Grand setting as Ferguson delivers word from on high

Reuters| Updated: Oct 22, 2013, 23:43 PM IST

London: It was irreverently described as the biggest book release since The Bible and the publishers certainly guarded Alex Ferguson`s latest book of revelations with more reverence than most football autobiographies.

Ferguson, who retired as Manchester United manager in May, arrived to meet the world`s media in a grand, chanderliered hall off London`s Trafalgar Square.

The hall was crammed with portraits of past British kings and queens on the walls and Ferguson answered question for 45 minutes, flanked by two giant illuminated photographs of himself.

Earlier in the day copies of "Alex Ferguson My Autobiography" were couriered to reporters who could not get to the news conference but nevertheless agreed to observe the strict early afternoon embargo.

Once the couriered books were finally opened there was a sense of anti-climax. Journalists scanning the pages for shocking revelations, dressing room secrets or deep coaching insight were left somewhat disappointed with most of the "headline news" being a revised version of previously known information.

The publishers, already assured of enormous sales, will nevertheless be delighted by the tsunami of publicity generated.

Reporters from China, Israel, Japan, Australia, France, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands were among those who attended the launch.

Two dozen TV cameras were at the back of the hall filming every word uttered by the 71-year-old Scot, the most successful manager in British football history.

He was asked for his advice on how to improve football in China, how to improve football in Israel, his favourite Italian coach - "Roberto Mancini, he had the best wine".

He was asked about qualities of leadership and whether Manchester United could recover from the poor start they had made under his successor David Moyes to the new season.


"They have had a really difficult start to the season, but Manchester United are the only club in the Premier League who can win it coming from behind. "

Much of what Ferguson has wanted to say about United since 1999 and the eight Premier League titles they have won since then is told over 350-pages.

Ferguson`s thoughts on Roy Keane, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and many of the 210 players who featured for United during his 27 years do make for interesting reading.

He is particularly scathing about Keane, who he describes as a player "of energy, guts and blood" but who he had to get rid off after his never-televised interview with Manchester United TV in which he criticised his team mates.

In the book he says that Beckham thought he was too big for Manchester United and later surrendered part of his career by moving to the United States to play for LA Galaxy.

He told reporters on Tuesday though: "How can I be critical of David Beckham? He is a fantastic human being.

"He is an icon to every kid in the world, he`s a very wealthy guy, how can I argue with that? I always liked him, I thought he was a marvellous boy from the time he joined us when he was 12."

Beckham eventually left for Real Madrid after a fallout with Ferguson ended with the Scot kicking a boot at the midfielder`s head and Keane left the following year in 2005 after criticising his team mates on the club`s TV channel.

"What you did in that video was a disgrace," Ferguson recalls of his reaction to Keane.

Ferguson said the breaking point was when Keane accused him of bringing his private life into the club.

"The hardest part of Roy`s body is his tongue," Ferguson wrote.

"What I noticed that day as I was arguing with him was his eyes narrowed to black beads. It was frightening to watch. And I`m from Glasgow."

Ferguson confirmed he was offered the England manager`s job twice, before Sven-Goran Ericsson was appointed in 2001 and before that in 1999 when the job went to Kevin Keegan.

"I thought about it for 10 seconds, but there was no way in a million years I could manage England - I would never be able to go back to Scotland," he said on Tuesday.

But he will be back in Scotland soon, as part of the book`s launch tour.

The man himself says he has mellowed and there was little of his old venom on Tuesday. No-one was threatened with being banned and no-one felt the snap of Ferguson`s own hard tongue either.

Perhaps he is right that at the age of 71 he has mellowed. But for those missing that side of him, they just need to read the book.