Been quite a week at Manchester United with Sir Alex Ferguson announcing his retirement, Wayne Rooney announcing his desire to escape from the club, Cristiano Ronaldo linked with a return to the club and Everton’s David Moyes unveiled as Ferguson’s replacement. Unfortunately, I fear that Fergie’s retirement means that Ronnie won’t be coming back any time soon. Pity, but there you go.
However, I think most United fans would be happy to see the back of Rooney. This is twice in about the last 3 years that he has said that he wants to quit; few players say that once and get away with it at Manchester United and I suspect that if they can get a decent return on a player who has flattered to deceive for much of the season just ending, United will grab it. Rooney has been at Old Trafford for 10 years now and whilst he clearly still has considerable talent, it is equally clear that he has fallen out of love with United, so a clean break for all parties may be the best strategy.
As for Ferguson, the world and his significant other have been queuing up to eulogise about ‘the Great Man’ and MUTV have been running blanket coverage of Fergie documentaries full of former Fergie players and even the likes of Tony Blair waxing lyrical about his achievements and his qualities . Elsewhere Liverpool fans and some journalists have been staging street parties to celebrate his retirement. The general line seems to be that no matter what you thought of the man, his curmudgeonly bile and hairdryer outbursts masked a fierce loyalty to those under his purview and were the outward signposts of an almost pathological will to win. In short, you couldn’t have one without the other. By general reckoning the late, great Sir Matt Busby was a much nicer man than Alex Ferguson and consequently a less successful manager in terms of trophies won. Hmmm, well maybe….
I once had the memorable experience of sitting in on a Fergie press conference at Old Trafford. I was playing Sancho Panza to my mate Dominic’s Quixote and had squeezed into Old Trafford’s amazingly uncomfortable Press Box alongside Dom and his guest pundit on the radio that night – who may well have been Paddy Crerand. As I recall, the opposition were Charlton Athletic and following a tight game with a late Ole Gunnar Solskjær winner for United, Dom was waiting to interview the principals, but to his chagrin both Fergie and Charlton boss Alan Curbishley showed up at more or less the same time.
Having cornered Curbishley, Dom thrust a minidisc recorder into my hands and told me to go into Fergie’s press conference and record it. So, in I went, to find His Nibs sitting there about 2 yards away from me, waiting for the latecomers like me to filter in. Journalists were coming up and dumping their recorders on the desk in front of Fergie, so I pressed record and did the same, then searched for somewhere to sit. The media room at Old Trafford is like a small lecture theatre with raked banks of seats and the only place left for me to sit was – you guessed it – front and centre, right in Fergie’s line of sight.
“Who’s that bloke in the front row?”
It was a routine press conference. He rambled on about the game for a minute or so then answered a few minutes-worth of perfunctory questions. Was it just my paranoia that made me feel that his eyes kept drifting to me? After all, he made it his business to know the Press Pack and I’m sure he pegged me for an unfamiliar face. Every time that watery, blue-eyed glare came my way, my heart beat just a little quicker, but in the end I escaped with my recording and my identity intact.
Really, enough has been said elsewhere about the man and his astonishing trophy haul, so I will pass on that, stopping only to thank him for all that he has done for my club since 1986 and to observe that his replacement, Everton boss David Moyes, has got a hell of an act to follow. Good luck to him.