You may be amongst those that think I speak and write absolute drivel. I’ve long accepted that there are a few of you out thereor maybe more than a few!
But what I ask people to understand is that whatever you read in this column or hear on 5 Live it’s my honest view. I don’t deal in ‘lies’ and never do anything just to provoke a reaction. Sadly, that isn’t true of some I come across. PerhapsSir Alex?
One of the earliest incidents of ‘friction’ between myself and the Manchester United manager came about after a Friday visit to the old training ground, The Cliff. I’d gone there for the regular media briefing with Jimmy Armfield who was still writing then for the Daily Express. He’d arranged an interview with Mark Hughes.
Unfortunately, Ferguson ‘briefed’ that Hughes wasn’t fit to play the following day but that Steve Bruce, who everyone thought was injured, definitely would.
Jim waited afterwards for the players to emerge following training and, spotting Hughes, suggested to the Welshman that, in the circumstances, it might be best postponing the interview. “Why?” “Well, Fergie says you’re not playing,” replied Jim. “I am,” said Mark.
On the Saturday, regarding the team news which saw Hughes play but not Bruce, I told radio listeners that I wouldn’t in future listen to any propaganda that might come out of the Manchester United manager’s office — I’d be happy to identify the United players when they took to the pitch.
I won’t detail the torrent of abuse I took from Alex when he later sought me out. Let’s just say he was beyond furious that I hadn’t ‘swallowed his line.’
Sothe point of the story? Whilst his power remains undiminished — the omission of Rooney said it all — I wouldn’t pay too much attention to weekend reports that Sir Alex will continue to be the United boss for another three years and then he’ll retire.
I don’t know when he’ll go but experience tells me he’ll not tell ANYBODY bar wife Kathy in advance, not even the club’s own television station which, he knows, is a prime source of material for the media.
I’m NOT saying he is a liar. That Hughes/Bruce tale was almost certainly simply to confuse the opposition.
But Sir Alex, more than anyone I’ve met in football, measures very carefully what he says in public for its likely effect elsewhere. Does he really believe, for instance, that Spurs are playing the best football in the country or was that said as another dig at the ‘noisy neighbours’? At times, his ‘propaganda’ is truly an art form.
He wrote glowingly in Saturday’s programme about his current squad but ask United supporters if they think it’s good enough or strong enough and I doubt a majority will agree with the boss.
Jimmy Armfield does and said as much during the 5 Live commentary but I didn’t feel it was the time or place to confront his view. I might just have said the words “Manchester City?”
And what if it’s true about Alex’s retirement prediction? Wouldn’t that rule out Jose Mourinho who intends returning to England before then and has Old Trafford in his sights? Actually, thinking about it, maybe the ‘message’ was aimed at Madrid.
I wouldn’t put it past him.