On Fergie's birthday, 71 examples of his wit, wisdom and temper from over a quarter-century at Old Trafford
13:44 GMT, 31 December 2012
Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates his 71st birthday today and to mark the occasion, Sportsmail has picked out 71 of the Scot's best soundbites from his time as Manchester United manager.
There's pithy observations, musings on great United players, hurricane-force hairdryers, philosophical statements and withering put-downs.
So enjoy, and raise a glass to Sir Alex.
Happy Birthday! Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is 71 today
ON WINNING THE EUROPEAN CUP IN 1999
'It was the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field. Pounding over every blade of grass, competing if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him. I felt such an honour to be associated with such a player.'
Speaking after Roy Keane's inspired performance in the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League against Juventus after receiving a booking which meant he would miss the final
'At the end of this game, the European Cup will be only six feet away from you, and you’ll not even able to touch it if we lose. And for many of you, that will be the closest you will ever get. Don’t you dare come back in here without giving your all.'
Ferguson's half-time team-talk during the 1999 European Cup final with Bayern Munich
Crowning glory: Ferguson holds the European Cup aloft after United unforgettable stoppage time win over Bayern Munich in 1999
Treble tops: Ferguson and United won the Premier League, FA Cup and the European Cup in 1999
'I was just starting to adjust to losing the game. I had reminded myself to keep my dignity and accept that it wasn't going to be our year. What then happened simply stunned me.'
As the game entered injury time with United losing 1-0
'Can you f***ing believe him!'
To his assistant Steve McClaren on seeing Peter Schmeichel going up for the first stoppage time corner
'I can't believe it. I can't believe it. Football. Bloody hell.'
After United won with two dramatic goals in stoppage time
greatest challenge is not what's happening at the moment, my greatest
challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f***ing perch. And you
can print that.'
Reacting to remarks by former Liverpool player Alan Hansen that he was past it in 2002
'You must be joking. Do I look as if I'm a masochist ready to cut myself How does relegation sound instead'
When asked if Liverpool were genuine title contenders in 2007
Auld enemy: There have been many defining games with Liverpool during Ferguson's time at United. here, he celebrates a last minute John O'Shea winner at Anfield in 2007
think he was an angry man. He must have been disturbed for some reason.
I think you have got to cut through the venom of it and hopefully he'll
reflect and understand what he said was absolutely ridiculous.'
On Rafael Bentez, reacting to the Spaniard's infamous 'facts' press conference during the 2009 title race
ON NOISY NEIGHBOURS CITY
has been a lot of expectation on Manchester City and with the spending
they have done they have to win something. Sometimes you have a noisy
neighbor and have to live with it. You can't do anything about them…
After City are taken over by billionaire new owners
'It was our worst ever day!'
After the 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford last season
New rivalry: Roberto Mancini and Manchester City have emerged as United's main enemies in the past few years
ON ARSENE WENGER AND ARSENAL
'They say he's an intelligent man, right Speaks five languages. I've got a 15-year-old boy from the Ivory Coast who speaks five languages!'
On Arsene Wenger, shortly after his appointment as Arsenal manager in 1996
'He's a novice—he should keep his opinions to
More harsh words for the Frenchman in 1997
'Oh dearie me, the FA are going to be delighted with that!'
Speaking about United's 4-0 loss to Arsenal in the League Cup in 2001
Mellow: The once frosty relationship between Ferguson and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has thawed over the years
'It's getting tickly now – squeaky-bum time, I call it.'
the climax to the 2002-2003 title race between Arsenal and United,
which ended with Ferguson winning a seventh Premier League crown
'In the tunnel, Wenger was criticising my players, calling them cheats, so I told him to leave them alone and behave himself. He ran at me with his hands raised saying 'What do you want to do about it'
'To not apologise for the behaviour of the players to another manager is unthinkable. It's a disgrace, but I don't expect Wenger to ever apologise…he's that type of person.'
Relations with Wenger hadn't got much better by 2005…
'He could start a row in an empty house.'
On Dennis Wise, the highly-strung former Chelsea player
'He’ll be getting a hug and a kiss from me – maybe even two!'
Speaking about his good friend Sam Allardyce after Bolton stalled Chelsea's title challenge in 2006-2007
'If Chelsea drop points, the cat’s out in the open. And you know what cats are like – sometimes they don’t come home.'
ON JOSE MOURINHO
'He was certainly full of it, calling me “Boss” and “Big Man” when we had our post-match drink after the first leg. But it would help if his greetings were accompanied by a decent glass of wine. What he gave me was paint-stripper.'
Ferguson's first impressions of Jose Mourinho, who got the better of him when Porto dumped United out of the Champions League in 2004
'I would never think a guy who hasn't played a game could be a top coach but then you've got to look at his personality. He's got a marvellous, strong personality and that bridges that gap.
'I remember his first press conference [at Chelsea, in 2004] and I thought: 'Christ, he's a cocky b******, him'. He was telling the players: 'Look, I'm the special one, we don't lose games.'
Remembering Mourinho's grand entrance into English football
Friends and rivals: Ferguson and Jose Mourinho enjoyed a great relationship despite United and Chelsea going toe-to-toe for the title
'He can manage anywhere, absolutely. I'm not going to put any forecasts on what is going to happen at this club. I won't last forever, but Jose can manage anywhere, there is no question about that.'
On the possibility of Mourinho succeeding him at Old Trafford
ON DAVID BECKHAM
'David Beckham is Britain’s finest striker of a football not because of God-given talent but because he practises with a relentless application that the vast majority of less gifted players wouldn’t contemplate.'
Waxing lyrical about David Beckham's commitment and talent
'It was a freakish incident. If I tried it 100 or a million times it couldn't happen again. If I could I would have carried on playing!'
Playing down the famous incident in which he allegedly kicked a boot which hit David Beckham in the forehead
Booted out! Beckham was allegedly hit by a boot kicked by Ferguson in the United dressing room in 2003. He left Old Trafford that summer
Special talent: But Ferguson had a great deal of respect for Beckham's workrate and natural ability
'It is totally out of the question. There is no way we would sell him, or any of our best players.'
In April 2003, two months before selling David Beckham to Real Madrid
ON THE ITALIANS
'When an Italian tells me it's pasta on the plate, I check under the sauce to make sure. They are the inventors of the smokescreen.'
Wise, if slightly ambiguous, advice before United played Inter Milan in the 1999 Champions League quarter-final
'Inzaghi was born in an offside position.'
A withering assessment of Italian striker Filippo
'They come out with the ‘English are so strong, we’re terrible in the air, we can’t do this, we can’t do that’. Then they beat you 3 – 0.'
On Italian teams in general
Finding their feet: Ferguson's United struggled against Italian teams like Marcello Lippi's Juventus when they returned to the Champions League – but finally cracked it in 1999 when beating Inter and Juve en route to winning the competition
ON THE MEN IN THE MIDDLE
can't applaud a referee.'
'The pace of the
game demanded a referee who was fit. It is an indictment of our game.
You see referees abroad who are as fit as butcher's dogs. We have some
who are fit. He wasn't fit. He was taking 30 seconds to book a player.
He was needing a rest. It was ridiculous.'
Brutal comments on referee Alan Wiley and his lack of fitness
'There is no doubt about it. They were never getting through that tie; with 11 men we had no problem. The young boy showed a bit of inexperience but they got him sent off. Everyone sprinted towards the referee – typical Germans.'
Reflecting angrily on the dismissal of Rafael da Silva as United crashed out of the Champions League to Bayern Munich in 2010
Taking issue: Fergie bawls at Alan Wiley during the 2009 FA Cup semi-final with Everton
'They gave us four minutes [injury time], that's an insult to the game. It denies you a proper chance to win a football match.
'There were six substitutions, the trainer came on, so that's four minutes right away and the goalkeeper must have wasted about two or three minutes and they took their time at every goal kick.
'That's obvious to everyone today and it's a flaw in the game that the referee is responsible for time keeping. It's ridiculous that it's 2012 and the referee still has control of that.'
Talking about Fergie time – or the lack of it – after United lost 3-2 at home to Tottenham earlier this season
ON PLAYERS PAST AND PRESENT
to have a saying that when a player is at his peak, he feels as though he can
climb Everest in his slippers. That's what he was like.'
On Paul Ince (When at United…)
'He's a bully, a f***ing big-time Charlie.'
On Paul Ince (…after he left United)
Happier times: Ferguson and Paul Ince in 1992
'If he was an inch taller he'd be the best centre-half in Britain. His father is 6ft 2in – I'd check the milkman.'
On the now retired United right-back Gary Neville
'[Andy] Cole should be scoring from those distances, but I’m not going to single him out.'
'He was towering over me and the other players were almost covering their eyes. I’m looking up and thinking ‘if he does hit me, I’m dead’'
Recalling a dressing room disagreement with Peter Schmeichel
Towering figure: Ferguson with Peter Schmeichel after winning the FA Cup, the second leg of the 1999 Treble
'I remember the first time I saw him. He was 13 and just floated over the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind.'
First impressions of Ryan Giggs, his longest serving player at Old Trafford
'Whether dribbling or sprinting, Ryan can leave the best defenders with twisted blood.'
On the enduring brilliance of the Welshman
'Wayne is truly blessed. He doesn’t just have ability, he has a fire inside him.'
After Rooney joined United in 2004
'Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it's a better cow than the one you've got in the field.'
Speaking about the amazing U-turn pulled by Wayne Rooney on signing a new contract in 2010
Larking around: Ferguson and Wayne Rooney before the 2011 Champions League semi-final with Schalke
ON ERIC CANTONA
'If ever there was one player, anywhere in the world, that was made for Manchester United, it was Cantona. He swaggered in, stuck his chest out, raised his head and surveyed everything as though he were asking: 'I'm Cantona. How big are you Are you big enough for me''
On a very unique temperament
ON CRISTIANO RONALDO
'I bet him he wouldn’t get 15 league goals and I’m going to have to change my bet with him. If he gets to 15 I can change it and I am allowed to do that because I’m the manager. I’m going to make it 150 now!'
In reference to a rather foolhardy bet with Cristiano Ronaldo
'Do you think I would get into a contract with that mob. Jesus Christ, no chance. I wouldn’t sell them a virus.'
On the chances of selling Ronaldo to Real Madrid (Ronaldo was sold for 80m in 2009… to Real Madrid)
Mentor: Ferguson nurtured Cristiano Ronaldo's abundant talent during his five years at Old Trafford
ON OTHER MANAGERS
'It can be difficult to pinpoint who would make it as a manager. For instance, nobody here thought Mark Hughes would become a manager, never in a million years, and we all thought Bryan Robson was a certainty to be a top manager.'
On his former players turning to management
has come out and criticised me. He is the worst at haranguing referees.
He shoves them and makes a joke of it. How he can criticise me is
forgets the help I gave him, by the way. The press have had a field
day. The only person they have not spoken to is Barack Obama because he
is unfortunate but I am the manager of the most famous club in the
world. Not Newcastle, a wee club in the North-East. I was demonstrative.
I am always demonstrative. Everyone knows that. I am an emotional guy
but I was not abusive.'
The latest entry to the Fergie litany – a savaging of Alan Pardew and 'wee club' Newcastle last week
'Wee club': Ferguson attracted the ire of Alan Pardew (right) and Newcastle United with his comments last week
SWIPES AT THE MEDIA
'On you go. I'm no f***ing talking to you. He's a f**ing great player. Yous are f***ing idiots.'
Aimed at journalists who criticised Juan Sebastian Veron
'I don't give any of you credibility. You talk about wanting to have an association with people here and you wonder why I don't get on with you But you're a f***ing embarrassment. One of these days the door is going to be shut on you permanently.'
Aimed at the media in general
'There are members of the London press who seek to antagonise me, deliberately.'
A bit of finger pointing
Flop: 28m signing Juan Veron failed at Man United, despite all Fergie's attempts to defend him
'They [the BBC] did a story about my son that was whole lot of nonsense. It all [sic] made-up stuff and 'brown paper bags' and all that kind of carry-on. It was a horrible attack on my son's honour and he should never have been accused of that.'
On the BBC documentary about his son, Jason
grow all the time. If I was to listen to the number of times I've thrown
teacups then we've gone through some crockery in this place. It's completely
exaggerated, but I don't like people arguing back with me.'
On the notorious 'hairdryer' treatment
'Struggling. Are you serious We’re not struggling.'
Before walking out of a press conference following Manchester United’s clash with Benfica (Basle knocked them out of the group stages in the following game)
'You’re a f***ing bottler Incey! You cannae handle the stage, can you You are a f***ing bottler!'
To Paul Ince at half time during a Champions League match with Barcelona in 1994
'What the f*** are you lot playing at That is the biggest load of s**** I’ve ever seen. Not one of you can look me in the eye, because not one of you deserves to have a say. I can’t believe you’ve come here and decided to toss it off like that c*** you’re playing out there.'
Half-time at Sheffield Wednesday, 1998 and things aren't going to plan
ON UNITED'S HOME SUPPORT
'We have people coming here to admire the scenery and enjoy their crisps.'
Honour: The North Stand was renamed the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand in November 2011
ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF WINNING
'I don't like losing but I've mellowed. I maybe have a short fuse but it goes away quicker now.'
'I've never played for a draw in my life.'
'If we can play like that every week we'll get some level of consistency.'
'Sometimes in football you have to hold your hand up and say, yeah, they're better than us.'
'As long as there are games to play it is not over.'
Medallion man: Ferguson with the Premier League trophy and the Carling Manager of the Year Award in 1999
'I do believe in fate.'
'I tell the players that the bus is moving. This club has to progress. And the bus wouldn't wait for them. I tell them to get on board.'
'Sometimes you're not sure about a player. Sometimes you doubt. Sometimes you have to guess. Sometimes… you just know.'
'The work of a team should always embrace a great player but the great player must always work.'
'Well, football is a hard game; there's no denying it. It's a game that can bring out the worst in you, at times.'
Old friend: Renewing acquaintances with the Premier League trophy in 2009
'Only true champions come out and show their worth after defeat- and I expect us to do that.'
'I'm going to tell you the story about the geese which fly 5,000 miles from Canada to France. They fly in V-formation but the second ones don't fly. They're the subs for the first ones. And then the second ones take over – so it's teamwork.'
A Cantona-esque observation on teamwork
ON RETIREMENT AND LEGACY
'I’m privileged to have followed Sir Matt because all you have to do is to try and maintain the standards that he set so many years ago.'
A proud moment when surpassing Sir Matt Busby's managerial record
'I think it’s important to work and I’m entitled to work. Some people do not want to work but I want to continue working. Retirement is for young people.'
Once again addressing a question about retirement
Masters: Ferguson with Sir Matt Busby after winning the 1991 European Cup Winners' Cup
'If my parents were still alive, they would be very proud. They gave me a good start in life, the values that have driven me, and the confidence to believe in myself.'
On instilled values
'I am such a bloody talented guy. I might go into painting or something like that.'
Move over Da Vinci
'Football management is such a pressurised thing – horse racing is a release. I'm also learning to play the piano – I'm quite determined – it's another release from the pressure of my job.'
On passions outside of football