ant cont act wit h us. They are all busy lads. Even I
couldnt always get hold of Mark, who was in a business where you have t o keep your eye on
t he ball. His is a world of t iny fract ions, where you could miss a buy or a sell in seconds, t he way
t he market s move.
All my sons are a credit t o Cat hy, who was always t here for t hem, and for me, what ever t ime
I t urned t he key in t he door.
IT was August 2004 and we had just played Evert on. Bill Kenwright was crying. Sit t ing in my
office, crying. Present were David Moyes, David Gill, Bill and me. As we st udied t he Evert on
chairman in his sorrow, he announced t hat he would like t o make a call. Through his t ears, Bill
said: Ill need t o phone my mot her.
Theyre st ealing our boy, t heyre st ealing our boy, he said down t he line. Then he passed
t he phone t o me. Dont you dare t hink youre get t ing t hat boy for not hing. That boys wort h
fift y million pounds, said a female voice. Wonderful. This is a t rick, t his, I laughed. Is t his a
game? But it was real. You had only t o ment ion Evert on t o Bill t o t urn his t aps on. He was a
very likeable guy and unapologet ically emot ional.
David Moyes was giving me t he eyes. For a minut e I t hought it was a get -up, a performance.
Bills background was in t heat re, aft er all. It occurred t o me while all t his was going on t hat I
ought t o check Waynes medical records. Was t here somet hing physically wrong we had
missed? Was t his a ruse t o push t he price up? My God, it was funny. Did t he boy have one leg?
Was I being lured int o a gigant ic st ing?
The negot iat ions t o buy Englands most promising young t alent were prot ract ed, t o say t he
least . Bill knew t he value of t he boy. David Moyes was t he more combat ive part y as I would
have been, in his posit ion. David was realist ic. He knew t he club were about t o receive a
healt hy fee and t hat Evert on were hardly awash wit h money. The official price was just over
25 million wit h add-ons. Evert on needed t hat inject ion. When t he t ears had dried and t he
t alking was over, Wayne signed on t he line seven hours short of t he deadline on 31 August
By t he t ime he joined us, he hadnt played for 40-odd days and had t rained for only a couple
of sessions. We t hought t he Champions League t ie at home t o Fenerbahe would be a
suit able int roduct ion, 28 days aft er he had become a Manchest er Unit ed player. This t ent at ive
approach yielded a spect acular ret urn: a Rooney hat -t rick in a 62 vict ory.
Aft er t hat dramat ic int roduct ion his fit ness level dropped a bit and we had some work t o do
t o bring him t o t he level of t he ot her players. Underst andably t here was no repeat of t he
Fenerbahe performance for several weeks.
None of t his st ifled my ent husiasm for him. Wayne possessed a marvellous nat ural t alent
and was ent it led t o be given t ime t o make t he t ransit ion from boy t o man. He was a serious,
commit t ed foot baller wit h a hunger for t he game. At t hat point in his development , Wayne
needed t o t rain all t he t ime, and did so willingly. He was never t he sort who could t ake days off.
He needed t o t rain int ensively t o be on t he sharp edge of his game. Whenever he was out for a
few weeks wit h an injury, Waynes fit ness would drop quit e quickly. He has a big, solid frame,
and broad feet , which may part ly explain his met at arsal injuries in t hat period.
I knew st raight away t hat he was t he player our int uit ion said he would be. Courageous,
reasonably t wo-foot ed t hough he uses his left foot less t han he could. We signed players at
24 t hinking t hey would peak at 26, and Waynes progress wit h us from a much earlier age
support ed my convict ion t hat he would be at his best around t hat age. Wit h t he kind of
physique he had it was always hard t o imagine him playing int o his mid-t hirt ies, like Scholes or
Giggs, but I developed an expect at ion when he re-signed for us, in Oct ober 2010, t hat he
might end up as a midfielder.
All our int elligence about Wayne Rooney as an Evert onian schoolboy could be condensed
int o a single phrase. This was a man playing in under-age foot ball.
The report s at our academy were always glowing and t he club t ried t o acquire him at 14,
when t here is a loophole in t he last week of May t hat allows you t o sign a boy from anot her
academy. But Wayne want ed t o st ay at Evert on. We t ried again at 16 before he signed his
academy forms and again he wasnt int erest ed. Evert on were in his blood.
Geoff Wat son and Jim Ryan were our t wo academy men who had monit ored Rooneys
progress and been so impressed wit h him in games bet ween t he clubs. He played in t he FA
Yout h Cup final at 16 against Ast on Villa.
When Walt er Smit h joined me as assist ant he said: Get t hat Rooney signed. Walt er was
unequivocal. He described him as t he best he had ever seen. That confirmed everyt hing we
knew of him. Then came Waynes debut , at 16, and his wonder goal against Arsenal.
At Evert on he also became t he youngest player t o win a full England cap, in a game against
Aust ralia, and was t hen picked by Sven-Gran Eriksson for t he vit al World Cup qualifier against
Turkey. He scored his first int ernat ional goal at 17 years and 317 days. So he was already on
t he nat ional map by t he t ime he came t o us.
My first meet ing wit h him cont radict ed my expect at ion t hat he would have an assert ive
personalit y. He was a shy boy. But I t hink t here was an awe about him t hat reflect ed t he large
t ransfer fee and all t he at t ent ion it was bringing. He soon st opped being shy. On our t raining
ground he gave everybody hell. Everybody. The referee, t he ot her players. The poor refs
Tony St rudwick, or Mick or Ren would all say t o me, Youre t he only one wit h t he aut horit y
you should ref t hese games.
My reply was: Theres no way Im refereeing t hese mat ches.
I remember Jim blowing his whist le mildly for a foul on a day when Roy Keane was in one of
his dark moods, giving everyone st ick. His t eam, our t eam, t he ref, any living creat ure he could
find. Jim t urned t o me wit h his whist le and said: I hope Roys t eam wins.
That s ridiculous, t hat , I said, t rying not t o laugh.
Yeah, but t he grief Ill get in t hat dressing room, Jim said. At one point we even discussed
hiring referees.
I admit I gave Wayne a few rollickings. And he would rage in t he dressing room when I picked
him out for crit icism. His eyes would burn, as if he want ed t o knock my light s out . The next day
he would be apologet ic. When t he anger subsided, he knew I was right because I was always
right , as I liked t o t ease him. He would say: Am I playing next week, boss?
I dont know, I would say.
In my opinion, he was not t he quickest learner but what he had was a nat ural inst inct t o play
t he game, an int uit ive awareness of how foot ball worked. A remarkable raw t alent . Plus, nat ural
courage and energy, which is a blessing for any foot baller. The abilit y t o run all day is not t o be
undervalued. In a t raining ground exercise he wouldnt absorb new ideas or met hods quickly.
His inst inct was t o revert t o t ype, t o t rust what he already knew. He was comfort able in
In t hose early years I seldom had t o be dict at orial wit h him. He made some daft t ackles in
games and t here were flashpoint s on t he pit ch. Off t he field, t hough, he caused me no anxiet y.
My problem was t hat , being a cent re-forward myself, I was always harder on t he st rikers t han
anyone in t he t eam. They were never as good as me, of course. Im sorry, but none was as
good as I was in my playing days. Managers are allowed such conceit s and oft en inflict t hem on
players. Equally, t he players t hink t hey are bet t er managers t han t he men in charge unt il
t hey t ry it , t hat is.
If I saw at t ackers not doing t he t hings I believe I used t o do, it would set me off. They were
my hope. I looked at t hem and t hought : you are me. You see yourself in people.
I could see myself in Roy Keane, see myself in Bryan Robson, see bit s of me in Paul Scholes
and Nicky But t and t he t wo Nevilles, Gary and Phil. Teams reflect t he charact er of t heir
manager. Never give in: t hat s a great religion, a great philosophy t o have. I never gave in. I
always t hought I could rescue somet hing from any sit uat ion.
Somet hing was always happening at Man Unit ed. There was always a drama. It was rout ine
t o me. When Wayne Rooneys personal life was exposed in t he News of the World, and a
sense of crisis was brewing in his world in t he lat e summer of 2010, t here was no council of war
in my office, no pacing of t he room.
I didnt phone him t he morning aft er t he st ory broke. I know he would have want ed me t o.
That s where my cont rol was st rong. He would have been looking for a phone call from me, an
arm round his shoulder. To me t hat wasnt t he way t o deal wit h it .
When t hese sort s of allegat ions surfaced t he first t ime, he was 17 years old, and allowances
were made for his yout h, but t his t ime we were seven years on. Coleen, his wife, had her head
screwed on. She always st ruck me as a st abilising force.
I cert ainly felt under pressure in relat ion t o him during t hat World Cup in Sout h Africa. I knew
t here was somet hing bugging him at t he 2010 World Cup. I could see it . Alt hough he had been
named PFA Player of t he Year and Foot ball Writ ers Associat ion Foot baller of t he Year t hat
season he was in a st range mood in Sout h Africa. Nice t o see your home fans boo you, he
said int o a TV camera aft er Englands goalless draw wit h Algeria in Cape Town. England went
out in t he second round and t here were no goals in four mat ches for Wayne.
I needed t o get his at t ent ion. Yet t he best way t o achieve t hat was by not saying anyt hing
t o him not offering consolat ion t o force him t o t hink. When I left him out away t o Evert on in
Sept ember, t o prot ect him from abuse by t he crowd, he was relieved, because he knew I was
doing t he right t hing by him. Your job is t o make an impact on each personalit y wit h t he best
possible out put in t erms of performance.
We can all moralise but everyone will commit indiscret ions. I was never going t o moralise wit h
Rooney. On 14 August 2010 Wayne informed us t hat he would not be signing a new cont ract
at Unit ed. This was a shock, as t he plan had always been t o sit down aft er t he World Cup t o
discuss a new cont ract .
As t he drama gat hered pace, David Gill called me t o say t hat Waynes agent , Paul St ret ford,
had been t o see him t o say t hat Wayne want ed away. The phrase he had used was t hat he
didnt t hink t he club were ambit ious enough. We had won t he League Cup and t he League t he
year before and reached t he final of t he Champions League.
David said t hat Wayne would be coming t o see me. At t hat meet ing, which was in Oct ober,
he was hugely sheepish. I felt hed been programmed in what he was t rying t o say. The basis
of his complaint was t hat we were not sufficient ly ambit ious.
My response was t o ask Wayne: When have we not challenged for t he League in t he last 20
years? How many European finals have we been t o in t he last t hree or four years?
I t old him t hat t o say we werent ambit ious was nonsense.
Wayne said t hat we should have pursued Mesut zil, who had joined Real Madrid from
Werder Bremen. My reply was t hat it was none of his business who we should have gone for. I
t old him it was his job t o play and perform. My job was t o pick t he correct t eams. And so far I
had been get t ing it right .
We had a European t ie t he following day. Two hours before we played Bursaspor, on 20
Oct ober, Wayne issued t he following st at ement : I met wit h David Gill last week and he did not
give me any of t he assurances I was seeking about t he fut ure squad. I t hen t old him t hat I
would not be signing a new cont ract . I was int erest ed t o hear what Sir Alex had t o say
yest erday and surprised by some of it .
It is absolut ely t rue, as he said, t hat my agent and I have had a number of meet ings wit h t he
club about a new cont ract . During t hose meet ings in August I asked for assurances about t he
cont inued abilit y of t he club t o at t ract t he t op players in t he world.
I have never had anyt hing but complet e respect for MUFC. How could I not have done, given
it s fant ast ic hist ory and especially t he last six years in which I have been lucky t o play a part ?
For me it s all about winning t rophies as t he club has always done under Sir Alex. Because
of t hat I t hink t he quest ions I was asking were just ified.
Despit e recent difficult ies, I know I will always owe Sir Alex Ferguson a huge debt . He is a
great manager and ment or who has helped and support ed me from t he day he signed me from
Evert on when I was only 18.
For Manchest er Unit eds sake I wish he could go on forever because hes a one-off and a
I wasnt sure what he meant by t his st at ement but I assumed he was t rying t o build some
bridges wit h me and t he fans. I hoped it meant hed changed his mind and was happy t o st ay
wit h us.
The press conference aft er t hat game, when all t he media were t here, gave me an
opport unit y t o say what I want ed t o say, which was t hat Wayne was out of order.
I t old t he press: As I said, t hree Premier League t it les in a row is fant ast ic and we were wit hin
one point off a record fourt h. It didnt happen for us and we didnt like t hat and we want t o do
somet hing about it . Well be OK Ive got every confidence in t hat . We have a st ruct ure at t he
club which is good, we have t he right st aff, t he right manager, t he right chief execut ive, hes a
brilliant man. Theres not hing wrong wit h Manchest er Unit ed, not a t hing wrong wit h it . So well
carry on.
And I said on t elevision: I had a meet ing wit h t he boy and he reit erat ed what his agent had
said. He want ed t o go. I said t o him, Just remember one t hing: respect t his club. I dont want
any nonsense from you, respect your club. What were seeing now in t he media is
disappoint ing because weve done everyt hing we can for Wayne Rooney, since t he minut e
hes come t o t he club. Weve always been t here as a harbour for him. Any t ime hes had a
problem, weve given advice. But you do t hat for all your players, not just Wayne Rooney.
That s Manchest er Unit ed. This is a club which bases all it s hist ory and it s t radit ion on t he
loyalt y and t rust bet ween managers and players and t he club. That goes back t o t he days of
Sir Mat t Busby. That s what it s founded on. Waynes been a beneficiary of t his help, just as
Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and all t he players have been. That s what were t here for.
In a conference call wit h t he Glazers, t he fut ure ambit ions of t he club were discussed and
Wayne was made one of t he highest -paid players in t he count ry, I would imagine. The next day
he came in t o apologise. I t old him: It s t he fans you should be apologising t o.
There was a mixed react ion from t he players. Some were put out ; ot hers were not bot hered
by him. It was a sorry episode for Wayne because it port rayed him as a money man who had
dropped his grievance t he minut e his salary was raised. That s t he way it was present ed, but I
dont t hink it was Waynes int ent ion t o make it a financial issue. It blew over quickly. Wit h t he
fans, however, t here was a residue of mist rust .
He was fine so long as he was scoring, but in fallow t imes t here was perhaps a st irring of t he
old resent ment . Players can underest imat e t he dept h of feeling for a club among fans. In t he
most ext reme cases it leads support ers t o t hink t hey own t he club. Some of t hem have st ood
behind t he club for 50 years. Theyre t here for life. So when a player is deemed t o have shown
disloyalt y t o a club, t here is no messing about wit h t hem.
Very few players want away from Manchest er Unit ed. We had a generat ion of players who
had pledged t heir whole careers t o our club Giggs, Scholes, and so on and it was alien t o
our support ers t o see a player agit at ing for a move or t o hear him crit icising t ransfer policy.
In t he wint er of 2011, I did have t o t ake disciplinary act ion aft er Wayne, Jonny Evans and
Darron Gibson had a night out . They went across t o Sout hport t o a hot el t o celebrat e our 50
Boxing Day win against Wigan. They came int o t raining t he next day weary. I went int o t he
gymnasium where t hey were doing t heir exercises and t old t hem t hey would be fined a weeks
wages and not considered for select ion against Blackburn on t he Sat urday.
Wayne needed t o be careful. He has great qualit ies about him but t hey could be swallowed
up by a lack of fit ness. Look at t he way Ronaldo or Giggs looked aft er t hemselves. Wayne
needed t o grasp t he net t le. It was not wise for England t o give him a weeks holiday before
Euro 2012 because he might lose his edge. If he missed a couple of weeks for Unit ed, it could
t ake him four or five games t o get his sharpness back. The Ukraine game was over a mont h
aft er his last game for us.
He would receive no leniency from me. I would hammer him for any drop in condit ion. It was
quit e simple he wouldnt play. That s t he way I always dealt wit h fit ness issues, regardless of
t he player involved, and I saw no reason t o change in t he final years of my career.
Wayne had a gift for producing great moment s in games. In my final year, when he was left
out a few t imes, and replaced in games, I felt he was st ruggling t o get by people and had lost
some of his old t hrust . But he was capable of making ext raordinary cont ribut ions. That pass t o
Van Persie in t he win over Ast on Villa t hat secured t he t it le for us was marvellous, as was his
overhead kick against Man Cit y. Those flashes guarant eed his profile. But as t ime wore on, I
felt he st ruggled more and more t o do it for 90 minut es, and he seemed t o t ire in games.
I t ook him off in t hat Ast on Villa game because Villa were a very fast young side, full of
running, and t heir subst it ut e was running past Wayne. He came int o my office t he day aft er we
won t he League and asked away. He wasnt happy wit h being left out for some games and
subbed in ot hers. His agent Paul St ret ford phoned David Gill wit h t he same message.
All players are different . Some are happy t o st ay at t he same club t heir whole careers; ot hers
need fresh challenges, as Van Persie felt when he joined us from Arsenal. The urge t o fight and
flourish would not be ext inguished in Wayne. I left him t o discuss his fut ure wit h David Moyes,
hoping t o see many more great performances from him at Old Trafford.
WE were hardly st rangers t o majest ic individual t alent , but it t ook us a while t o underst and just
how good Robin van Persie is. The qualit y of his runs was not immediat ely apparent t o even
our cleverest players. Even Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, t wo of t he best passers I ever
had, had t rouble at first picking up t he speed of his movement s.
Robin was t he leading light of my final season as Manchest er Unit ed manager, in which we
were t he first t eam t o win 25 of t heir first 30 t op-flight fixt ures. The prize at t he end of it was
t he clubs 20t h League t it le. We regained t he Premier League t rophy from Manchest er Cit y
wit h four mat ches st ill t o play. Van Persie was my final major t ransfer buy and his goals, some
of t hem spect acular, brought an ext ra Cant ona-esque qualit y t o an already very good side.
If we had a bad habit going int o t he 201213 season, it was overpassing in t he middle of t he
pit ch: players circulat ing t he ball t o acquire a feel of it . Wit h Van Persie, we learned in t ime, you
needed t o look for t hat early pass t o split t he opposit ion defence. Unt il we grasped t hose
possibilit ies, we could not make t he most of Robins marvellous mobilit y and killer inst inct .
But we learned t he lesson in t ime t o make it pay. If Wayne Rooney received possession in an
at t acking midfield posit ion, he could be sure Van Persie would be on t he move, hunt ing,
spearing int o gaps. Robin was exact ly what I want ed him t o be. His pre-season wit h Arsenal
had consist ed of 21 minut es playing t ime against Cologne, in Germany, so his mat ch fit ness
was slight ly lacking. The right t ype of condit ioning was already t here but we needed t o get him
int o a mat ch-fit st at e. I was deeply impressed wit h him from t he st art .
I said t o Robin quit e early: Dont be afraid t o inst ruct t he ot her players. You were t he leader
at Arsenal and if you dont get fed, get int o t hem. He was quiet er t han I expect ed, but wit h a
vicious left foot t hat would freeze goalkeepers wit h it s force. People asked why I allowed him
t o t ake corners as a cent re-forward. He would t ake t hem from t he right -hand side, not t he left ,
when he would be in t he penalt y box. The answer is t hat his corner-t aking from t he right was
t errific. Howard Wilkinson remarked t o me t hat season t hat a st udy he had overseen had
showed a decrease in t he number of goals from set pieces. Yet we had scored t en from
corners in t he first half of 201112.
The exist ing squad didnt see Robin as any kind of out sider: an Arsenal player creeping ont o
t heir t errit ory. Mine were a very welcoming bunch who asked only t hat t he new arrival commit
himself t o t he cause and respect t he t radit ions of our dressing room. I always remember Vern
arriving at t he club and all t he players leaving t he t raining session t o shake his hand. They
were always good like t hat . Perhaps t he greet ing is always warmest for t he player who might
win you a t ight game, an indispensable asset at t he very highest level.
Like everyone in t he business, I had been reading t hat Van Persies cont ract was about t o
expire, but I felt sure Arsenal would reach a deal t o st op him leaving. Towards t he end of t he
201112 season, however, I sensed increasingly t hat he would not be st aying in nort h London.
His agent cont act ed us. By t hen he had already been t alking t o Man Cit y, but t he message
was t hat Robin would be very, very int erest ed in having a discussion wit h us. Event ually Cit y
were advised t hat he would not be joining t hem, so it appeared t o be bet ween us and
Juvent us; t he club had, I gat hered, offered him an immense salary t o move t o Turin.
My t hinking was: t here are t wo reasons why a player want s t o move. 1. For t he glory, and 2.
For t he money. I could see why he might have want ed t o join Juvent us a fine t eam for an
ast ronomical reward. The package we could offer was good enough t o show him how much we
respect ed him. Our invit at ion was backed up wit h great ent husiasm.
Next , we began t alking t o Arsenal about a possible t ransfer fee. David Gill phoned Ivan
Gazidis, t he Arsenal chief execut ive, a number of t imes, st art ing in April, but was t old t hat
Arsenal believed t hey could persuade him t o sign a new deal. This carried on for a while unt il
David suggest ed I should call Arsne direct ly as he would clearly have t he final say on any
t ransfer. By t hen it had become apparent t he boy was leaving.
Arsnes at t it ude, underst andably, was: why should we sell t o Manchest er Unit ed when we
could get 30 million off Man Cit y or Juvent us? My response was t o point out t hat t he player
had no desire t o go t o our Manchest er rivals. Arsnes count er-argument was t hat Robins
view of it might change if Cit y made him a furt her offer he could not refuse.
It was cert ainly possible.
These discussions, I should say, were amicable. There was no hint of host ilit y. We were t wo
experienced managers confront ing realit y. The st icking point was t hat Arsne hoped t o
receive 30 million or more for his best player. It cont inued t o drag on for several weeks, during
which t ime I phoned Arsne t wo or t hree more t imes.
In t ime we all arrived at t he point where Arsenal knew Robin was not going t o re-sign and
accept ed t hat . Their opt ions were Juvent us or Unit ed. Arsenal were t rying t o sell him abroad,
but t he player only want ed t o join us. My underst anding is t hat Van Persie sat down wit h
Arsne and t old him Unit ed was his preferred dest inat ion. Our offer, from David Gill t o Gazidis,
was 20 million. I warned Arsne t hat we would never get t o 25 million.
Arsne was incredulous. He could not believe t hat Manchest er Unit ed would refuse t o
st ret ch t o 25 million for such a player.
I t old him again: I wouldnt go t o 25 million. Arsne asked what my best offer would be.
Answer: 22 million. The reply was t hat Arsenal would t ake 22.5 million and a furt her 1.5
million if we won t he Champions League or Premier League during t he period of his cont ract .
Deal done.
My int uit ion was t hat Arsne was relieved not t o be selling Van Persie t o Man Cit y, who had
already t aken Kolo Tour, Gal Clichy, Emmanuel Adebayor and Samir Nasri from his t eam.
Perhaps he is not a fan of Cit ys ownership model. And alt hough we had many bat t les over t he
years, I t hink he respect ed t he way Manchest er Unit ed was run. He said t hat t o me on
occasions. I always remember Arsne saying t o me about Van Persie: You dont realise what a
good player youre get t ing.
I t hought of Cant ona and Ronaldo and Giggs. But Arsne was right . Robins movement and
t he t iming of runs were mesmerising. He was also blessed wit h a formidable physique.
Van Persie t ook a lower, but st ill fant ast ic, wage from us t o come t o a place where he
believed he could be most successful. At his unveiling he said his inner child had been
screaming for Unit ed. He t old me lat er t hat in Holland every kid dreams of playing for Man
Unit ed.
He knew I had been t o see him when he was 16. Arsenal beat us t o him when he was
emerging as a st ar at Feyenoord but he st ressed what a dream it was for Dut ch kids t o wear
t he Unit ed crest . He was impressed wit h t he yout h of our t eam. We had Giggs and Scholes but
we also had Chicharit o and t he t wo Da Silvas, Evans, Jones and Smalling, Welbeck. Carrick, at
31, was having his best -ever season for us. It dawns on some players, when t hey perform at
t heir best , just how import ant t hey are t o t he t eam, and in t urn it makes t hem grow, as it did
wit h Carrick.
Robin knew he was coming t o a set t led club. Cit y had been t errific t he previous season, but
you would not call t hem a set t led organisat ion. There was always an issue, wit h someone
set t ing off fireworks or falling out wit h t he manager; Tvez want ing t o play golf in Argent ina.
Cit y had won t he League largely t hrough t he effort s of four t op performers: Yaya Tour, Sergio
Agero, Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart . Plus David Silva for t he first half of t he season, t hough
he t railed away somewhat aft er Christ mas.
I say t his all t he t ime about st rikers. Cant ona, Andy Cole: if t hey are not scoring t hey t hink
t hey are never going t o score again. In his brief dry spell in t he March of t hat season, Van
Persie wasnt playing as well and it affect ed him. But from t he minut e he scored against St oke
on 14 April, he was on fire again.
Over t he years I wit nessed some immort al Manchest er Unit ed goals. Cant ona t reat ed t he
crowd t o t wo or t hree wonderful chipped finishes. Rooneys bicycle kick against Cit y t ook some
beat ing. The execut ion was incredible. It s not as if t hat unforget t able overhead finish was
delivered from t he six-yard line. He was 14 yards from goal. It also t ook a deflect ion as he was
running in. Nanis cross veered off a Cit y player, so Wayne was forced t o make an amazing
mid-air adjust ment . That was t he best one, for my money.
But Van Persies against Ast on Villa in t he 30 win t hat secured us t he t it le on 22 April was
special t oo: an over-t he-shoulder volley from a long drilled ball by Rooney. A normal player
would t ry t hat t rick a hundred t imes in t raining and score once. Van Persie could do it regularly.
Shoulder down, head down, eyes down, t hrough t he ball. The same mast ery of t echnique
brought him a goal of similar qualit y for Arsenal against Evert on. He was a wonderful signing
who finished t he season wit h 26 League goals: 12 at home and 14 away. He st ruck 17 t imes
wit h his left foot and eight wit h his right , plus once from a header. Those figures earned him
t he Golden Boot , awarded t o t he Premier Leagues t op scorer, for t he second consecut ive
At t he ot her end of t he age scale, we cont inued t o place our fait h in yout h. Nick Powell, who
joined in July 2012, had been in our sight s since November 2011. Crewe brought him int o t heir
t eam at out side-left when he was 17 and st ill a bit gangly. Our academy st aff had drawn a ring
round his name and we scout ed for him regularly. Jim Lawlor went t o look at him and said he
was int erest ing, t hough he was not sure what his best posit ion would be and t hought he might
be a wee bit laidback.
So I sent out Mart in t o wat ch him t wice. Mart ins view was t hat he definit ely had somet hing
but was not t he full package yet . Then Mick Phelan went t o examine him in a couple of
fixt ures. Finally it was my t urn. Crewe v. Aldershot . Aft er five minut es in t he st ands, I t old Mick,
Hes a player. Mick, hes a player. It was his t ouch on t he ball and his vision.
At one point in t he game I saw he got a half-run on t he opposit ions defence, had a wee look
over his shoulder and just loft ed t he ball t o t he cent re-forward t o have a shot on goal. Then he
showed us a header, t hen a t urn of pace. Coming away I said t o Mick: Im going t o phone Dario
Gradi, now direct or of foot ball at Crewe.
I see you were at t he game yest erday, said Dario.
The boy Powell, I said. Now dont get carried away. What s your ballpark figure?
Dario said: Six million.
Laughing, I t old him where t o go. But we const ruct ed a pot ent ial deal in t hat direct ion wit h
add-ons for first -t eam and England appearances. Powell was not t old unt il aft er t hat seasons
play-offs. He is an absolut e cert aint y t o be in t he England t eam one day. He could play
anywhere: off t he front , even t hrough. Hes quick as hell, has t wo good feet and shoot s from
out side t he box. In t he wint er of 2012 he picked up a virus and his girlfriend had a nast y car
accident . Hes quit e a det ached figure good at swit ching off but hes a player, believe me.
Shinji Kagawa was anot her good cat ch t hat summer. We elect ed not t o move for him aft er
his first season in German foot ball, because somet imes a player rises a not ch and you want t o
be sure he can sust ain it . He played in a very good Dort mund t eam, which I considered capable
of winning t he 2013 Champions League. In t he event t hey reached t he final but lost t o Bayern
Munich. The first t hing I not iced was Shinjis sharp foot ball brain. Mick and I flew t o Berlin for t he
German cup final in t he summer of 2012 and I found myself sit t ing next t o t he Mayor of
Dort mund and his wife. He was wearing t rainers. Angela Merkel was nearby, along wit h
Joachim Lw, t he German coach. Int roduced t o Mrs Merkel, t he German chancellor, I t hought t o
myself: My word, Ive come a long way.
There was no way I could hide in t hat seat but everyone knew I was going anyway.
That summer t he Glazers were perfect ly happy t o go for Van Persie or Robert Lewandowski
and Kagawa. In many of our great est phases we could call on four fant ast ic st rikers. Making
sure t hey all felt valued could be problemat ic. It required a range of diplomat ic skills. Dort mund,
however, refused t o sell Lewandowski, who has a wonderful physique and has good lines of
The ot her signing was Alexander Bt t ner, from Dut ch club Vit esse Arnhem. We had allowed
Fbio t o go t o Queens Park Rangers on loan and we had a couple of young left -backs wit h
pot ent ial. But we needed experience in t hat area and backup for Evra. Bt t ner was flagged up.
He was always t aking t he ball, having shot s, t aking on defenders: a bargain at 2.5 million euros.
He was an aggressive boy, det ermined, quickish and a good crosser of t he ball.
There were t imes in t he first half of t hat season when we couldnt have defended a
sandcast le. We conceded way t oo many t imes for my liking before t ight ening up from January
onwards. The goalkeeping posit ion was complicat ed. De Gea developed a t oot h infect ion and
needed an operat ion t o remove his t wo rear molars. He missed a couple of games on t hat
account and Anders Lindegaard didnt do anyt hing wrong in t he No. 1 spot . He had a good
game at Galat asary and against West Ham. My message t o De Gea was t hat I needed t o be
fair t o Anders. But aft er our narrow 43 win at Reading on 1 December, De Gea came back in
and did well t hroughout t he second half of t he season, especially in t he 11 draw at Real
Madrid in February, where he was brilliant .
I st ill had high hopes for Javier Hernndez. The issue wit h Chicharit o was freshness. For
t hree seasons in a row he played all summer wit h his count ry. Despit e t hat we cooperat ed well
wit h Mexico. The president s of t heir FA and Olympic associat ion came over, wit h t heir coaches,
for a meet ing wit h me. I showed t hem t he medical file. Under discussion was whet her he could
play in t wo World Cup qualifiers as well as t he Olympics.
Chicharit o said, Id rat her miss t he ot her t wo games and play in t he Olympics because I t hink
well win it . I t hought he was joking.
He went on, If we dont get Brazil in t he quart er-finals, well win it .
Meanwhile we had invest ed heavily in a marvellous new medical cent re for Carringt on. We
can now do everyt hing on sit e, apart from operat ions. We had a chiropodist , dent ist , scanners,
everyt hing. The benefit was t hat , apart from having it all on sit e, injuries would not become
inst ant public knowledge. In t he past we might send a player t o hospit al and rumours would
flash round t he cit y. This t old you we werent st anding st ill. It might have been one of our best
A major incident from t hat season requires a ment ion: t he allegat ion, lat er dismissed by t he
aut horit ies, t hat referee Mark Clat t enburg had used racist language against Chelsea players in
our 32 vict ory at St amford Bridge on 28 Oct ober. A word about t he game, first : against Di
Mat t eos Chelsea we needed t o work out how we would operat e against Juan Mat a, Oscar
and Eden Hazard. Those t hree were hammering t eams and t urning on t he st yle. The t wo
sit t ing midfielders, Ramires and Mikel, were bombing on. We elect ed t o load t he right side t o
at t ack t he areas t hey had vacat ed by at t acking us, and squeeze Mat as space.
It was a t hrilling game unt il t he shenanigans at t he end of t he mat ch. When Fernando Torres
was sent off, St eve Holland, one of Di Mat t eos assist ant s, blamed me. I looked at him,
bemused. Mike Dean, t he fourt h official, could make no sense of Hollands accusat ion. Torres
should already have been sent off in t he first half for a t ackle on Cleverley.
When Hernndez scored t he winning goal, half a seat came on and hit Carrick on t he foot ,
along wit h light ers and coins.
I st ill wonder whet her t he Clat t enburg allegat ion was a smokescreen t o obscure t he crowd
t rouble.
Twent y minut es aft er t he game, I went in wit h my st aff for a drink, and in t hat wee room
were Bruce Buck, t he Chelsea chairman, Ron Gourlay, t he chief execut ive, Di Mat t eo and his
wife. You could sense an at mosphere. Somet hing wasnt right . We st ood in t he doorway and
t hought it wise t o leave t hem t o it .
The food was covered and t he wine was uncorked. They said, Help yourselves, and left t he
My own st aff had seen Mikel fly int o t he referees room wit h John Terry and Di Mat t eo.
Whoever t old Mikel t hat Clat t enburg had said somet hing inflammat ory was making a big call. It
was also a big move by Chelsea t o inform t he press pret t y much st raight away t hat an alleged
incident had been report ed. A lawyer might have sat back and said, Let s wait unt il t omorrow.
The Branislav Ivanovi sending-off in t hat game was perfect ly st raight forward. Torres went
down easily but Evans did cat ch him. When you see where Clat t enburg was, you can why he
sent him off for simulat ion. He t ook one st ep, t hen went down. A t oe is enough t o fell a player
moving at speed, but Torres did go over soft ly. Ive no idea why Holland t hought I had forced
Clat t enburg t o send him off. A few days lat er, Di Mat t eo announced t hat I had t oo much power
wit h referees.
I had run-ins wit h mat ch officials all my life. I was sent off eight t imes as a player. I was sent
t o t he st ands t hree or four t imes as a manager in Scot land. I was fined so many t imes in
England. I always had disput es of one sort or anot her. But I called it as I saw it . I never went out
of my way t o drop a referee in t he soup.
There is no way, in my mind, t hat a t op referee would be racist t o a player. I called Mark
Clat t enburg and said, Im just sorry we are t he ot her t eam involved in t his. I was poised for
someone in aut horit y t o bring us int o t he inquiry, which fort unat ely never happened. I had no
knowledge of it unt il we boarded t he plane back t o Manchest er. The FA t ook a hell of a long
t ime t o reach t he decision t hat Mark was innocent . It could have been concluded in t wo days.
From January 2013 we really mot ored on in t he League, piling pressure on Man Cit y all t he
way. For me, knowing I was st anding down, t he sense of release and relief was delayed unt il
t he night we beat Ast on Villa t o win t he t it le. We were going t o win it anyway, but t o finish t he
job in April, on our own ground, was immensely comfort ing. I would go out wit h a bang. I
cont inued t o make my t eam t alks and prepare for games properly. The professionalism of
Manchest er Unit ed remained int act .
The only disappoint ment , of course, was losing our Champions League round of 16 t ie t o
Real Madrid, in a game t hat feat ured a ludicrous sending-off for Nani by Cneyt akir, t he
Turkish referee, for an innocuous challenge. In Spain in t he first leg we had been t errific,
weat hering a 20-minut e st orm at t he st art of t he mat ch. We could have won by six. I held no
fear of facing Jos Mourinhos t eam again at home. Our preparat ion was perfect . We devised a
good plan for t he game, our energy was t errific and we forced t hree or four great saves from
t heir goalkeeper. David de Gea barely made a st op.
Nani was sent off in t he 56t h minut e for leaping t o meet t he ball and making slight cont act
wit h lvaro Arbeloa, and for t en minut es we were up against it . We were in shock. On came
Modri for Real t o equalise Sergio Ramoss own goal and t hen Ronaldo finished us in t he 69t h
minut e. But we might have scored five in t he last t en minut es. It was an absolut e disast er.
I was part icularly upset t hat night and gave t he post -mat ch press conference a miss. If we
had beat en Real Madrid, t here would have been every reason t o imagine we could win t he
compet it ion. I left Wayne out of t hat second leg because we needed someone t o get on t op of
Alonso and play off him. The Ji-Sung Park of earlier years would have been perfect for t hat job.
Andrea Pirlos passing rat e for Milan had been 75 per cent . When we played t hem wit h Ji-Sung
Park in t he hounding role we reduced Pirlos st rike rat e t o 25 per cent . There was no bet t er
player in our squad t o keep on t op of Alonso t han Danny Welbeck. Yes, we sacrificed Waynes
possible goal-scoring, but we knew we had t o choke Alonso and exploit t hat gain.
Ronaldo was wonderful in t hose t wo games. In t he Madrid leg he made his way int o our
dressing room t o sit wit h our players. You could t ell he missed t hem. Aft er t he Old Trafford
game, as I was wat ching t he video of t he sending-off, he came in t o sympat hise. The Real
players knew t he sending-off had been absurd. Mesut zil confessed t o one of our players
t hat Joss t eam felt t hey had got out of jail. Crist iano declined t o celebrat e his goal, which is
just as well, because I would have st rangled him. There were no issues wit h him at all. Hes a
very nice boy.
My final t hought on Man Cit y losing t he t it le t o us was t hat t hey couldnt call on enough
players who underst ood t he significance of what t hey had achieved by winning t he League for
t he first t ime for 44 years. Evident ly it was enough for some of t hem t o have beat en
Manchest er Unit ed in a t it le race. They set t led down int o a sense of relief. Ret aining a t it le is
t he next hard st ep and Cit y were not in t he right st at e of mind t o defend what t hey had won
on t he most dramat ic closing day in Premier League hist ory.
When I won t he League for t he first t ime in 1993, I didnt want my t eam t o slacken off. The
t hought appalled me. I was det ermined t o keep advancing, t o st rengt hen our hold on power. I
t old t hat 1993 side: Some people, when t hey have a holiday, just want t o go t o Salt coat s,
t went y-five miles along t he coast from Glasgow. Some people dont even want t o do t hat .
Theyre happy t o st ay at home or wat ch t he birds and t he ducks float by in t he park. And some
want t o go t o t he moon.
It s about peoples ambit ions.
195860 Queens Park
Games 31
Goals: 15
196064 St Johnst one
Games: 47
Goals: 21
196467 Dunfermline At hlet ic
Games: 131
Goals: 88
Played for Scot t ish League (0) v. Foot ball League (3) at Hampden Park, 15 March 1967.
Scot t ish FA XI summer t our 13 May15 June 1967: scored 10 goals in seven appearances
against Israel, Hong Kong Select , Aust ralia (t hree mat ches), Auckland XI, Vancouver All St ars.
196769 Rangers
Games: 66
Goals: 35
Played for Scot t ish League (2) v. Irish League (0) in Belfast , 6 Sept ember 1967. Scored one
196973 Falkirk
Games: 122
Goals: 49
197374 Ayr Unit ed
Games: 22
Goals: 10
Tot al
Games: 415
Goals: 218
(Scot t ish League, Scot t ish Cup, Scot t ish League Cup and European compet it ions only)
JUNEOCTOBER 1974 East St irlingshire
OCTOBER 1974MAY 1978 St Mirren
Finished fourt h in Division One in 197576; Division One champions 197677; finished eight h in
Premier Division 197778.
197886 Aberdeen
Season 197879
Final posit ion: fourt h
Scot t ish Cup: semi-final
Scot t ish League Cup: finalist s
European Cup Winners Cup: second round
Season 197980
Final posit ion: champions
Scot t ish Cup: semi-final
Scot t ish League Cup: finalist s
UEFA Cup: first round
Season 198081
Final posit ion: runners-up
Scot t ish Cup: fourt h round
Scot t ish League Cup: fourt h round
European Champion Clubs Cup: second round
Drybrough Cup: winners
Season 198182
Final posit ion: runners-up
Scot t ish Cup: winners
Scot t ish League Cup: semi-final
UEFA Cup: quart er-final
Season 198283
Final posit ion: t hird
Scot t ish Cup: winners
Scot t ish League Cup: quart er-final
European Cup Winners Cup: winners
Season 198384
Final posit ion: champions
Scot t ish Cup: winners
Scot t ish League Cup: semi-final
European Cup Winners Cup: semi-final
European Super Cup: winners
Season 198485
Final posit ion: champions
Scot t ish Cup: semi-final
Scot t ish League Cup: second round
European Champion Clubs Cup: first round
Season 198586
Final posit ion: fourt h
Scot t ish Cup: winners
Scot t ish League Cup: winners
European Champion Clubs Cup: quart er-final
Season 198687 (August 1 November 1986)
Scot t ish League Cup: fourt h round
European Cup Winners Cup: first round
Season 197879 Cup Winners Cup
Round 1 Marek Dupnit sa (Bulgaria) (a) 23, (h) 30, Agg: 53
Round 2 Fort una Dsseldorf (West Germany) (a) 03, (h) 20, Agg: 23
Season 197980 UEFA Cup
Round 1 Eint racht Frankfurt (West Germany) (h) 11, (a) 01, Agg: 12
Season 198081 European Cup
Round 1 Aust ria Memphis (Aust ria) (h) 10, (a) 00, Agg: 10
Round 2 Liverpool (h) 01, (a) 04, Agg: 05
Season 198182 UEFA Cup
Round 1 Ipswich Town (a) 11, (h) 31, Agg: 42
Round 2 Arge Pit et i (Romania) (h) 30, (a) 22, Agg: 52
Round 3 SV Hamburg (West Germany) (h) 32, (a) 13, Agg: 45
Season 198283 Cup Winners Cup
Preliminary round Sion (Swit zerland) (h) 70, (a) 41, Agg: 111
Round 1 Dinamo Tirana (Albania) (h) 10, (a) 00, Agg: 10
Round 2 Lech Pozna (Poland) (h) 20, (a) 10, Agg: 30
Quart er-final Bayern Munich (West Germany) (a) 00, (h) 32, Agg: 32
Semi-final Wat erschei (Belgium) (h) 51, (a) 01, Agg: 52
Final (Got henburg, Sweden) Real Madrid (Spain) 21 (aet )
Season 198384 Super Cup
SV Hamburg (West Germany) (a) 00, (h) 20, Agg: 20
Cup Winners Cup
Round 1 Akranes (Iceland) (a) 21, (h) 11, Agg: 32
Round 2 SK Beveren (Belgium) (a) 00, (h) 41, Agg: 41
Quart er-final jpest Dzsa (Hungary) (a) 02, (h) 30 (aet ), Agg: 32
Semi-final Port o (Port ugal) (a) 01, (h) 01, Agg: 02
Season 198485 European Cup
Round 1 Dinamo Berlin (East Germany) (h) 21, (a) 12, Agg: 33 (Lost 54 on penalt ies)
Season 198586 European Cup
Round 1 Akranes (Iceland) (a) 31, (h) 41, Agg: 72
Round 2 Servet t e (Swit zerland) (a) 00, (h) 10, Agg: 10
Quart er-final IFK Got henburg (Sweden) (h) 22, (a) 00, Agg: 22 (Lost on away-goals rule)
Season 198687 Cup Winners Cup
Round 1 Sion (Swit zerland) (h) 21, (a) 03, Agg: 24
Winners: 1983
Champions: 1980, 1984, 1985
Winners: 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986
Winners: 198586
Winners: 1983
Winners: 1980
OCTOBER 1985JUNE 1986 Scot land
Oct ober 1985 East Germany (friendly, home) 00
November 1985 Aust ralia (World Cup play-off, home) 20
December 1985 Aust ralia (World Cup play-off, away) 00
January 1986 Israel (friendly, away) 10
March 1986 Romania (friendly, home) 30
April 1986 England (Rous Cup, away) 12
April 1986 Net herlands (friendly, away) 00
June 1986 Denmark (World Cup, Mexico Cit y) 01
June 1986 West Germany (World Cup, Quert aro) 12
June 1986 Uruguay (World Cup, Mexico Cit y) 00
19862013 Manchest er Unit ed
Season 198687
Unit eds record up t o Alex Fergusons arrival
Unit eds record under Alex Ferguson
Final posit ion: 11t h
FA Cup: fourt h round
Season 198788
Final posit ion: runners-up
FA Cup: fift h round
League Cup: fift h round
Season 198889
Final posit ion: 11t h
FA Cup: sixt h round
League Cup: t hird round
Season 198990
Final posit ion: 13t h
FA Cup: winners
League Cup: t hird round
Season 199091
Final posit ion: sixt h
FA Cup: fift h round
League Cup: finalist s
European Cup Winners Cup: winners
FA Charit y Shield: joint winners
Season 199192
Final posit ion: runners-up
FA Cup: fourt h round
League Cup: winners
European Cup Winners Cup: second round
European Super Cup: winners
Season 199293
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: fift h round
League Cup: t hird round
UEFA Cup: first round
Season 199394
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: winners
League Cup: finalist s
European Champion Clubs Cup: second round
FA Charit y Shield: winners
Season 199495
Final posit ion: runners-up
FA Cup: finalist s
League Cup: t hird round
UEFA Champions League: first group phase
FA Charit y Shield: winners
Season 199596
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: winners
League Cup: second round
UEFA Cup: first round
Season 199697
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: fourt h round
League Cup: fourt h round
UEFA Champions League: semi-final
FA Charit y Shield: winners
Season 199798
Final posit ion: runners-up
FA Cup: fift h round
League Cup: t hird round
UEFA Champions League: quart er-final
FA Charit y Shield: winners
Season 199899
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: winners
League Cup: fift h round
UEFA Champions League: winners
Season 19992000
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: did not ent er
League Cup: t hird round
UEFA Champions League: quart er-final
Int ercont inent al Cup: winners
FIFA Club World Cup: t hird in first -round group
Season 200001
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: fourt h round
League Cup: fourt h round
UEFA Champions League: quart er-final
Season 200102
Final posit ion: t hird
FA Cup: fourt h round
League Cup: t hird round
UEFA Champions League: semi-final
Season 200203
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: fift h round
League Cup: finalist s
UEFA Champions League: quart er-final
Season 200304
Final posit ion: t hird
FA Cup: winners
League Cup: fourt h round
UEFA Champions League: first knock-out phase
FA Communit y Shield: winners
Season 200405
Final posit ion: t hird
FA Cup: finalist s
League Cup: semi-final
UEFA Champions League: first knock-out phase
Season 200506
Final posit ion: runners-up
FA Cup: fift h round
League Cup: winners
UEFA Champions League: first group phase
Season 200607
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: finalist s
League Cup: fourt h round
UEFA Champions League: semi-final
Season 200708
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: sixt h round
League Cup: t hird round
UEFA Champions League: winners
FA Communit y Shield: winners
Season 200809
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: semi-final
League Cup: winners
UEFA Champions League: finalist s
FIFA Club World Cup: winners
FA Communit y Shield: winners
Season 200910
Final posit ion: runners-up
FA Cup: t hird round
League Cup: winners
UEFA Champions League: quart er-final
Season 201011
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: semi-final
League Cup: fift h round
UEFA Champions League: finalist s
FA Communit y Shield: winners
Season 201112
Final posit ion: runners-up
FA Cup: fourt h round
League Cup: fift h round
UEFA Champions League: first group phase
UEFA Europa League: second knock-out phase
FA Communit y Shield: winners
Season 201213
Final posit ion: champions
FA Cup: sixt h round
League Cup: fourt h round
UEFA Champions League: first knock-out phase
FIFA CWC FIFA Club World Cup
IC Int ercont inent al Cup
Super Cup UEFA Super Cup
Mat ches at neut ral venues are included as away games
Season 19992000 Int ercont inent al Cup
(Tokyo, Japan) SE Palmeiras (Brazil) 10
FIFA Club World Championship
Group st age (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) Club Necaxa (Mexico) 11, CR Vasco da Gama (Brazil) 1
3, Sout h Melbourne (Aust ralia) 20 (Finished t hird in group)
Season 200809 FIFA Club World Cup
Semi-final (Yokohama, Japan) Gamba Osaka (Japan) 53
Final (Yokohama) LDU Quit o (Ecuador) 10
Season 199091 Cup Winners Cup
Round 1 Pcsi Munks (Hungary) (h) 20, (a) 10, Agg: 30
Round 2 Wrexham (h) 30, (a) 20, Agg: 50
Quart er-final Mont pellier (France) (h) 11, (a) 20, Agg: 31
Semi-final Legia Warsaw (Poland) (a) 31, (h) 11, Agg: 42
Final (Rot t erdam, Net herlands) Barcelona (Spain) 21
Season 199192 UEFA Super Cup
Red St ar Belgrade (Yugoslavia) (h) 10
Cup Winners Cup
Round 1 At hinaikos (Greece) (a) 00, (h) 20 (aet ), Agg: 20
Round 2 At lt ico Madrid (Spain) (a) 03, (h) 11, Agg: 14
Season 199293 UEFA Cup
Round 1 Torpedo Moscow (Russia) (h) 00, (a) 00, Agg: 00 (Lost 43 on penalt ies)
Season 199394 UEFA Champions League
Round 1 Kispest Honvd (Hungary) (a) 32, (h) 21, Agg: 53
Round 2 Galat asaray (Turkey) (h) 33, (a) 00, Agg: 33 (Lost on away-goals rule)
Season 199495 UEFA Champions League
Group phase IFK Got henburg (Sweden) (h) 42, Galat asaray (Turkey) (a) 00, Barcelona
(Spain) (h) 22, Barcelona (a) 04, IFK Got henburg (a) 13, Galat asaray (h) 40 (Finished t hird
in group)
Season 199596 UEFA Cup
Round 2 Rot or Volgograd (Russia) (a) 00, (h) 22 (Lost on away-goals rule)
Season 199697 UEFA Champions League
Group phase Juvent us (It aly) (a) 01, Rapid Vienna (Aust ria) (h) 20, Fenerbahe (Turkey) (a)
20, Fenerbahe (h) 01, Juvent us (h) 01, Rapid Vienna (a) 20 (Finished second in group)
Quart er-final Port o (Port ugal) (h) 40, (a) 00, Agg: 40
Semi-final Borussia Dort mund (Germany) (a) 01, (h) 01, Agg: 02
Season 199798 UEFA Champions League
Group phase Koice (Slovakia) (a) 30, Juvent us (It aly) (h) 32, Feyenoord (Net herlands) (h) 2
1, Feyenoord (a) 31, Koice (h) 30, Juvent us (a) 01 (Finished second in group)
Quart er-final Monaco (France) (a) 00, (h) 11 (Lost on away-goals rule)
Season 199899 UEFA Champions League
Qualifying round 2 KS d (Poland) (h) 20, (a) 00, Agg: 20
Group phase Barcelona (Spain) (h) 33, Bayern Munich (Germany) (a) 22, Brndby (Denmark)
(a) 62, Brndby (h) 50, Barcelona (a) 33, Bayern Munich (h) 11 (Finished second in
Quart er-final Int ernazionale (It aly) (h) 20, (a) 11, Agg: 31
Semi-final Juvent us (It aly) (h) 11, (a) 32, Agg: 43
Final (Barcelona, Spain) Bayern Munich 21
Season 19992000 UEFA Super Cup
(Monaco, France) Lazio (It aly) 01
UEFA Champions League
First group phase Croat ia Zagreb (Croat ia) (h) 00, St urm Graz (Aust ria) (a) 30, Marseille
(France) (h) 21, Marseille (a) 01, Croat ia Zagreb (a) 21, St urm Graz (h) 21 (Finished first
in group)
Second group phase Fiorent ina (It aly) (a) 02, Valencia (Spain) (h) 30, Bordeaux (France) (h)
20, Bordeaux (a) 21, Fiorent ina (h) 31, Valencia (a) 00 (Finished first in group)
Quart er-final Real Madrid (Spain) (a) 00, (h) 23, Agg: 23
Season 200001 UEFA Champions League
First group phase Anderlecht (Belgium) (h) 51, Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) (a) 00, PSV Eindhoven
(Net herlands) (a) 13, PSV Eindhoven (h) 31, Anderlecht (a) 12, Dynamo Kiev (h) 10
(Finished second in group)
Second group phase Panat hinaikos (Greece) (h) 31, St urm Graz (Aust ria) (a) 20, Valencia
(Spain) (a) 00, Valencia (h) 11, Panat hinaikos (a) 11, St urm Graz (h) 30 (Finished
second in group)
Quart er-final Bayern Munich (Germany) (h) 01, (a) 12, Agg: 13
Season 200102 UEFA Champions League
First group phase Lille (France) (h) 10, Deport ivo La Corua (Spain) (a) 12, Olympiacos
(Greece) (a) 20, Deport ivo La Corua (h) 23, Olympiacos (h) 30, Lille (a) 11 (Finished
second in group)
Second group phase Bayern Munich (Germany) (a) 11, Boavist a (Port ugal) (h) 30, Nant es
(France) (a) 11, Nant es (h) 51, Bayern Munich (h) 00, Boavist a (a) 30 (Finished first in
Quart er-final Deport ivo La Corua (a) 20, (h) 32, Agg: 52
Semi-final Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) (h) 22, (a) 11, Agg: 33 (Lost on away-goals rule)
Season 200203 UEFA Champions League
Qualifying round 3 Zalaegerszegi TE (Hungary) (a) 01, (h) 50, Agg: 51
First group phase Maccabi Haifa (Israel) (h) 52, Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) (a) 21,
Olympiacos (Greece) (h) 40, Olympiacos (a) 32, Maccabi Haifa (a) 03, Bayer Leverkusen
(h) 20 (Finished first in group)
Second group phase Basel (Swit zerland) (a) 31, Deport ivo La Corua (Spain) (h) 20,
Juvent us (It aly) (h) 21, Juvent us (a) 30, Basel (h) 11, Deport ivo La Corua (a) 02
(Finished first in group)
Quart er-final Real Madrid (Spain) (a) 13, (h) 43, Agg: 56
Season 200304 UEFA Champions League
Group phase Panat hinaikos (Greece) (h) 50, VfB St ut t gart (Germany) (a) 12, Rangers (a) 1
0, Rangers (h) 30, Panat hinaikos (a) 10, VfB St ut t gart (h) 20 (Finished first in group)
Quart er-final Port o (Port ugal) (a) 12, (h) 11, Agg: 23
Season 200405 UEFA Champions League
Qualifying round 3 Dinamo Bucharest (Romania) (a) 21, (h) 30, Agg: 51
Group phase Lyon (France) (a) 22, Fenerbahe (Turkey) (h) 62, Spart a Prague (Czech
Republic) (a) 00, Spart a Prague (h) 41, Lyon (h) 21, Fenerbahe (a) 03 (Finished
second in group)
First knock-out round AC Milan (It aly) (h) 01, (a) 01, Agg: 02
Season 200506 UEFA Champions League
Qualifying round 3 Debrecen (Hungary) (h) 30, (a) 30, Agg: 60
Group phase Villarreal (Spain) (a) 00, Benfica (Port ugal) (h) 21, Lille (France) (h) 00, Lille (a)
01, Villarreal (h) 00, Benfica (a) 12 (Finished fourt h in group)
Season 200607 UEFA Champions League
Group phase Celt ic (h) 32, Benfica (Port ugal) (a) 10, FC Copenhagen (Denmark) (h) 30, FC
Copenhagen (a) 01, Celt ic (a) 01, Benfica (h) 31 (Finished first in group)
First knock-out round Lille (France) (a) 10, Lille (h) 10, Agg: 20
Quart er-final Roma (It aly) (a) 12, (h) 71, Agg: 83
Semi-final AC Milan (It aly) (h) 32, (a) 03, Agg: 35
Season 200708 UEFA Champions League
Group phase Sport ing Lisbon (Port ugal) (a) 10, Roma (It aly) (h) 10, Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)
(a) 42, Dynamo Kiev (h) 40, Sport ing Lisbon (h) 21, Roma (It aly) (a) 11 (Finished first in
First knock-out round Lyon (France) (a) 11, (h) 10, Agg: 21
Quart er-final Roma (It aly) (a) 20, (h) 10, Agg: 30
Semi-final Barcelona (Spain) (a) 00, (h) 10, Agg: 10
Final (Moscow, Russia) Chelsea 11 (Won 65 on penalt ies)
Season 200809 UEFA Champions League
Group phase Villarreal (Spain) (h) 00, Aalborg BK (Denmark) (a) 30, Celt ic (h) 30, Celt ic (a)
11, Villarreal (a) 00, Aalborg BK (h) 22 (Finished first in group)
First knock-out round Int ernazionale (It aly) (a) 00, (h) 20, Agg: 20
Quart er-final Port o (Port ugal) (h) 22, (a) 10, Agg: 32
Semi-final Arsenal (h) 10, (a) 31, Agg: 41
Final (Rome, It aly) Barcelona (Spain) 02
Season 200910 UEFA Champions League
Group phase Beikt a (Turkey) (a) 10, VfL Wolfsburg (Germany) (h) 21, CSKA Moscow
(Russia) (a) 10, CSKA Moscow (h) 33, Beikt a (h) 01, VfL Wolfsburg (a) 31 (Finished
first in group)
First knock-out round AC Milan (It aly) (a) 32, (h) 40, Agg: 72
Quart er-final Bayern Munich (Germany) (a) 12, (h) 32, Agg: 44 (Lost on away-goals rule)
Season 201011 UEFA Champions League
Group phase Rangers (h) 00, Valencia (Spain) (a) 10, Bursaspor (Turkey) (h) 10, Bursaspor
(a) 30, Rangers (a) 10, Valencia (h) 11 (Finished first in group)
First knock-out round Marseille (France) (a) 00, (h) 21, Agg: 21
Quart er-final Chelsea (a) 10, (h) 21, Agg: 31
Semi-final Schalke 04 (Germany) (a) 20, (h) 41, Agg: 61
Final (Wembley) Barcelona (Spain) 13
Season 201112 UEFA Champions League
Group phase Benfica (Port ugal) (a) 11, Basel (Swit zerland) (h) 33,
O elul Gala i (Romania) (a) 20, O elul Gala i (h) 20, Benfica (h) 22, Basel (a) 12 (Finished
t hird in group)
UEFA Europa League
Round of 32 Ajax (Net herlands) (a) 20, (h) 12, Agg: 32
Round of 16 At hlet ic Bilbao (Spain) (h) 23, (a) 12, Agg: 35
Season 201213 UEFA Champions League
Group phase Galat asaray (Turkey) (h) 10, CFR Cluj (Romania) (a) 21, Braga (Port ugal) (h) 3
2, Braga (a) 31, Galat asaray (a) 01, CFR Cluj (h) 01 (Finished first in group)
Round of 16 Real Madrid (Spain) (a) 11, (h) 12, Agg: 23
Winners: 1999, 2008
Finalist s: 2009, 2011
Winners: 1991
Champions: 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013
Runners-up: 1995, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2012
Winners: 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004
Finalist s: 1995, 2005, 2007
Winners: 1992, 2006, 2009, 2010
Finalist s: 1991, 1994, 2003
Winners: 1999
Winners: 2008
Winners: 1991
Winners: 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011
Joint winners (wit h Liverpool): 1990.
List ed here is t he name of every player t o appear in a senior compet it ive fixt ure for Manchest er
Unit ed during Alex Fergusons t ime as manager, up t o t he end of season 201213
Albist on, Art hur
Amos, Ben
Anderson, Viv
Applet on, Michael
Bailey, Gary
Bardsley, Phil
Barnes, Michael
Barnes, Pet er
Bart hez, Fabien
Beardsmore, Russell
Beckham, David
Bellion, David
Berbat ov, Dimit ar
Berg, Henning
Blackmore, Clayt on
Blanc, Laurent
Blomqvist , Jesper
Bosnich, Mark
Brady, Robbie
Brazil, Derek
Brown, Wes
Bruce, St eve
But t , Nicky
Bt t ner, Alexander
Campbell, Fraizer
Cant ona, Eric
Carrick, Michael
Carroll, Roy
Casper, Chris
Chadwick, Luke
Chest er, James
Clegg, Michael
Cleverley, Tom
Cole, Andy
Cole, Larnell
Cooke, Terry
Cruyff, Jordi
Culkin, Nick
Curt is, John
Davenport , Pet er
Davies, Simon
Davis, Jimmy
Diouf, Mame Biram
Djemba-Djemba, Eric
Djordjic, Bojan
Donaghy, Mal
Dong, Fangzhuo
Dublin, Dion
Duxbury, Mike
Eagles, Chris
Ebanks-Blake, Sylvan
Eckersley, Adam
Eckersley, Richard
Evans, Jonny
Evra, Pat rice
Ferdinand, Rio
Ferguson, Darren
Flet cher, Darren
Forln, Diego
Fort une, Quint on
Fost er, Ben
Fryers, Zeki
Gart on, Billy
Gea, David de
Gibson, Colin
Gibson, Darron
Gibson, Terry
Giggs, Ryan
Gill, Tony
Gillespie, Keit h
Goram, Andy
Gouw, Raimond van der
Graham, Deiniol
Gray, David
Greening, Jonat han
Hargreaves, Owen
Healy, David
Heinze, Gabriel
Hernndez, Javier
Higginbot ham, Danny
Hogg, Graeme
Howard, Tim
Hughes, Mark
Ince, Paul
Irwin, Denis
Johnsen, Ronny
Johnson, Eddie
Jones, David
Jones, Phil
Jones, Rit chie
Kagawa, Shinji
Kanchelskis, Andrei
Keane, Michael
Keane, Roy
Keane, Will
King, Joshua
Kuszczak, Tomasz
Laet , Rit chie de
Larsson, Henrik
Lee, Kieran
Leight on, Jim
Lindegaard, Anders
Lynch, Mark
McClair, Brian
McGibbon, Pat rick
McGrat h, Paul
Macheda, Federico
McKee, Colin
Maiorana, Giuliano
Marsh, Phil
Mart in, Lee A.
Mart in, Lee R.
May, David
Miller, Liam
Milne, Ralph
Moran, Kevin
Morrison, Ravel
Moses, Remi
Mulryne, Philip
Nardiello, Daniel
Neville, Gary
Neville, Phil
Nevland, Erik
Nist elrooy, Ruud van
Not man, Alex
Obert an, Gabriel
OBrien, Liam
OKane, John
Olsen, Jesper
OShea, John
Owen, Michael
Pallist er, Gary
Park, Ji-Sung
Parker, Paul
Persie, Robin van
Phelan, Mick
Pilkingt on, Kevin
Piqu, Grard
Poborsk, Karel
Pogba, Paul
Possebon, Rodrigo
Powell, Nick
Prunier, William
Pugh, Danny
Rachubka, Paul
Richardson, Kieran
Robins, Mark
Robson, Bryan
Roche, Lee
Ronaldo, Crist iano
Rooney, Wayne
Rossi, Giuseppe
Saha, Louis
Sar, Edwin van der
Schmeichel, Pet er
Scholes, Paul
Sealey, Les
Sharpe, Lee
Shawcross, Ryan
Sheringham, Teddy
Silva, Fbio da
Silva, Rafael da
Silvest re, Mikal
Simpson, Danny
Sivebaek, John
Smalling, Chris
Smit h, Alan
Solskjaer, Ole Gunnar
Spect or, Jonat han
St am, Jaap
St aplet on, Frank
St ewart , Michael
St rachan, Gordon
Taibi, Massimo
Tvez, Carlos
Thornley, Ben
Tierney, Paul
Timm, Mads
Tomlinson, Graeme
Tosic, Zoran
Tunnicliffe, Ryan
Turner, Chris
Twiss, Michael
Valencia, Ant onio
Vermijl, Marnick
Vern, Juan Sebast in
Vidi, Nemanja
Wallace, Danny
Wallwork, Ronnie
Walsh, Gary
Webb, Neil
Webber, Danny
Welbeck, Danny
Wellens, Richie
Whit eside, Norman
Whit wort h, Neil
Wilkinson, Ian
Wilson, David
Wilson, Mark
Wood, Nicky
Woot t on, Scot t
Wrat t en, Paul
Yorke, Dwight
Young, Ashley
Aberdeen FC
AF at
ref erees
Abramovi c h, Roman
AC Mi l an
Adams, Tony
Agero, Sergi o
Aj ax
Al dri dge, John
Al l ardyc e, Sam
Al onso, Xabi
Anast asi , Pi et ro
Anc el ot t i , Carl o
Anderson: l anguage probl ems
si gns t o Manc hest er Ut d FC
2008 Champi ons League
2009 Champi ons League
Anel ka, Ni c ol as
Anf i el d
Arsenal FC
Arsne Wenger
pl ayers
Robi n van Persi e
2003 FA Cup
200304 UEFA Champi ons League
2005 FA Cup f i nal
200809 UEFA Champi ons League
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
Arshavi n, Andrey
Ast on Vi l l a FC
At hl et i c Bi l bao
At ki nson, Mart i n
At ki nson, Ron
At l t i c o Madri d
Babel , Ryan
Bal ot el l i , Mari o
Barc el ona
200809 Champi ons League
201011 Champi ons League
Bart hez , Fabi en
Bayer Leverkusen
Bayern Muni c h
Bean, John
Bec kenbauer, Franz
Bec kham, Davi d
and AF
and bad games
as a c el ebri t y
FA Yout h Cup
i nj uri es
LA Gal axy
Manc hest er Ut d FC
1998 Worl d Cup
Real Madri d
t al ent
Bel l amy, Crai g
Bel l i on, Davi d
Benf i c a, SL
Ben t ez , Raf ael Raf a
at Chel sea FC
at Li verpool FC
201112 Champi ons League
Berbat ov, Di mi t ar
Bergkamp, Denni s
Best , George
Bi rmi ngham Ci t y FC
Bi rt l es, Garry
Bl ac kburn Rovers FC
Kenny Dal gl i sh
Phi l Jones
Ruud van Ni st el rooy
Bl ac kmore, Cl ayt on
Bl ai r, Tony
Bl anc , Laurent
Bl at t er, Sepp
Borussi a Dort mund
Bosni c h, Mark
Boul d, St eve
Brown, Gordon
Brown, Terry
Brown, Wes
Bruc e, St eve
i nj uri es
and Pet er Sc hmei c hel
at Sunderl and FC
Buc han, Mart i n
Buf f on, Gi anl ui gi
Busby, Si r Mat t
Bushel l , Dave
Busquet s, Sergi o
But t , Ni c ky
Bt t ner, Al exander
Cahi l l , Ti m
aki r, Cneyt
Cal dern, Ramn
Cambi asso, Est eban
Campbel l , Al ast ai r
Campbel l , Davi e
Campbel l , Gordon
Cant ona, Eri c
marks AFs 25 years as Manc hest er Ut d FC manager
popul ari t y
rec ei ves ni ne-mont h ban
si gns t o Manc hest er Ut d FC
t al ent
vi ew of Arsne Wenger
and Vi nni e Jones
Capel l o, Fabi o
resi gns f rom Engl and
201011 UEFA Champi ons League
Carl i ng Cup
Carl os, Robert o
Carragher, Jami e
Carri c k, Mi c hael
i nj uri es
posi t i ons
Robi n van Persi e
si gns t o Manc hest er Ut d FC
200708 UEFA Champi ons League
201011 UEFA Champi ons League
201213 season
Carri ngt on
Carrol l , Andy
Cart er, Ji mmy
Cart mel , Bri an
Case, Ji mmy
ec h, Pet r
Cel t i c FC
Joc k St ei n at
si gns Roy Keane
Chamakh, Marouane
Champi ons League see UEFA Champi ons League
Charl t on, Bobby
af t er ret i rement
appearanc e rec ord
Hi l l sborough c ommemorat i on
t al ent
vi ew of AF
Chel sea FC
and Jos Mouri nho
pl ayers
rumours of rac i sm agai nst
si gns Torres
200405 UEFA Champi ons League
200708 UEFA Champi ons League
Cheyrou, Bruno
Cl at t enburg, Mark
Cl egg, Mi ke
Cl everl ey, Tom
i nj uri es
ret urns t o Manc hest er Ut d FC
200910 UEFA Champi ons League
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
Cl ough, Bri an
Cl uj , CFR
Cohen, Frank
Col e, Andy
and Dwi ght Yorke
goal -sc ori ng
Col e, Ashl ey
Col l ymore, St an
Communi t y Shi el d (2011)
Connor, Frank
Coquel i n, Franc i s
Corri gan, Mart i n
Covent ry Ci t y FC
Crewe FC
Croz i er, Adam
Cruyf f , Johan
Cruyf f , Jordi
Cryst al Pal ac e FC
Cunni ngham, Wi l l i e
Dal garno, Les
Dal gl i sh, Kenny: at Bl ac kburn
at Li verpool FC
Surez /Evra i nc i dent
Dal l ek, Robert
Davi es, Norman
Davi s, Ji mmy
Dei n, Davi d
Derry, Shaun
Desmond, Dermot
Di Cani o, Paol o
Di Mat t eo, Robert o
Di ouf , El Hadj i
Dj emba-Dj emba, Eri c
Dohert y, Paul
Donac hi e, John
dope t est i ng
Downi ng, St ewart
Drogba, Di di er
Drumc hapel Amat eur FC
DUrso, Andy
Dyke, Greg
D eko, Edi n
East St i rl i ngshi re FC
Ec kersl ey, Ri c hard
Edwards, Mart i n
as CEO
si gns Mark Bosni c h
vi ew of AF
vi ew of Ji m Lawl or
Ei nt rac ht Frankf urt
El i t e Sport s Agenc y
Engl and
AF of f ered managers j ob
Euro 2012
2002 Worl d Cup
2010 Worl d Cup
Eri ksson, Sven-Gran
Essi en, Mi c hael
Et oo, Samuel
Euro 2012
Europa League (2012)
European Cup: 1991
Evans, Jonny: AF suspends
at Manc hest er Ut d FC
2011 Communi t y Shi el d
201112 Champi ons League
201213 season
Evert on FC
Evra, Pat ri c e: di sc i pl i ned by FA
f i rst goal i n Europe
si gns t o Manc hest er Ut d FC
Surez saga
Wi l l i am Pruni er
200809 UEFA Champi ons League
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
FA (Foot bal l Assoc i at i on)
c oac hi ng
Mark Cl at t enburg i nc i dent
Surez /Evra i nc i dent
suspends Ri o Ferdi nand
FA Cup: 1990
FA Yout h Cup
Fbregas, Cesc
Fal l on, Sean
Fashanu, John
Fayed, Mohammed
FC Uni t ed of Manc hest er
Fent on, Ron
Fenway Park
Ferdi nand, Ant on
Ferdi nand, Les
Ferdi nand, Ri o
AFs ret i rement
c el ebri t y st at us
ei ght -mont h suspensi on
i nj uri es
and John Terry i nc i dent
j oi ns Manc hest er Ut d FC
2011 Communi t y Shi el d
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
vi ews of
Fergie and Son (BBC)
Ferguson, Al ex: Aberdeen FC
and Arsne Wenger
BBC bust -up
and Cat hy Ferguson
c harged wi t h i mproper c onduc t
and Davi d Bec kham
Drumc hapel Amat eurs FC
East St i rl i ngshi re FC
f ami l y l i f e
f i nal season wi t h Manc hest er Ut d FC
f ri endshi p wi t h Bi l l Mc Kec hni e
game pl ans
Harmony Row Yout h Cl ub
heal t h probl ems
horse rac i ng
i nt erest i n Ameri c a
i nt erest i n JFK
i nt erest i n wi ne
and John Magni er
j oi ns Manc hest er Ut d FC
and t he Labour Part y
management st yl e
managerpl ayer rel at i onshi ps
Managing My Life
Manc hest er Ut d FC t akeover
and t he medi a
of f ered Engl and manager j ob
out si de i nt erest s
Queens Park Rangers FC
rec ei ves f i nes
ret i rement u-t urn (2001)
ret i res f rom Manc hest er Ut d FC
ri val ry wi t h Mouri nho
Roy Keane
runs pubs
i s sent of f duri ng mat c hes
St Mi rren FC
25 years as Manc hest er Ut d FCs manager
Wayne Rooney
Ferguson, Al exander (AFs f at her)
Ferguson, Cat hy (AFs wi f e): AF l et s Phi l Nevi l l e go
AFs ret i rement (2013)
AFs ret i rement u-t urn (2001)
f ami l y l i f e
horse rac i ng
Manc hest er Ci t y FC wi n (2012)
marri es AF
runs pubs
and son Darrens f oot bal l c areer
Ferguson, Darren (AFs son)
c areer
c hi l dhood
f oot bal l c areer
Ferguson, Jason (AFs son)
c areer
c hi l dhood
Fergie and Son
i nt erest i n f oot bal l
Ferguson, Mark (AFs son)
c areer
c hi l dhood
i nt erest i n f oot bal l
Ferguson, Mart i n (AFs brot her)
AFs ret i rement
2002 Worl d Cup
Ruud van Ni st el rooy
works i n pubs
FI FA Presi dent i al award (2011)
FI FA Worl d Cup: 1998
Fi go, Lui s
Fi t z pat ri c k, Tony
Fl et c her, Darren: i l l ness
posi t i ons
and Roy Keane
201112 Champi ons League
Foot bal l Assoc i at i on (FA)
c oac hi ng
Mark Cl at t enburg i nc i dent
Surez /Evra i nc i dent
suspends Ri o Ferdi nand
f oot bal l boot s
Forl n, Di ego
Fort une, Qui nt on
Fri z z el l , Ji mmy
Fry, Barry
Ful ham FC
Gaal , Loui s van
Gal l agher, Gary
Gasc oi gne, Paul
Manc hest er Ut d FC t ri es t o si gn
t al ent
Gat t uso, Gennaro Ri no
Gaz i di s, I van
Gea, Davi d de
i l l ness
si gns t o Manc hest er Ut d FC
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
201213 season
Gerrard, St even
Gi bson, Darron
Gi bson, St eve
Gi ggs, Ryan
AFs ret i rement
and c el ebri t y worl d
c harac t er
Cl ass of 92
FA Yout h Cup
i nj uri es
2002 season
2003 season
200708 UEFA Champi ons League
200809 UEFA Champi ons League
201011 UEFA Champi ons League
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
201213 season
Gi l l , Davi d
Carl os Tvez
Gabri el Hei nz e
marks AFs 25 years as Manc hest er Ut d FCs manager
Mi c hael Carri c k
Owen Hargreaves
resi gns as CEO
Robi n van Persi e
Ronal do
Roy Keane
Ruud van Ni st el rooy
Surez /Evra i nc i dent
Tom Cl everl ey
Ruud van Ni st el rooy
Wayne Rooney
Gi l l espi e, Kei t h
Gi roud, Ol i vi er
Gl adwel l , Mal c ol m
Gl az er, Avi
Gl az er, Joel : AF ret i res
Manc hest er Ut d FC t akeover
Gl az er, Mal c ol m
goal keepi ng
Gol den Boot (2013)
Gouw, Rai mond van der
Gradi , Dari o
Graham, George
Grant , Avram
Grant , John
Gregg, Harry
Grei g, John
Guardi ol a, Pep
Hal berst am, Davi d
Hal sey, Mark
Hamann, Di et mar
Hannover 96
Hansen, Al an
Hargreaves, Owen
and Engl and t eam
200708 UEFA Champi ons League
Harmony Row Yout h Cl ub
Harper, Joe
Harri son, Eri c
Haz ard, Eden
Haz ard, Osc ar
Hei nz e, Gabri el
Hel si ngborgs I F
Henderson, Jordan
Hendry, Tommy
Henry, John
Henry, Thi erry
Herbert , Harry
Hernndez , Javi er Chi c hari t o
201011 UEFA Champi ons League
201213 season
Hi ghc l ere Syndi c at e
Hi l l sborough t ragedy
Hodgki nson, Al an
Hodgson, Roy
Hogg, Graeme
Hol l and, St eve
Houl l i er, Grard
Howard, Ti m
Hyypi , Sami
I c el and
I nc e, Paul
I ni est a, Andrs
I nt er Mi l an
I rwi n, Deni s
I vanovi , Brani sl av
Jarvi e, Drew
Johnsen, Ronny
Johnson, Set h
Johnst one, Ji mmy
Jol , Mart i n
Jones, Mi ke
Jones, Phi l
si gns t o Manc hest er Ut d FC
2011 Communi t y Shi el d
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
Jones, Vi nni e
Jong, Ni gel de
Joorabc hi an, Ki a
Juvent us
Kagawa, Shi nj i
Keane, Roy
at Manc hest er Ut d FC
f al l -out wi t h Vern
i nj uri es
j oi ns Cel t i c FC
l eaves Manc hest er Ut d FC
as manager
and Mi c k Mc Cart hy
MUTV i nt ervi ew
rel at i onshi p wi t h AF
rel at i onshi p wi t h t eam-mat es
suspensi ons
as TV c ri t i c
200304 UEFA Champi ons League
Keegan, Kevi n
Kennedy, John F
Kennedy, Mi c hael
Kenwri ght , Bi l l
Kenyon, Pet er
l eaves Manc hest er Ut d FC
si gns Ronal do
Kershaw, Les
Ki c k I t Out
Ki dd, Bri an
Ki nnoc k, Nei l
Kl berson
j oi ns Manc hest er Ut d FC
Knox, Arc hi e
Kompany, Vi nc ent
Kuyt , Di rk
LA Gal axy
Labour Part y
Laf f i n, Lyn
Lambert , Paul
Lampard, Frank
Larsson, Henri k
Law, Deni s
Law, Di
Lawl or, Ji m
Lawrenc e, Lenni e
Lawrenson, Mark
Lee, Paddy
Leeds Uni t ed FC
Levy, Dani el
Lewandowski , Robert
Li ndegaard, Anders
Li neker, Gary
Li nse, Rodger
Li t t l e, Bri an
Li verpool FC
Engl i sh League t i t l e rec ord
and Manc hest er Ut d FC
Surez /Evra i nc i dent
2001 season
Lombardi , Vi nc e
Loughborough Town FC
Lumsden, Ji mmy
Lyal l , John
Mc Cart hy, Mi c k
Mc Cl ai r, Bri an
Mc Cl aren, St eve
Mc Faul , Wi l l i e
Mc Garvey, Frank
Mc Ghee, Mark
Mc Gowan, Mi c k
Mc Grat h, Paul
Mc Gui nness, Paul
Mac heda, Federi c o
Mac hi n, Mel
Mc I l vanney, Hugh
Mac kay, Dave
Mc Kec hni e, Bi l l
Mc Mi l l an, Ji m
Mc Namara, Robert
Mc Pherson, James M
Magni er, John
Makl l , Cl aude
Mal di ni , Paol o
Mame Di ouf , Bi ram
Manc hest er Ci t y FC
pl ayer t ransf ers
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
201213 UEFA Champi ons League
Manc hest er Uni t ed FC: AF j oi ns
AFs f i nal season wi t h
AFs ret i rement u-t urn (2001)
bec omes Pl c
Cl ass of 92
Cri st i ano Ronal do
Davi d Moyes suc c eeds AF
duri ng t he mi d-70s t o mi d-80s
Gl az er t akeover
and Li verpool FC
Ri o Ferdi nand
ri val ry wi t h Leeds Ut d FC
Robi n van Persi e
Roy Keane
Ruud van Ni st el rooy
si gns Juan Sebast i n Vern
st af f at
Wayne Rooney
wi ns 19t h t i t l e
wi ns over Arsenal
see also individual tournaments
Manc hest er Uni t ed TV
Manc i ni , Robert o
Marri ner, Andre
Mart nez , Robert o
Masc herano, Javi er
Mat a, Juan
Mat t hews, St anl ey
Meaki n, Ji m
medi a
Mendes, Jorge
Merkel , Angel a
Mert esac ker, Per
Messi , Li onel
200809 UEFA Champi ons League
201011 UEFA Champi ons League
Meul enst een, Ren
Mi gnol et , Si mon
Mi kel , John Obi
Mi l l ar, St eve
Mi l ne, Ral ph
Modri , Luka
Moorhouse, Barry
Moorhouse, Lyn
Moran, Kevi n
Morgan, Al bert
Morri son, James
Mort ensen, St an
Moses, Remi
Mouri nho, Jos
at Chel sea FC
at Port o
at I nt er Mi l an
marks AFs 25 years as Manc hest er Ut d FC manager
at Real Madri d
rel at i onshi p wi t h pl ayers
201213 season
Moyes, Davi d
Wayne Rooney
Moyes, Davi d Snr
Mul hern, John
Ml l er-Wohl f ahrt , Hans
Murdoc h, Rupert
200708 UEFA Champi ons League
201011 UEFA Champi ons League
201112 Champi ons League
201213 UEFA Champi ons League
Nasri , Sami r
Neuer, Manuel
Nevi l l e, Gary
as a c el ebri t y
Cl ass of 92
and Di ego Forl n
f i rst XI
i nj uri es
and Roy Keane
shapi ng t he f ut ure of Manc hest er Ut d FC
2004 season
and Ruud van Ni st el rooy
Nevi l l e, Phi l
Newc ast l e Uni t ed FC
News of the World
Ni el sen, Ki m Mi l t on
Ni st el rooy, Ruud van
and Arsne Wenger
i nj uri es
and Manc hest er Ut d FC
and Real Madri d
rel at i onshi p wi t h t eam-mat es
and Roy Keane
2002 season
2003 season
2004 FA Cup f i nal
Not t i ngham Forest FC
Obert an, Gabri el
Ol dham At hl et i c FC
ONei l l , Mart i n
OShea, John
l eaves Manc hest er Ut d FC
and Roy Keane
2004 season
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
Owen, Mi c hael
z i l , Mesut
Pal l i st er, Gary
Pari s St -Germai n
Park, Ji -Sung
200809 UEFA Champi ons League
201011 UEFA Champi ons League
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
201213 season
Pat on, Bert i e
Prez , Fl orent i no
Persi e, Robi n van
Pet ersen, Dunc an
Phel an, Mi c k
as AFs assi st ant
c oac hi ng
l oses j ob
Rooney and Ronal do
vi ew of Ji m Lawl or
Pi nner, Kei t h
Pi qu, Grard
Pi rl o, Andrea
Poborsk, Karel
Pol l , Graham
Port o
Powel l , Ni c k
Premi er League, work permi t s
Prof essi onal Game Mat c h Of f i c i al s Board
Provan, Davi e
Pruni er, Wi l l i am
Queens Park FC
Queens Park Rangers FC
Quei roz , Carl os
and Cri st i ano Ronal do
j oi ns Manc hest er Ut d FC
and Jos Mouri nho
and Loui s Saha
and Roy Keane
and Ruud van Ni st el rooy
and Anderson
rac i sm
Rai t h Rovers FC
Ramsey, Aaron
Rangers FC 3
Real Madri d
and Bb
and Carl os Quei roz at
and Jos Mouri nho at
si gns Cri st i ano Ronal do
si gns Davi d Bec kham
200102 UEFA Champi ons League
2003 season
2009 season
201213 UEFA Champi ons League
and Ruud van Ni st el rooy
Redknapp, Harry
ref erees
The Ref erees Assoc i at i on
Rei na, Pepe
Rent on, Bi l l y
Respec t i ni t i at i ve
Ri c e, Pat
Ri c hards, Mi c ah
Ri c hardson, Ki eran
Ri dsdal e, Pet er
Ri l ey, Mi ke
Robert son, John
Robi nho
Robi ns, Mark
Robi nson, Pet er
Robson, Bobby
Robson, Bryan
at Manc hest er Ut d FC
l eaves Manc hest er Ut d FC
Mi ddl esbrough FC
and Ryan Gi ggs
Roc k of Gi bral t ar
Roc kef el l er
Rodger, Ji m
Rodgers, Brendan
Ronal di nho
Ronal do, Cri st i ano
f ans
f at her di es
at Manc hest er Ut d FC
marks AFs 25 years as Manc hest er Ut d FC manager
and Ruud van Ni st el rooy
sc ores hat -t ri c k
si gns t o Real Madri d
at Sport i ng Li sbon
t al ent
2004 European Cup
2004 FA Cup f i nal
2006 Worl d Cup
200708 UEFA Champi ons League
200809 UEFA Champi ons League
201213 season
Rooney, Col een
Rooney, Wayne:
AF suspends
best goal
c el ebri t y endorsement
f i t ness
i nj uri es
and ref erees
and Ronal do
and Roy Keane
si gns t o Manc hest er Ut d FC
sweari ng i nc i dent
t al ent
200607 UEFA Champi ons League
200809 UEFA Champi ons League
Worl d Cup
201011 UEFA Champi ons League
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
201213 season
Roset t i , Robert o
Rowl ands, Derek
Roxburgh, Andy
Rudge, John
Rummeni gge, Karl -Hei nz
Rush, I an
Ryan, Ji m
Cri st i ano Ronal do
Roy Keane
Wayne Rooney
Saha, Loui s
St Mi rren FC
Frank Mc Garvey i nc i dent
l oses t o Rai t h Rovers
pl ayers at
Sal mon, Pet er
Sar, Edwi n van der
and Manc hest er Ut d FC
and Roy Keane
200809 UEFA Champi ons League
201011 UEFA Champi ons League
Savage, Robbi e
Sc hmei c hel , Pet er
rel at i onshi p wi t h t eam-mat es
ret i res
t al ent
vi ew of Ronal do
Sc hol es, Paul
and Arsne Wenger
Cl ass of 92
f i ned by AF
f i rst XI
goi ng t o ground
i nt erest i n horses
posi t i on
ret i rement
Robi n van Persi e
shapes f ut ure of Manc hest er Ut d FC
t al ent
2004 European Cup
200809 UEFA Champi ons League
201011 UEFA Champi ons League
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
201213 season
Sc ot l and
Sc ot l and Boys Cl ub
Sc ot t i sh Foot bal l Assoc i at i on (SFA)
Sec ond Board
Shankl y, Bi l l
Sharpe, Lee
Shaw, Angus
Shaw, Bob
Shearer, Al an
Shef f i el d Uni t ed FC
Sheri ngham, Teddy: at Manc hest er Ut d FC
at Tot t enham Hot spur FC
Shi l t on, Pet er
Shot bol t , Karen
Si l l et t , John
Si l va, Davi d
Si l va, Fbi o and Raf ael da
Si vebaek, John
Smal l i ng, Chri s
si gns t o Manc hest er Ut d FC
201011 season
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
201213 season
mi c er, Vl adi m r
Smi t h, Al an
Smi t h, Ji m
Smi t h, John
Smi t h, Si r Rol and
Smi t h, Wal t er
Sol skj aer, Ol e Gunnar
Souness, Graeme
Speari ng, Jay
Spec t or, Jonat han
Speedi e, Davi d
Sport i ng Li sbon
St am, Jaap
St aunt on, St eve
St eel e, Eri c
St ei n, Joc k
St i l es, Nobby
St one, Mi ke
St ret f ord, Paul
St yl es, Rob
Surez , Lui s
Sunderl and FC
Sut t on, Al an
Swal es, Harry
Swansea Ci t y FC
Swi t z er, George
Tai bi , Massi mo
Tayl or, Gordon
Tayl or, Graham
Terry, John
Tvez , Carl os: at Man Ci t y FC
at Manc hest er Ut d FC
200809 UEFA Champi ons League
Thomas, Mi c hael
Thornl ey, Ben
Thornt on, Bi l l
Torres, Fernando
Tot t enham Hot spur FC
Tour, Kol o
Townsend, Phi l
Turner, Graham
Tyl desl ey, Cl i ve
UEFA Champi ons League: 1991
1999 5
Uni t ed St at es of Ameri c a: AFs i nt erest i n
Ameri c an Ci vi l War (18611865)
Unswort h, Davi d
Val ds, Vi c t or
Val enc i a, Ant oni o
201011 UEFA Champi ons League
201112 season
Vern, Juan Sebast i n
at Manc hest er Ut d FC
and t he press
si gns t o Chel sea
Vi di , Nemanj a
as a c ent re-bac k
i nj uri es
si gns t o Manc hest er Ut d FC
200809 UEFA Champi ons League
2011 Communi t y Shi el d
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
Vi duka, Mark
Vi ei ra, Pat ri c k
Vi l l arreal CF
Vi t esse Arnhem
Wal ker, Dan
Wal ker, Davi d 1
Wal ker, Jac k
Wal l ac e, Joc k
Wal l work, Ronni e
Wal sh, Andy
Wal sh, Davi d
Warnoc k, Nei l
Wat f ord FC
Wat ki ns, Mauri c e
Wat son, Geof f
Webb, Nei l
Wel bec k, Danny
201112 UEFA Champi ons League
201213 season
Wenger, Arsne
and AF
at Arsenal FC
and Robi n van Persi e
201112 Champi ons League
West Bromwi c h Al bi on FC
West Ham FC
West wat er, Ji mmy
Whel an, Ronni e
Whel an, Tony
Whi t ehouse, Bri an
Whi t esi de, Norman
Wi gan At hl et i c FC
Wi l ey, Al an
Wi l ki nson, Howard
Wi l shere, Jac k
Wi l t ord, Syl vai n
Wi mbl edon FC
Wi nt er, Jef f
Wi nt erburn, Ni gel
Wi se, Denni s
Wol verhampt on Wanderers (Wol ves) FC
Worl d Cup see FI FA Worl d Cup
Wrexham FC
Wri ght , I an
Yeat s, Ron
Yorke, Dwi ght
Young, Ashl ey
Zabal et a, Pabl o
Zol a, Gi anf ranc o
I had no i dea an Ol d Traf f ord st and woul d be named af t er me. I t was a c onspi rac y, but one t hat l ef t me very proud.
Bobby Robson had great c hari sma. We t ake t urns wi t h t he medi a af t er a 1981 UEFA Cup t i e bet ween my Aberdeen and hi s I pswi c h Town.
My bi g European breakt hrough Aberdeen beat Real Madri d i n t he 1983 European Cup Wi nners Cup.
I n Got henburg, Wi l l i e Mi l l er l i f t s our European t rophy. Aberdeen beat one of t he bi ggest names i n f oot bal l .
I was assi st ant Sc ot l and manager al ongsi de Joc k St ei n. He was t ouc hed by geni us and I woul d bombard hi m wi t h quest i ons about management .
Mart i n Edwards, t he Uni t ed Chai rman, st ood by me i n t he dark days bef ore my f i rst t rophy.
Di d t he 1990 FA Cup f i nal repl ay wi n over Cryst al Pal ac e save my j ob as Uni t ed manager? I rec kon I woul d have survi ved. On t he l ef t i s Norman Davi es, ki t man and c l ose
f ri end, who i s sadl y no l onger wi t h us.
Ryan Gi ggs was revered by t he ot her Uni t ed pl ayers. Here he f l oat s past Wi mbl edons Warren Bart on i n hi s boyi sh earl y days.
Paul Sc hol es was bet t er t han Paul Gasc oi gne. Too smal l , I t hought when I f i rst saw hi m as a l ad. Wrong.
The 1992 vi nt age: c oac h Eri c Harri son wi t h t he gol den boys who bec ame t he heart of a great Uni t ed Team, (left to right) Gi ggs, But t , Bec kham, Gary Nevi l l e, Phi l Nevi l l e, Sc hol es
and Terry Cooke.
Eri c Cant ona c oul d shape games i n hi s own art i st i c i mage. Hi s l at e goal won us t he 1996 FA Cup f i nal .
The bant er al ways f l owed bet ween St eve Bruc e (left) and Gary Pal l i st er. But t hey were one of t he great est c ent re-hal f part nershi ps.
Pet er Sc hmei c hel was a mi ght y goal keeper. A bat t eri ng f rom Wi mbl edons Craz y Gang soon af t er hi s arri val f ai l ed t o break hi m.
Never gi ve i n. Threeni l down at Spurs i n 2001, we f ought bac k t o wi n 53. Here Vern has j ust sc ored our f ourt h goal .
Davi d Bec khams sel f -c onf i denc e never wavered. He was a f i t boy and a marvel l ous st ri ker of t he bal l .
Champi ons agai n, i n May 2003. Bec khams l ast mat c h f or us. Davi d deserves great c redi t f or revi vi ng hi s c areer.
The Braz i l i an Ronal do was gi ven a st andi ng ovat i on af t er hi s Ol d Traf f ord hat -t ri c k f or Real Madri d i n 2003. Uni t ed f ans know what t al ent i s.
The heart was i n f or a t est on bi g European ni ght s. Tensi on gnawed away at us i n t hat 2003 Champi ons League t i e agai nst Real Madri d.
Ri o Ferdi nand was due t o f ac e a heari ng f or mi ssi ng a drugs t est when Roy Keane of f ered hi s support as t hey l ef t t he Ol d Traf f ord pi t c h.
A drac oni an sent enc e. Ri o i s banned f or ei ght mont hs. The c l ub woul d not abandon hi m.
Roy Keane t ook part s of my own c harac t er on t o t he pi t c h. I n hi s l at er years i nj uri es made i t harder f or hi m t o gal l op f rom box t o box.
Cri st i ano Ronal do worked on every aspec t of hi s game, even headi ng. Look at hi m l eap i n t he 2004 FA Cup f i nal wi n.
Reac hi ng out t o our f ans. Weve j ust beat en Mi l l wal l 30 i n t he 2004 FA Cup f i nal and Mi kal Si l vest re i s wi t h me.
Work hard, pl ay hard. The dressi ng room af t er our vi c t ory over Mi l l wal l . Ronal do l ooks so young.
Ri val s t o t he end. Arsne Wenger and I had our f al l -out s but t here was more t o uni t e t han di vi de us.
Arsne was l i vi d af t er we st opped Arsenal s unbeat en 49-mat c h run i n Oc t ober 2004.
Ruud van Ni st el rooy opened t he sc ori ng as we prevent ed Arsenal f rom goi ng 50 games unbeat en. A vol c ani c day.
Raf a Ben t ez t urned our ri val ry personal . I c oul d handl e t hat .
When Jos Mouri nho j oi ned Chel sea I t hought : New ki d on t he bl oc k. Conf i dent . A new c hal l enge had arri ved.
My hero Deni s Law and c l ose f ri end Bobby Robson at a l unc h t o c el ebrat e my 20t h anni versary as Uni t ed manager. As a pl ayer I want ed t o be Deni s.
Ronal do was a model st udent . Carl os Quei roz pl ayed an i mport ant rol e i n hi s devel opment .
Ol e Gunnar Sol skj aer was a nat ural f i ni sher. I al ways saw mysel f i n our st ri kers.
Fergi e Ti me. I poi nt ed t o my wat c h t o st ri ke f ear i nt o opponent s, who knew we of t en sc ored i n t he l ast mi nut e.
Mi c hael Carri c k st ri kes i n our t hri l l i ng 71 wi n over Roma at Ol d Traf f ord i n 2007. A near perf ec t di spl ay.
The wonder boys, Ronal do and Rooney, i n t hat 71 vi c t ory over Roma. Ronal do sc ored t wi c e and Rooney onc e.
Mosc ow, Roman Abramovi c hs home t own, was t he st age f or our 2008 Champi ons League wi n over Chel sea. Here, Ryan Gi ggs t uc ks away hi s penal t y i n sudden-deat h.
My rec ord i n penal t y shoot -out s wasnt good. At f i rst I c oul dnt bel i eve we had won when Edwi n van der Sar saved f rom Ni c ol as Anel ka.
The ret reat f rom Mosc ow. A happy one. Gi ggs and Ferdi nand hol d t he 2008 Premi er League and Champi ons League t rophi es on t he t armac i n Manc hest er.
Labour c an al ways c ount on my support and Tony Bl ai r and Gordon Brown bec ame f ri ends.
The Gl az ers were support i ve f rom day one. They l et me get on wi t h t he j ob. Avram (left), Joel and Bryan j oi ned us at Val e do Lobo i n Port ugal .
Rac i ng hel ped me esc ape t he pressures of management . Fel l ow owner Ged Mason and I c el ebrat e What A Fri ends bi g wi n at Ai nt ree.
Ruby Wal sh t el l s me how he gui ded What A Fri end t o vi c t ory. I al ways enj oy t he c ompany of j oc keys.
Out i n f ront . What A Fri end l eads t hem home i n The Bet f red Bowl Chase.
Vi di and Ferdi nand were a roc k t o bui l d a t eam on. Nemanj a has j ust sc ored agai nst I nt er Mi l an i n t he Champi ons League and Ri o i s hi t c hi ng a ri de.
Lef t -bac ks are l i ke rare bi rds. But we had one of t he best i n Pat ri c e Evra, a born wi nner.
The great est goal i n my t i me at Uni t ed was t hi s bi c yc l e ki c k by Wayne Rooney agai nst Man Ci t y i n February 2011.
We prepared met i c ul ousl y f or t he 2011 Champi ons League f i nal agai nst Barc el ona at Wembl ey. Pl ans dont al ways work.
The best t eam I ever f ac ed. The great Barc el ona si de of 2011.
What bet t er man c oul d you have besi de you t han Bobby Charl t on? He was a l oyal and wi se f ri end t o me.
I t s not an ol d bus st op, i t s The Cl i f f , our t rai ni ng ground unt i l 1999. Sc hol es and Gi ggs t ravel bac k i n t i me wi t h me.
Lyn Laf f i n, my i ndi spensabl e P.A., hel ps me wi t h t he dai l y mount ai n of admi n.
Dai d Gi l l was t he best c hi ef exec ut i ve I worked wi t h. St rai ght -t al ker; knew t he game; al ways l oyal .
Read al l about i t . Phi l Townsend, our c ommuni c at i ons di rec t or, t al ks me t hrough t he days papers.
St af f numbers i nc reased enormousl y i n my 26 years at t he c l ub. I val ued t hem al l . Here I am wi t h t he l aundry t eam.
Al bert Morgan, ki t man, f ri end and wi sec rac ker, i n t he Ol d Traf f ord c hangi ng room, August 2011.
Edwi n van der Sar was one of t he great goal keepers of t he l ast 30 years. I shoul d have si gned hi m earl i er.
Davi d de Gea, a magni f i c ent l y at hl et i c young goal keeper, who grew i n st at ure af t er j oi ni ng us f rom Spai n.
The t unnel of l ove. Maki ng my way t o t he pi t c h, Ol d Traf f ord, August 2011.
The one-t i me Ki ng of Ol d Traf f ord, Eri c Cant ona, ret urns f or Paul Sc hol ess t est i moni al i n t he summer of 2011.
Mi c k Phel an and Ren Meul enst een were my t rust ed assi st ant s at t he end. I owe al l my c oac hes a great debt .
The i ndest ruc t i bl es: Paul Sc hol es, Ryan Gi ggs and Gary Nevi l l e.
My 25t h anni versary di nner, i n November 2011. Some of our f orei gn pl ayers mi ght have been a bi t c onf used by t he ki l t .
I f el t Robert o Manc i ni was hassl i ng t he f ourt h of f i c i al t oo muc h i n t hi s Manc hest er derby and t ol d hi m so. A bri ef ski rmi sh, soon f orgot t en.
I respec t ed Manc i ni s work at Ci t y. I saw a f ew Ci t y managers of f i n my t i me.
The Hi l l sborough c ommemorat i on at Anf i el d i n Sept ember 2012 was bri l l i ant l y handl ed by bot h c l ubs. Si r Bobby Charl t on and I an Rush c l asp hands.
The press gave me a c ake wi t h a hai rdryer on as part i ng gi f t . I was f i erc e i n news c onf erenc es, but t here were l aughs t oo.
My suc c essor, t hough I di dnt know i t t hen. Davi d Moyes brought Evert on t o our ground i n February 2013.
The f i nal i ngredi ent . Robi n van Persi es hat -t ri c k agai nst Ast on Vi l l a sec ured our 201213 t i t l e wi n. A great buy.
I st i l l dont know how Davi d Gi l l persuaded Cat hy t o unvei l a st at ue of me. She ref used t o bow at i t s f eet .
Suc c ess gave me c ont rol . Wi t h eac h t rophy won my t hought s t urned t o t he next one.
When t he st at ue was unvei l ed I j oked: I ve out -l i ved deat h. What an honour.
The 201213 Premi er League t rophy i s wai t i ng f or us out on t he pi t c h at Ol d Traf f ord. My work i s nearl y done.
Spec i al f ans, and a spec i al day at Ol d Traf f ord i n May 2013, as my t i me as manager draws t o an end.
Cat hy rarel y c ame t o games but she was al ways t here f or me. We pose wi t h t he Premi er League t rophy one l ast t i me.
Drama t o t he end. At West Brom, f or my f i nal game, wavi ng t o my f ami l y bef ore a mat c h t hat f i ni shed 55.
The next wave of Fergusons. My wonderf ul grandc hi l dren were part of t he f arewel l part y.
St i l l goi ng st rong, f ri ends f rom my Harmony Row days reuni t e i n Manc hest er, Marc h 2013.
Woul d you t ake us on? Harmony Row, at our annual reuni on. Foot bal l t eams go on f orever.
The aut hor and publisher would like t o t hank t he following for permission t o reproduce
phot ographs:
Act ion Images, Roy Beardswort h/Offside, Simon Bellis/Reut ers/Act ion Images, Jason
Cairnduff/Livepic/Act ion Images, Chris Coleman/Manchest er Unit ed/Get t y Images, Dave
Hodges/Sport ing Pict ures/Act ion Images, Ian Hodgson/Reut ers/Act ion Images, Eddie
Keogh/Reut ers/Act ion Images, Mark Leech/Offside, Alex Livesey/Get t y Images, Clive
Mason/Get t y Images, Mirrorpix, Gerry Penny/AFP/Get t y Images, John Pet ers/Manchest er
Unit ed/Get t y Images, Mat t hew Pet ers/Manchest er Unit ed/Get t y Images, Kai
Pfaffenbach/Reut ers/Act ion Images, Popperfot o/Get t y Images, Nick Pot t s/Press Associat ion,
John Powell/Liverpool FC/Get t y Images, Tom Purslow/Manchest er Unit ed/Get t y Images, Ben
Radford/Get t y Images, Carl Recine/Livepic/Act ion Images, Reut ers/Act ion Images, Rex
Feat ures, Mart in Ricket t /Press Associat ion, Mat t Robert s/Offside, Neal Simpson/Empics
Sport /Press Associat ion, SMG/Press Associat ion, SNS Group, Simon St acpoole/Offside, Darren
St aples/Reut ers/Act ion Images, Bob Thomas/Get t y Images, Glyn Thomas/Offside, John
Walt on/Empics Sport /Press Associat ion, Kirst y Wriggleswort h/Press Associat ion.
All ot her phot ographs are court esy of Sean Pollock.