“IT WASN’T a bed of nails I was ever tempted to lie on,” former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson says of the England job he turned down twice in his new book: My Autobiography, which goes on sale today.
According to Ferguson the Football Association first made an approach for his services in 1999 before Kevin Keegan succeeded Glenn Hoddle and then again ahead of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s appointment in 2001.
Ferguson, who managed Scotland at the World Cup in 1986, had several of his United stars in the England set-up at that time including future captain David Beckham, plus Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.
However, the proud Scotsman makes it clear he wasted little time in dismissing both of the FA’s invitations.
“There was no way I could contemplate taking the England job,” he says. “Can you imagine me doing that? A Scotsman? I always joked I would take the position and relegate them: make them the 150th rated country in the world with Scotland 149.”
Ferguson dedicates entire chapters in his book to some of the biggest stars to grace Old Trafford.
He talks at length about his frustration with Beckham, persuading “want away” Wayne Rooney to stay, delaying Cristiano Ronaldo’s world record transfer to Real Madrid to make a point to their president Ramon Calderon and the bitter end to fiery former captain Roy Keane’s United career.
The 71-year-old also talks candidly about his relationship with rival managers, stating his admiration for Jose Mourinho, detailing a fall-out with Arsene Wenger and sharing his opinion that Rafael Benitez was “a silly man” for making their duel personal.
Beckham, Ferguson says, was distracted by his desire to become a celebrity, which cost him the chance to become “one of the greatest Man United legends”. “At some point in his life,” Ferguson continues, “he may feel the urge to say: I made a mistake.”
It is clear, however, Ferguson is very fond of Beckham describing him as “a son” and a “wonderful boy”.
The book details how the beginning of the end of the midfielder’s United career came following a 2-0 home defeat in February 2003 to Arsenal where Beckham did not take kindly to criticism of his unwillingness to track back in the build-up to the second goal.
A confrontation between the two in the dressing room ended with Ferguson kicking a boot in Beckham’s face. The player’s wound was photographed as he appeared with his hair tied back and Ferguson then told the board it was time to sell.
Keane was another who left Old Trafford once Ferguson said so. The former manager says Keane has “the most savage tongue you can imagine” and told assistant Carlos Queiroz to “get rid of him” following an unaired interview with the club’s television channel MUTV in which he launched an astonishing attack on several team-mates that led to a dressing room confrontation.
Keane said in response last night: “I remember having conversations about loyalty. In my opinion he doesn’t know the meaning of the word.”
THE SCOT SHARES HIS INNERMOST THOUGHTS
I know you want to go to Real Madrid. But I’d rather shoot you than sell you to that guy [Ramon Calderon] now.
RONALDO’S REAL MOVE ON HOLD
[Frank] Lampard was a marvellous servant for Chelsea, but I didn’t think of him as an elite international footballer. And I am one of the few who felt [Steven] Gerrard was not a top, top player.
OVER-RATED ENGLAND PLAYERS
Of all the setbacks I endured nothing compared to losing the league to City.
Away from the game Arsene Wenger is a cool customer. But when it comes to his team – to matchday – he is a completely different animal.
RIVALRY WITH ARSENAL BOSS
You can’t discuss both sides of the issue with Daniel [Levy]. It’s about him and Tottenham, nothing more, which is no bad thing from his club’s perspective
NEGOTIATING WITH SPURS