Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Sir Alex Ferguson: I had to give Manchester United defender Jonny Evans a shake

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 24: Manchester United fans queue as they wait for Sir Alex Ferguson to sign their copies of his autbography at the Stretford Tesco Extra on October 24, 2013 in Manchester, England. Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has launched his new autobiography revealing the inside story on his relationships with football stars such as David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

SIR Alex Ferguson has revealed in his book that Jonny Evans 'needed a shake' to take him to a new level, leading the Scot to predict the Northern Ireland star will become the cornerstone of the Manchester United defence for years to come.

Ferguson's new autobiography has been the talk of football with his hard-hitting views on former Old Trafford stars Roy Keane, David Beckham and Mark Bosnich making waves across the world.

The former Manchester United manager has also weighed in on Jose Mourinho, Roberto Mancini, Arsene Wenger, Rafael Benitez, Kenny Dalglish and about being offered the England job TWICE.

Even current United players such as Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand warrant their own chapters in 'Alex Ferguson My Autobiography'. Northern Ireland star Evans also gets the Fergie treatment with the 25-year-old defender mentioned in 11 pages.

It is clear there have been some testing times between the two, though Ferguson new feels Evans represents the future for the club.

In the book, Ferguson tells how he fined and suspended Evans, Wayne Rooney and Londonderry-born Republic of Ireland international Darron Gibson, now with Everton. In a chapter entitled 'Rooney', Ferguson says: "In the winter of 2011, I did have to take disciplinary action after Wayne (Rooney), Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson had a night out. They went across to Southport to a hotel to celebrate our 5-0 Boxing Day win against Wigan. They came into training the next day weary.

"I went into the gymnasium where they were doing their exercises and told them they would be fined a week's wages and not considered for selection against Blackburn on the Saturday."

United lost that home match 3-2 – a crucial defeat in the 2011-2012 season when Manchester City won the title.

In his latter years in charge, Ferguson was content to play Evans alongside either Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand, but decided with the Serb and Englishman not getting any younger he would recruit younger defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

Ferguson says the arrival of that pair did not initially go down well with Evans, who the manager felt had become too comfortable. "Evans, I think, needed a shake," said Ferguson. "He didn't appreciate me signing Jones and Smalling. It caused him to question my opinion of him.

"But he proved himself in his own right and did increasingly well for us. It's always gratifying when a player responds to new arrivals by redoubling his efforts."

That show of character impressed Ferguson, who adds: "Long term, I could imagine a central defence forming around Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans."

Whether Ferguson's successor David Moyes feels the same way remains to be seen. At the start of the season it appeared Evans had been frozen out by Moyes, but lately the Ulsterman has come into the new manager's plans and played in United's 1-0 Champions League win over Real Sociedad on Wednesday.

While Evans is mentioned in the book more than anyone else from Northern Ireland, there are others from our wee country included, such as former United goalkeeping great Harry Gregg.

Ferguson stated that just a few days after losing the Premier League title to Manchester City, the healing process began at Windsor Park at Harry's testimonial. "On the Tuesday we were down to go to Belfast to play in Harry Gregg's testimonial," said Ferguson. "It was hard to lift the players, but it turned out to be quite inspiring, because Harry Gregg had been a great servant and the support was wonderful. It helped us push the disappointment through the system."

Ferguson, whose dad played for Glentoran, has always enjoyed close links with our wee country. In his time as boss at Old Trafford, several Northern Ireland internationals played for him: Roy Carroll, Mal Donaghy, Keith Gillespie, David Healy, Pat McGibbon, Philip Mulryne, Norman Whiteside and Evans.

There is a cursory mention for Gillespie relating to how he was part of the swap deal that took Andy Cole from Newcastle to Manchester United while Whiteside, who was pushed out of the door by Ferguson, is labelled a 'great player'. Ferguson also discusses the death of George Best and the 'shy and nervous' character of the man many United fans still believe was the club's finest footballer ever.

Had Bestie ever played for Fergie... what a book that would have made.

Fergie's views on

Enjoying Martin O'Neill's company: Whenever people came to my room at the ground after a game, I always made sure there was a good atmosphere. There was no gloom, no frostiness. No blaming the referee.

When Aston Villa beat us at Old Trafford in the 2009/2010 season, it was the first time they had beaten us on our turf in decades.

Martin O'Neill, whose conversation I always enjoy, practically moved into my office, with his wife and daughter. It felt like an hour and a half. It was a really good night. John Robertson, Martin's assistant, and a few of my friends joined us and it turned into a real get-together. I ended up needing a driver to take me home.

His rift with Pat Rice: Although Arsene (Wenger) would never come in for a drink after games, Pat Rice, his assistant, would always cross the threshold for a glass, until the pizza fight at Old Trafford.

That day created a division between us (and Arsenal), without doubt, and that rift extended to Pat Rice, who stopped coming in for a drink after games. The wound was not fully healed until the Champions League semi-final in 2009 when Arsene invited us into his room after the game and congratulated us. When we played them at Old Trafford a few weeks later, Arsene came in with Pat, just for a few minutes.

Brendan Rodgers becoming Liverpool boss: Brendan Rodgers was only 39. I was surprised they gave it to such a young coach. A mistake I felt John Henry made in Brendan's first weeks in charge in June 2012 was to sanction a fly-on-the-wall documentary designed to reveal the intimacies of life at Liverpool.

To put that spotlight on such a young guy was hard and it came across badly. It made no great impact in America, so I could not work out what the point of it was. Brendan certainly gave youth a chance, which was admirable.

And he achieved a reasonable response from his squad. I think he knew there had been some sub-standard buys. (Jordan) Henderson and (Stewart) Downing were among those who would need to prove their credentials. In general, you have to give players you might not rate a chance.