The BBC’s Gordon Burns manages to grab the ‘Red Devils’ Manager Sir Alex Ferguson in what will be one of his final interviews for the BBC. An interview that no doubt portrays another side to Sir Alex Ferguson, one separate from the man we see in the stands, chewing gum like his life depended on it.
According to Sir Alex, Manchester United’s flying start to the current Premier League season stems from the new youngsters; ‘Smalling, Jones and Wellback’.
Ferguson calls the new faces of a ‘modern Manchester United’ that evidently resemble ‘the Giggs – Scholes – Neville -Beckham era’. The question is, will they reach the high standards these fine players have set?
Rebuilding squads is certainly something all teams will eventually need to embark on and what Burns brings to light is whether a coach’s new signing is planned, or merely a rush of adrenaline paired with spontaneity? The United manager strongly believes ‘he has time on his side’ adding that ‘nobody ever talks about sacking Alex Ferguson, so I can have the vision to look three or four years ahead’.
One might say perhaps his use of third person is arrogant, but who can blame him? He is, after all, the most successful coach, football has ever witnessed. But this ‘vision’ he seems to adopt can begin to look rather cloudy once we consider past signings like Berbatov and Tevez. It is however by learning from these mistakes that have got him and Manchester United where they are today – the top of the league table.
Burns questions whether or not the ‘never say die, will to win work ethic’ all players are acquainted with, purely comes from the manager himself. Admittedly Sir Alex states: ‘I like to see my own character in people [and]I don’t like losing’.
Taking into consideration Ferguson’s admirable competitive drive, it seems inevitable that David Beckham should be thrown into the mix as Burns reiterates the right midfielder’s quote: ‘he and the other players lived in fear of you even though they had so much respect for you’.
From throwing hairdryers at players, to smashing tea cups Ferguson is certainly painted in a light that many are not fond of.
Despite strong denial of these myths and allegations, Ferguson does admit, […] I do have a confrontational character in that I don’t like people arguing back with me […] but I have mellowed’.
Burns continues to question Ferguson’s attitude when he addresses his, ‘reputation of having a short fuse.’ The manager replies, ‘maybe I have a short fuse but it goes away quicker now’.
He displays an undying honesty that most importantly shows how much Ferguson has transformed from the manager he was into the one he is today.
More intriguingly however is: what was it that changed Alex Ferguson? Was it the incident with Beckham, or had his wife simply had enough?
Discussing the managers’ life outside football Burns asks: ‘When you go home and walk through your front door would your wife know whether you’d won or lost just by looking at you?’ The manager replies with ‘not now, she could twenty years ago, but I can switch off quite quickly now’.
Sir Alex reveals a humorous side rarely seen at matches or post-match interviews when described by Burns’ sources as ‘a bit of a softy,’ to which he responded jovially ‘can I get that in writing.’
His display of courtesy towards other coaches is also one Burns mediates. He asks: ‘when other managers are sacked, you are the first person on the phone to talk to them and invite them down here to the ground’.
Burns retells the story of the boy that visited Ferguson’s house with a video of himself playing football. He states, ‘you invited him in and watched the video with him, you then invited him here to train for a month or so, so there is that side of you that is a caring side’
Ferguson’s take on this heroic moment is one he plays down merely responding, ‘it was easy for me to say right ok, so I set him up to come here and there’s nothing unusual about that for me because I would do that for anybody who showed that confidence in their own mind to say, I’m not gonna give in here, I think giving in is dead easy for some people nowadays’. Sir Alex expresses a pride and joy for helping players, and not just his own, reach their goals and dreams.
Despite Ferguson’s fearsome exterior we at times witness, and the myths cooked up behind dressing room doors, what Gordon Burns has excellently captured is that Sir Alex Ferguson is not only the most successful football coach of our time, but a man with a great passion for the game that will clearly never fade.