The master of fear and intimidation: Clever, witty, withering, belligerent, mischievous and slightly deluded… this was classic Fergie
22:49 GMT, 28 December 2012
Ten minutes before Sir Alex
Ferguson’s weekly press conference was officially due to begin at
Carrington yesterday, and the Manchester United manager was already in
As referee Mike Dean and his
assistants found out at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, Ferguson has been
known to make up the rules as he goes along.
For those reporters who got there in
time to witness it, this was classic Ferguson. Clever, witty, withering,
belligerent, mischievous and, yes it has to be said, slightly deluded.
Poor decision: Ferguson was unhappy with the officials after Evans's controversial own-goal
Dismissing Newcastle as ‘a wee club in the North East’ is a putdown that will be remembered long after Ferguson has left Old Trafford; it’s right up there with ‘knocking Liverpool off their f***ing perch’ and ‘when an Italian tells me it’s pasta on the plate, I check under the sauce to make sure’.
The Scot knew exactly what effect that line would have, what headlines it would create, and that’s the clever bit.
/12/28/article-2254115-063A6BCA000005DC-912_634x476.jpg” width=”634″ height=”476″ alt=”Off you go: Dean sent Wenger to the stands at Old Trafford in 2009″ class=”blkBorder” />
Off you go: Dean sent Wenger to the stands at Old Trafford in 2009
Three days short of his 71st birthday, you had to admire him for rolling
up his sleeves and rolling back the years to put Pardew and Newcastle
in their place.
After walking in shortly before 9.20am, slightly windswept but
completely composed, he was so eager to get started that some
journalists had not even entered the building when he delivered the
killer line that felt like it was prepared in advance.
‘I’m the manager of the biggest club in the world,’ said Ferguson with a
twinkle in his eye and venom in his voice. ‘I’m not like Newcastle, a
wee club in the North East.’
At a stroke he became public enemy No 1 on Tyneside, although his
popularity will have shot up in Sunderland. For pure pantomime you
really couldn’t beat it.
That’s what makes Ferguson’s weekly address such compulsive viewing, and
he knows it. Less of a press conference, more an audience with
Empty seats denote those reporters who have been exiled for their sins,
while microphones on handheld metal poles hover around a draughty room
upstairs at United’s academy building to pick up every faltering
question asked from the floor while Ferguson holds court.
His demeanour dictates the mood just as he decides when proceedings begin, regardless of the arrangement.
A cosy cup of tea and a sticky bun with Roberto Martinez at Wigan it
certainly ain’t. And that’s the way Ferguson wants it. Whether it’s
journalists coming to Carrington or match officials walking out at Old
Trafford, it suits him to get people out of their comfort zone.
For all his success in evolving as a manager to cope with the modern
footballer, fear and intimidation remain Ferguson’s most effective
weapons. Dean and his assistants were reminded of that on Wednesday and
did nothing about it.
Ferguson is actually required by the Premier League to conduct an
after-match press conference as well, just like every other manager, but
has refused to do so for years. They do nothing about it. You cannot
therefore blame clubs for feeling that there is one rule for them and
another for United.
A few hundred yards away at their own Carrington training base
yesterday, Manchester City were shaking their heads in disbelief over
the FA’s decision to take action against Roberto Mancini for suggesting
after the defeat at Sunderland that referee Kevin Friend ‘ate too much
City have until next Wednesday to give their observations, and will
point out that Mancini was being light-hearted, but a misconduct charge
is sure to follow.
Comparing the two cases, they are baffled that their manager will be
punished and Ferguson will not — although it’s only fair to point out
that the United boss was banned for two games and fined 20,000 three
years ago for saying that Alan Wiley was not physically fit enough to
This week has been a reminder that no-one stirs up the emotions — his own and everybody else’s — quite like Sir Alex Ferguson.
It’s what makes him who he is. It’s why we’ll miss him so much when he’s gone.