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Sir Alex Ferguson’s booze U-turn with NI legend Norman Whiteside

Ex-NI and United hero Whiteside enjoys glass of wine with Fergie these days... but it wasn’t always like that

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Norman Whiteside

Norman Whiteside

Norman Whiteside with Paul McGrath

Norman Whiteside with Paul McGrath

Sir Alex Ferguson. Credit: Martin Rickett/PA

Sir Alex Ferguson. Credit: Martin Rickett/PA

PA

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Norman Whiteside

Football legend Norman Whiteside has said his old boss Sir Alex Ferguson has changed his tactics when it comes to booze!

Fergie used to clamp down on the Belfast man’s drinking when he played under him at Manchester United in the Eighties.

But now Norman says every time he has seen his former manager since, Sir Alex is plying him with alcohol.

He laughed: “What’s ironic now is that Fergie and I have become good friends and after I had finished playing he would often invite me into his office after games for some scampi and a glass of wine.

“I always joked with him that in the past he didn’t want me to have any drink and now he was pouring it down my neck.”

Norman (56) became an Old Trafford icon after making his debut at 16 under Ron Atkinson and scoring the winner in the 1985 FA Cup final.

But when Sir Alex took over the reins a year later he cracked down on the drinking culture at the club, with Norman, Paul McGrath and Bryan Robson the main boozers in his sights.

In new book Fergie: Under The Hairdryer, Norman lifted the lid on life at the Red Devils and told how the fiery Scot, now 80, tackled the big hitters by reading them the riot act.

He said: “A hardcore of the boys would go out socialising at Manchester United before the arrival of Alex Ferguson.

“We never went out on a drinking session 48 hours before a game. On the Sunday after a game some of the boys would meet up and we would sit all day and drink Guinness.

“At the end of the night we’d do the usual — have a curry, have a sing song and have a few laughs. When Fergie came in he tried to lay down the law.

“We were all told to report to the gym on his first day and it was straight to the point. He opened up with, ‘I’m Alex Ferguson. I’m the manager of Manchester United now. I don’t care who you are, if you’re Whiteside, Robson, McGrath or Strachan or whoever. I’m the manager of Manchester United from this day forward.’”

Whiteside said: “You couldn’t get away with anything. He was at the training ground from early morning to night. It came from his working-class ethic and we’d already had a bit of a heads up from Gordon Strachan, who had played under him at Aberdeen.

“He quickly had spies everywhere. People were forever ringing him up and letting him know if they had seen someone with a drink in their hand.

“I never tried to hide anything. I would go up to him and say, ‘Before anyone rings you, I was out last night’.

“He went berserk when Paul McGrath and I went on Granada TV one Friday night for a live interview. Paul was always nervous before interviews so I think he had a few shots before he went on to help calm the nerves.

“It may have looked like we were both drunk, but I can assure you I wasn’t. The next time at training the manager had strong words with Paul. I think United were considering terminating his contract. They wanted to split us up.”


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