Tag Archives: soundbites

Sir Alex Ferguson birthday: 71 best quotes from the Manchester United manager

On Fergie's birthday, 71 examples of his wit, wisdom and temper from over a quarter-century at Old Trafford

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UPDATED:

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

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

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

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

ON LIVERPOOL

'My
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

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

'I
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

'There
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

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
Japanese football.'

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

Mellow: The once frosty relationship between Ferguson and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has thawed over the years

Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger shake hands before a Premier League match in January 2012

'It's getting tickly now – squeaky-bum time, I call it.'

During
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…

ON CHELSEA

'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

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

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

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

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

'You
can't applaud a referee.'

Very true…

'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

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

'I used
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

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.'

Erm…

'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

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

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

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

'Pardew
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
unbelievable.

'He
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 busy.

'It
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

'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

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

'Myths
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)

HAIRDRYERS

'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

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

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

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

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

Joe Hart needs a big game in Manchester City v Real Madrid

Faced with Ronaldo and co, now is the time for Hart remind us why he's No 1

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UPDATED:

00:01 GMT, 21 November 2012

Joe Hart is due a performance tonight. Not a good one. Not even a great one. A match-winning one.

These are the type of games – a Champions League tie against Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium – that set the really special players apart.

Manchester City must win and Hart, the busiest keeper in the Champions League this season, will need to be at his very best.

Cone we do it Joe Hart prepares to face Real Madrid on Wednesday

Cone we do it Joe Hart prepares to face Real Madrid on Wednesday

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At the highest level, when the margins are narrow and the percentages are tight, the keepers earn their corn.

Think back to Jerzy Dudek’s incredible save from Andriy Shevchenko in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul when the scores between Liverpool and Milan were locked at 3-3.

Or Manuel Neuer’s incredible performance for Schalke in the Champions League semi-final first leg at the Veltins Arena against Manchester United in April 2011.

They were both established keepers for club and country, but those incredible nights enhanced their reputation around the world.

For City to beat Jose Mourinho’s team and remain in the Champions League, Hart will have to operate at another level.

He did it against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on
October 3, when Jurgen Klopp’s team peppered his goal with 22 shots and only managed to beat him once.

Hart’s England team-mate Wayne Rooney, watching from his sofa at home in Prestwich, was even moved to tweet that he is now the No 1 keeper in the world. That’s some claim.

Rooney has played against all the top keepers, including Iker Casillas, in goal for Real Madrid this evening, Gianluigi Buffon with Italy and Juventus, Neuer with Germany and Schalke and Petr Cech at Chelsea.

Casillas, captain of Spain and Real
Madrid, has been named in the UEFA team of the year and awarded FIFA’s
keeper of the year in each of the past four seasons.

Buffon,
captain of the national team and his club side Juventus, is a previous
winner and has been named as the best keeper in Europe at various phases
throughout his career by UEFA.

Deadly: Cristiano Ronaldo (right) wil lead Real's attack at City

Deadly: Cristiano Ronaldo (right) wil lead Real's attack at City

The Champions League is a different experience, another level for a team that won the title for the first time in more than 44 years last season.

They discovered that last season when they were knocked out of the group stages with 10 points and were given another rude awakening at the Bernabeu in this year’s opening group game.

Hart was exposed as Real Madrid racked up the chances, 35 in all, and were beaten by the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo in the final minute.

Then he was livid with City’s defence, provoking a post-match outburst that reverberated around the club for days after their 3-2 defeat.

He was isolated against Ajax in the Amsterdam Arena, when City’s defence allowed Frank de Boer’s team 15 shots on goal during an impressive 3-1 win.

As a team, they have no excuses. The side Roberto Mancini picks for tonight’s clash with Real will have more than 200 Champions League appearances between them.

That is a significant number, enough
experience and a working knowledge of the game at the highest level in
club football to match last season’s La Liga champions.

It will be a busy evening for Hart, with the focus switching to City’s keeper after a difficult week between the posts.

A
decent performance against Aston Villa last weekend, when City won 5-0
and returned to the top of the Barclays Premier League, is routine.

Tough times: Hart suffered a difficult night with England against Sweden

Tough times: Hart suffered a difficult night with England against Sweden

He made two saves – good ones – but the champions, with Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and David Silva scoring goals, ran away with it against a team in the bottom three.

Last season he was the best keeper in the Premier League, but City’s ambitions stretch to the top level of European football.

City have the best defensive record in the Premier League and have only conceded 10 goals, but that’s not the benchmark for being a great goalkeeper.

If it was then West Ham’s Jussi Jaaskelainen (seventh in the league and 12 conceded), Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic (14th in the table and 11 conceded) and Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet (15th and 12 conceded) could build a case.

This time last week Hart was preparing for England’s friendly with Sweden, but he was given some brutal reminders of life at the sharp end in the Friends Arena.

He failed to clear Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s initial shot for the opening goal, allowed the striker’s 30-yard free kick to beat him in the 84th minute and his poor headed clearance that led to his goal of the century in the final minute.

City’s keeper faces the razor-sharp finishing of Ronaldo and Karim Benzema when Mourinho finalises his team for tonight’s group game.

For City to make progress, Hart must be a match for them.

Andre Villas-Boas battles to emerge from Harry Redknapp"s shadow at Spurs

AVB's battle to emerge from Redknapp's shadow at Spurs

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UPDATED:

00:01 GMT, 14 November 2012

Andre Villas-Boas has a major problem as manager of Tottenham – his name isn’t Harry Redknapp.

Every decision, every tactical switch and every selection is gauged against Redknapp’s achievements.

Alternate goalkeepers Hugo Lloris and Brad Friedel Oh, Harry would have handled it differently.

Lurking: Andre Villas-Boas is quietly attempting to make his mark

Lurking: Andre Villas-Boas is quietly attempting to make his mark

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Put the players through detailed DVD presentations before matches Harry did it a different way.

Drop Jermain Defoe after a hat-trick against Maribor and replace him with Emmanuel Adebayor for the trip to champions Manchester City Harry would never have done that.

Everything Villas-Boas is doing at Spurs is being judged against the backdrop of Redknapp’s three-and-a-half year spell at White Hart Lane.

He stalks every corridor at Tottenham, with conversations still centred around his achievements at the club.

Redknapp restored order after Juande Ramos’ chaotic regime and turned Tottenham into a genuine force in English football again.

They returned to Wembley under Redknapp in 2009 for the Carling Cup final and were eventually beaten on penalties by Manchester United.

A year later, Redknapp was named manager of the year after guiding Tottenham to a fourth-placed finish and Champions League football.

They went on a spell-binding journey in Europe, thrilling crowds at Inter Milan and AC Milan with their exuberance before they fell away in the quarter-final against Real Madrid.

Redknapp spoke of his Spurs team being one of the most exciting sides since Bill Nicholson’s Double winners.

Gareth Bale, among others, flourished in a forward-thinking team that Redknapp was convinced could go on to challenge for the title.

Fans' favourite: Harry Redknapp's shadow hangs over Tottenham

Fans' favourite: Harry Redknapp's shadow hangs over Tottenham

Last season they finished fourth, but Tottenham wanted a change of direction under a young, ambitious new coach.

It was the choice of Daniel Levy, a decision that appeared to be based on personalities rather than league position.

It is time for Tottenham to move on.

Redknapp is part of Tottenham’s history, a successful manager who was moved on by the board at the end of the season

He is highly-regarded by Spurs supporters and staff, quite rightly after their three thrilling seasons under his leadership.

Nearly six months on and he is still being talked about in Spurs circles, a shadow over Villas-Boas as he makes his own changes.

It was always going to be difficult to replace a man of Redknapp’s standing within the game, particularly after the Portuguese coach’s chastening experience at Chelsea.

Tough task: Spurs are attempting to keep track of the big boys

Tough task: Spurs are attempting to keep track of the big boys

Villas-Boas is a complicated character, but he is the man entrusted to take the team into the top four. He has his own methods and no-one at Tottenham is able to fault his work ethic.

There have been changes to the training ground approach and the serious side to Villas-Boas has been transmitted to the players.

He is paid to make decisions and although there are major doubts about Villas-Boas’ managerial acumen, he is the man Tottenham backed in favour of Redknapp.

It is a big call by Levy, but it is his appointment.

There is no going back, too late to turn back the clock after the events that led to Redknapp departing in the summer.

Villas-Boas is a different beast, but Tottenham believe in his methods and he should have their unequivocal backing.

They are aware of his character traits and it is taking time for those ideas to be ingrained in the players’ psyche.

Focus: Villas-Boas is desperate for success at White Hart Lane

Focus: Villas-Boas is desperate for success at White Hart Lane

The target is the top four and beyond, but it has been a difficult start to his career at Spurs.

Naturally, as a former Chelsea coach, there is an element of doubt among Spurs supporters. He arrived as an outsider and it is taking their time to warm to him.

At Tottenham has the platform to succeed, a maturing squad with the ability to challenge for Champions League football.

Despite a disjointed start to the season they have had their moments, notably the 3-2 victory at Manchester United when Villas-Boas was coming under increasing scrutiny.

This weekend they are playing Arsenal at the Emirates, an opportunity for the Portuguese coach to carve his way into north London history.

Spurs are above Arsene Wenger’s team in the Premier League, a point ahead as they prepare for kick-off on Saturday lunchtime.

If they can get something from the game, it might just turn out to be an even bigger result for Villas-Boas.

Arsenal short-changing their fans – Neil Ashton

Cash a goner if you're a Gooner as Arsenal continue to short-change their fans

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UPDATED:

00:17 GMT, 7 November 2012

Finish in the top four and everyone at Arsenal is paid out.

Arsene Wenger can pick up his 7m salary and chief executive Ivan Gazidis will earn 1.336m basic and a 675,000 bonus.

Arsenal's staff share a wage bill of 143m, up 19m from the previous year and the fourth biggest in the Barclays Premier League.

Only the supporters are short-changed.

Smile Arsene, it's the Champions League: Wenger prepares to face Schalke

Smile Arsene, it's the Champions League: Wenger prepares to face Schalke

More from Neil Ashton…

Ash Wednesday: Crystal clear why Arsenal have joined hunt for Palace superstar Zaha
30/10/12

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23/10/12

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16/10/12

Ash Wednesday: Amnesty on football's ills Now that would be a good idea… until the next whistle blows
09/10/12

Ash Wednesday: Allardyce's Hammers play just like Real Madrid and Barcelona… but not how you think
02/10/12

Ash Wednesday: If Ferdinand lines up next to Cole again in an England shirt, trust them to put history to one side
25/09/12

Ash Wednesday: Sign up, Walcott… and focus on fulfilling your potential at Arsenal before it's too late
18/09/12

Ash Wednesday: Messi's dedication is what you need for greatness, Wayne
28/08/12

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They pay the highest season ticket prices in the country, but this really is boom time if you happen to be an employee of Arsenal Football Club.

Nice big houses, nice cars, private schools for the kids and no questions asked. Just finish fourth.

There is no pressure to win a trophy, no demands made of the manager from the people at the top who remain under his charismatic spell.

The executives will have the fans believe differently, talking up the sense of achievement when they qualify for the Champions League and speaking of how they are 'proud to be a Gooner'.

The fans are the givers, parting with fistfuls of 50 notes each year to listen to the same bluster from the board. They are inching closer to success, so they say.

At the AGM last month they were hanging their hat on UEFA's Financial Fair Play.

What next will they come up with Perhaps they could borrow Patek Philippe's line and tell them it is all being 'saved for the next generation'.

Spare them. Arsenal are not a two-bob enterprise. They rake in money from every orifice, exploiting every commercial avenue available to a club that are ranked sixth in Europe according to the latest UEFA co-efficients.

Finish fourth in the Premier League, or preferably third to avoid Champions League qualification, and the money pours in.

Lest we forget the stadium repayments, which are '15m a year', according to Wenger in an interview in February this year and the Champions League more than covers the lot.

Star names: Arsenal have plenty of stars on big wages in their ranks

Star names: Arsenal have plenty of stars on big wages in their ranks

Last year, Arsenal earned just under 23m from the competition before they were eliminated by Milan 4-3 on aggregate in the second round.

The pay day was made up of 14.8m from the market pool, 3.1m participation bonus, 2.6m match bonuses and 2.4m for reaching the last 16.

This year, provided they squeeze through the group after Tuesday night's 2-2 draw with Schalke in Gelsenkirchen, they will earn even more.

This is not a club struggling for cash or clout when it comes to European football.

After 15 successive years in the Champions League, they have the pedigree, the history, the stadium and the location to attract the world's top players.

Don't buy the argument that it is a miracle that Arsenal qualify for the Champions League on the final day of the season. It isn't a miracle at all.

In order of revenue, Arsenal are the fifth biggest club in the Champions League according to Deloitte's latest money league: Real Madrid (383m), Barcelona (360m), Manchester United (293m), Bayern Munich (321.4m), Arsenal (200m), Chelsea (199m), Milan (188m) and Inter (168.9m).

This year they will slip below Chelsea after they became European champions following their remarkable run to the Allianz-Arena under Roberto Di Matteo.

Falling behind: Arsenal trail Premier League leaders Manchester United by nine points after former Gunner Robin van Persie helped his new side to a 2-1 victory

Falling behind: Arsenal trail Premier League leaders Manchester United by nine points after former Gunner Robin van Persie helped his new side to a 2-1 victory

Year after year the club try to convince their supporters that they are punching above their weight.

They have brainwashed fans into believing that witnessing Champions League football at the same time as selling their best players is a truly remarkable feat. It is not.

Arsenal have been paying players big bucks for years, with an admirable wages-to-revenue ratio of around 61 per cent.

Don't buy the idea that this club doesn't pay big salaries to the star players. It does.

Back in 2006, Thierry Henry was given a 5m bonus to stay and signed a new five-year contract worth 130,000 a week.

Money comes to Arsenal. They don't have to look very hard to find it with a spectacular 60,000 seater stadium on a prime piece of land, a high-visibility monument for every passenger coming in or out of Kings Cross railway station.

Long memories: Arsenal last tasted success with the FA Cup win in 2005

Long memories: Arsenal last tasted success with the FA Cup win in 2005

This is Arsenal remember, winners of three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and so close to winning the Champions League against Barcelona in 2006 under Wenger.

They have the history, the Chapman years and the great George Graham team that won the league at Anfield when Michael Thomas raced through on goal.

Commercially it is not a hard sell. Every high-profile, money-making enterprise wants to be associated with a top football team in London.

Nike (since 2004) and Emirates (2006) have long-term commitments to the club, signing huge commercial partnership programmes with a team regarded by UEFA as the sixth best team in Europe.

The TV companies are still in thrall with Arsenal, swelling the club's sizeable budget by another 85m.

For the prestige of being attached to one of European football's giants, the corporate sponsors foot the bill.

Sadly it is the supporters who pay the price.

Arsenal join chase for Wilfried Zaha – Neil Ashton column

Crystal clear why Arsenal have joined hunt for Palace superstar Zaha

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UPDATED:

00:01 GMT, 31 October 2012

When a player of immense promise appears on Arsene Wenger’s radar, Arsenal’s manager sends chief scout Steve Rowley to watch them in an away game.

It is a secret code at Arsenal, despatching his trusted talent-spotter to see if their target fancies it on a freezing cold day at a place like Leicester’s King Power Stadium.

Arsenal are a little bit late to the party when it comes to Wilfried Zaha, only putting their marker down in the last few weeks with their constant presence at Crystal Palace matches. They have arrived at just the right time.

King of the Palace: Wilfried Zaha in focus against Leicester City

King of the Palace: Wilfried Zaha in focus against Leicester City

More from Neil Ashton…

Ash Wednesday: A warning to Blackburn's new boss… careful who you trust at the top
23/10/12

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16/10/12

Ash Wednesday: Amnesty on football's ills Now that would be a good idea… until the next whistle blows
09/10/12

Ash Wednesday: Allardyce's Hammers play just like Real Madrid and Barcelona… but not how you think
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Ash Wednesday: If Ferdinand lines up next to Cole again in an England shirt, trust them to put history to one side
25/09/12

Ash Wednesday: Sign up, Walcott… and focus on fulfilling your potential at Arsenal before it's too late
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Ash Wednesday: Net pains for Liverpool could leaving Rodgers feeling numb in race for top
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Zaha is electrifying, the most talented and gifted player that Palace supporters have ever seen.

Tough on Vince Hilaire.

Tougher on Ian Wright.

True all the same.

He has mesmerising qualities, skills reminiscent of Ronaldinho when he began playing for Gremio nearly 20 years ago.

Zaha is capable of anything, twisting and turning his way past opposition defences with his exceptional ability on the ball.

He has everything: pace, strength, ability and power, all the attributes required of a modern day footballer. For 70 minutes, until Leicester began a late rally, Zaha was unplayable.

Rowley, who was in the stands, left impressed.

Three weeks ago, Zaha went away with the England Under-21 team for their fiery play-off matches against Serbia in the Euro 2013 qualifiers.

The working environment raised his game, under pressure to perform in training alongside players who are regular starters in the Barclays Premier League.

At that level, the players are that much sharper and Zaha responded by smoothing over some of the rough edges to his game.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Theo Walcott

Rivals: Zaha is rated above the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain (left) and Walcott

He improved alongside Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Danny Rose, accepting the challenge of international competition.

It enhanced his game, returning to the Palace team for their Championship game against Millwall with an improvement in decision-making on the ball and superior game-intelligence.

Converting his ability to the Premier League is the next phase of his development, a target for a player regarded by all 24 Championship managers as the best in the division.

Six years ago, Theo Walcott wasn’t even the best player in the Southampton team, but Arsenal signed a player based on future potential.

He was signed on the strength of 21 appearances and four goals, one of them an outrageous strike against Luton Town at St Mary’s.

Walcott was only 16 when he signed for Arsenal and his profile exceeded his performances on the field when he Sven Goran Eriksson took him to the 2006 World Cup.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another Championship recruit, signed by Arsenal in the summer of 2011 after one successful season in League One.

His biggest test that season was against Manchester United in the FA Cup, a Saturday night game at St Mary’s.

He wore colourful boots that night and barely got a kick. After the game his manager Nigel Adkins reminded his 17-year-old winger that there was plenty of work to be done before he became a Premier League player.

Star in the making: Zaha could soon be knocking on the England door

Star in the making: Zaha could soon be knocking on the England door

Two years on he is showing signs that he will eventually belong, making 16 appearances for Arsenal in the Premier League last season and a handful this year.

Neither Walcott or Oxlade-Chamberlain possess Zaha’s ability and it is only a question of time before he is playing at the highest level.

Walcott barely played half a season for Southampton after graduating from their academy before he was sold to Arsenal for 12million.

Oxlade-Chamberlain played 36 League One games during Southampton’s promotion season and left for the Emirates in 2011.

At 19, Zaha has already played 96 times for Palace in the league and made a handful of appearances in Cup competition, including their victory at Old Trafford last season.

He still has four years left on his contract at Palace, but Arsenal will be ahead of the game when he eventually decides to leave.

Zaha, who grew up in south London and came through the Palace academy, is an Arsenal supporter.

That may well be a factor in the final decision for Zaha, but first the clubs courting him will have to convince Palace to part with their prize asset.

Brendan Rodgers needs to reel in the soundbites – unlike Jose Mourinho

Mourinho's pupil Rodgers needs to reel in the soundbites in bid to steady Liverpool

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UPDATED:

00:24 GMT, 17 October 2012

Back in the day, when Jose Mourinho was Chelsea’s manager, Frank Lampard revealed that his players used to love watching his pre-match press conferences.

It is a common misconception to think that every week was pure gold with Chelsea’s manager, but the reality is something different.

After Mourinho arrival at Stamford Bridge, when he announced that he was ‘the Special One’, his career certainly had its moments.

Speaking out: Brendan Rodgers has offered plenty of soundbites so far

Speaking out: Brendan Rodgers has offered plenty of soundbites so far

More from Neil Ashton…

Ash Wednesday: Amnesty on football's ills Now that would be a good idea… until the next whistle blows
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02/10/12

Ash Wednesday: If Ferdinand lines up next to Cole again in an England shirt, trust them to put history to one side
25/09/12

Ash Wednesday: Sign up, Walcott… and focus on fulfilling your potential at Arsenal before it's too late
18/09/12

Ash Wednesday: Messi's dedication is what you need for greatness, Wayne
28/08/12

Ash Wednesday: Net pains for Liverpool could leaving Rodgers feeling numb in race for top
21/08/12

Ash Wednesday: Doors closing on Adebayor in his world where cash is king
14/08/12

Ash Wednesday: Without a home, Owen has the clock ticking on his career
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In April 2007 he interrupted a Champions League press conference before the tie with Valencia to inspect the showers in the visitors’ dressing room when he was asked about claims he had tampered with the temperature settings.

He was usually at his best when Chelsea were chasing down Manchester United on the way to two Premier League titles.

There was much hilarity when he told an old Portguese proverb, about an old man attempting to swim for an island before running out of puff and drowning. He had twinkle in his eye and the analogy was obvious.

When Ricardo Carvalho criticised his manager when he was on international duty, Mourinho refused to pick him until the central defender apologised to the entire squad for disrespecting them.

‘Ricardo Carvalho seems to have a problem understanding things. Maybe he should have an IQ test, or go to a mental hospital, or something.’

There were some magical moments during Mourinho’s three-year stay at Chelsea, but he picked his moments.

At times he made himself unavailable to the media for weeks, sending out a player or his assistant Steve Clarke on a Friday afternoon.

A typical press conference with Clarke at the time went something along the lines of: ‘Steve, do you think Andriy Shevchenko will play tomorrow’

‘I don’t know, you’d have to ask the manager.’

‘But he’s not here.’

Then Clarke would shrug his shoulders. And that would be repeated for virtually every question thrown at him. It was excruciating at times.

Smooth talker: Rodgers learned many lessons from his mentor Mourinho during their time together at Chelsea

Smooth talker: Rodgers learned many lessons from his mentor Mourinho during their time together at Chelsea

Still, they kept on winning, lifting the Premier League in 2005 and 2006, along with the FA Cup in 2007 and the League Cup in 2005 and 2007.

Mourinho was Brendan Rodgers’ mentor at Chelsea, feeding the young coach titbits of information and allowing him into the kitchen cabinet at Cobham.

Rodgers responded, aligning himself with the manager as his career and his standing continued to rise during their success at Stamford Bridge.

Fast forward five years and Rodgers is the go-to man for media soundbites now that he has become the Liverpool manager.

His smooth-talking is straight out of Mourinho’s charm school and it is perfect for the media, but there is a clear difference in strategy.

Mourinho picked his moments, sometimes playing a subtle game for weeks before the shock value would send everyone into a tailspin again.

Rodgers is not the retiring type and barely a day goes by without the Liverpool manager raising eyebrows.

His recent assessment of Jamie Carragher – ‘I arrived here and heard these stories about him kicking the ball long up the pitch’ – caused bemusement at Anfield.

No-one has ever thought of the Liverpool defender as a long-ball merchant and Rodgers, who has been a student of the game since he was a teenager, should have known Carragher has never been in that bracket.

Rodgers added: ‘This is one of the best technical players we have – left foot, right foot, his touch on the ball, his reading of the game, his tactical intelligence.’

Must-win: Rodgers will hope his side arrest their alarming slump at home in the league this weekend - the Reds haven't won in four previous attempts at Anfield

Must-win: Rodgers will hope his side arrest their alarming slump at home in the league this weekend – the Reds haven't won in four previous attempts at Anfield

If Rodgers really believed all that, then surely Carragher, at 34 and with more than 700 appearances behind him, should still be in the team.

In recent days he has continued to defend Luis Suarez amid allegations of diving and has already spoken to Mike Riley, the manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Board about his treatment.

Even after Suarez’s ‘caterpillar’ move against Stoke City at Anfield, Rodgers continued to back the Uruguayan striker.

When Mourinho faced similar problems with Didier Drogba after his arrival in English football, the Chelsea manager spotted the danger signs and agreed to speak with his 24million striker.

Rodgers’ role at Anfield is also amplified by the Channel Five documentary Being:Liverpool and the decision to air the team talk the night before they were beaten 3-0 at West Bromwich on the opening day of the season.

Managers will always make mistakes, particularly when they are taking their formative steps in their career.

At youth team level with Chelsea, or managing Watford or Reading in the Championship, they are unlikely to be scrutinised.

After 38 games in the Premier League with Swansea, plus a handful at the very top with a club with the pedigree of Liverpool, every move is being monitored.

They play Reading this weekend and after four games without a win in the league at Anfield, it might be time for Rodgers to reel it in a touch.

Brendan Rodgers stars in US documentary

Review: Boss Rodgers is the star in US documentary look at Liverpool

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UPDATED:

01:00 GMT, 11 September 2012

From the club who brought you the Boot Room, here is something all together less secretive.

Being: Liverpool is an American documentary billed as the first of its kind, a behind-the-scenes look at life at a major Barclays Premier League club.

If Brendan Rodgers was not keen on having his first strides at Anfield caught on camera then he did a good job of hiding it.

Behind the scenes: Brendan Rodgers (left) and Tom Werner (right) star in the US documentary about Liverpool

Behind the scenes: Brendan Rodgers (left) and Tom Werner (right) star in the US documentary about Liverpool

The television crew follow him everywhere, from his first meeting with the staff at the training ground to the passenger seat of his club Porsche and the living room of his enormous new house in Formby, where he awkwardly reveals through gritted teeth that the son of his assistant manager, Colin Pascoe, is dating his 16-year-old daughter.

The first episode of this fascinating series is a scene-setter that seems rather dependant on a happy ending down the line.

We are pitched into the gloom of Kenny Dalglish's final days as Liverpool manager, cutting from footage of their FA Cup final defeat by Chelsea to a scene in a Merseyside pub where the verdict is grim.

The narrator talks of a 'three-year lull of mediocrity for a club synonymous with glory' and the shot cuts to Tom Werner and John W Henry, the owners, as they attempt to explain from a couch how Dalglish's departure was part of a strategy that had been in place all along.

Henry says: 'When we first talked with Kenny he understood and we understood that there was going to be a time when he stepped aside when we found the right person for the long term.

'He said to me in our first conversation that he would be ready for that.'

That right person, they hope, is Rodgers. This series is dependant on him, seemingly both as the willing and able supplier of soundbites and also as the man who will deliver the contrast to the programme's introduction.

In terms of the soundbites, he has made a fast start. In discussing his family work ethic, he says: 'I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I was born with a silver shovel'.

During some of the excellent scenes where he discusses his coaching philosophy, he says: 'You educate players, you train a dog.'

Slow start: Rodgers' Liverpool side have struggled so far this season

Slow start: Rodgers' Liverpool side have struggled so far this season

Board games anyone Luis Suarez (centre) is filmed playing Monopoly with team-mate Lucas Leiva

Board games anyone Luis Suarez (centre) is filmed playing Monopoly with team-mate Lucas Leiva

Later he says: 'Every player I see as a son.' The American audience will love it, which is largely the point, but it's also a risk.

Given the footage already accrued and, indeed, some of the David Brent-at-his-desk-style interviews with Rodgers, it won't be difficult to lampoon the manager if he isn't given the time to implement his brilliant playing systems.

The programme is about more than Rodgers. The first episode introduces characters from the club doctor and Rodgers' family to the players.

In one clip, during the club's pre-season tour to the US, the now departed Charlie Adam is having a 'conversation' with Boston Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross.

'Ever play cricket' asks Ross. 'No,' says Adam. And almost nothing else. Wonderfully awkward.

Face of a star: The scenes where Rodgers talks about his coaching philosophy are particularly revealing

Face of a star: The scenes where Rodgers talks about his coaching philosophy are particularly revealing

Steven Gerrard takes the crew inside his home and shows a bit of his frustration at living with four women but no son, while another scene shows Lucas playing Monopoly with Luis Suarez and discussing the need for the foreign players to stick together.

Fabio Borini, in a fascinating scene during his medical, tells the doctor about his difficulty sleeping during Italy's Euro 2012 campaign.

In all, it covers a lot of bases, as Henry would say.

*The first in a six-part documentary series airs in the US on Sunday.

Sir Alex Ferguson at 70: Famous quotes

Fergie at 70: Famous quotes from Manchester United boss

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates his 70th birthday this weekend, and still reigns supreme as Manchester United boss.

The Scot has provided a host of memorable quotes in various interviews over the years and here, Sportsmail recalls some of the best soundbites.

“I can”t believe it. I can”t believe it. Football. Bloody hell.”
After winning the Champions League final against Bayern Munich on May 26, 1999.

“It”s getting tickly now – squeaky-bum time, I call it.”
During the climax to the 2002-03 title race between Arsenal and United.

Sealed with a kiss: Sir Alex Ferguson toasts Manchester United

Sealed with a kiss: Sir Alex Ferguson toasts Manchester United”s 1999 Champions League success

“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 Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, 1996.

“He could start a row in an empty house.” – On Dennis Wise.

“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.” – On Jose Mourinho.

Pain game: Ferguson infamously split David Beckham

Pain game: Ferguson infamously split David Beckham”s head by kicking a boot at him in the dressing room

“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!”
Explaining how he kicked a boot in the United dressing room that hit David Beckham in the face.

“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.”
Before playing Inter Milan in the Champions League quarter-final, 1999.

“My greatest challenge is not what”s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their ******* perch. And you can print that.”
On Alan Hansen questioning his future in 2002.

Talking a good game: Ferguson has entertained throughout the years with some unforgettable quotes

Talking a good game: Ferguson has entertained throughout the years with some unforgettable quotes