London – Sir Alex Ferguson tears into bitter rival Rafa Benitez in his new autobiography, describing him as a “silly man” and “a control freak” who has no friends in management.
But there is wider criticism for Liverpool over the Luis Suarez affair and even the appointment of Brendan Rodgers as manager.
Ferguson also dares suggest that Michael Owen would have been a better player had he joined Manchester United and not Liverpool as a 12-year-old and is scathing of the key signings Kenny Dalglish made during his second spell as manager at Anfield.
For Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, My Autobiography will not make pleasant reading.
His most damning words, however, are reserved for Benitez. Fergie claims the former Liverpool manager would rather destroy a game than win it and says the players cannot understand the instructions the animated Benitez gives from the touchline. He also accuses the Spaniard of consistently playing Steven Gerrard out of position.
While he says he could see a strategy in the signings Gerard Houllier made at Liverpool, he could see nothing of the kind during Benitez’s tenure. He describes his team as the “most unimaginative Liverpool side I ever went up against” in 27 years at Old Trafford.
“The mistake he made was to turn our rivalry personal,” writes Ferguson. “Once you made it personal, you had no chance, because I could wait. I had success on my side.”
He also claims the infamous “fact” press conference Benitez gave in January 2009 was staged with a planted question, adding that “the facts were all wrong”.
Ferguson had several other run-ins with Benitez, accusing him of arrogance for calling Everton a small club in 2007 and treating fellow managers with contempt after making a ‘game over’ gesture during Liverpool’s 2010 win over Blackburn, who were then managed by Sam Allardyce.
Ferguson re-ignited their feud, criticising Benitez’s transfer policy at Anfield, questioning the quality of the players as “not of true Liverpool standard” and claiming he was lucky to get the Chelsea job.
One Benitez signing he does compliment is Fernando Torres, a player Fergie tried to sign two years before his arrival at Liverpool. He describes him as a player of “great cunning” with a “touch of evil”.
On Gerrard, Ferguson says he was “baffled” that Benitez “did not trust” his captain as a central midfielder.
He says Liverpool have stopped producing homegrown talents, identifying Owen as the last. Even so he suggests that had Owen joined United at 12, he “would have been one of the great strikers”.
He does credit Benitez with getting his players to work hard for him, acknowledging that you never see one of his teams “throw in the towel”.
But he adds that “Benitez had more regard for defending and destroying a game than winning it”. Comparing the Spanish manager to Jose Mourinho, he believes the Portuguese to be more astute with dealing with players.
On Dalglish’s return to Liverpool in January 2011, Ferguson says few of the Liverpool manager’s signings gave him nightmares. Jordan Henderson, in his opinion, has a “gait” that “will cause him problems later in his career”. Apparently “he runs from his knees with a straight back”. He identifies Stewart Downing as a £20million player lacking courage and speed and he is no fan of Carroll either, citing problems with his “mobility” and “his speed across the ground”.
He also criticises Dalglish for his blind defence of Luis Suarez over the Patrice Evra race row. “If it had been a reserve player, would Kenny have gone to such lengths to defend him?” he asks.
On the Suarez T-shirt stunt that Liverpool chose to stage at Wigan in December 2011, Ferguson adds that it was ridiculous for a club of their standing.
He expresses surprise that Rodgers was appointed as Dalglish’s replacement, given that he was “only” 39. He also says the fly-on-the-wall documentary that followed Rodgers at the start of his tenure was a “mistake”.
A measure of how much he disliked Liverpool comes in an anecdote he tells about the incredible title decider between them and Arsenal in 1989.
Ferguson watched the game in his bedroom at home, telling wife Cathy that he did not want to be disturbed. “When Michael Thomas scored I went berserk.”
Certainly Liverpool were the team Ferguson wanted to beat most. Even during his last season, he was still saying that the club from the other end of the East Lancs Road was the one his supporters most wanted to beat.
“I could always feel their hot breath on my neck from 25 miles away,” writes Ferguson, whose respect for Liverpool endured.
He admired the culture of the Liverpool boot room and how the manager’s office at Anfield used to be one of the best places to go for a drink after a game, no matter the result.
ME, RIO AND THE RAP STAR...
Ferguson blames drug testers for allowing Rio Ferdinand to leave United’s training ground and miss the test that led to the “brutal punishment” of an eight-month ban in 2003. But he did order his £30million defender to curtail his off-field interests, losing his cool when Ferdinand arranged to interview rap star P Diddy in America. “Give me a break Rio, is he going to make you a better centre half?” said Ferguson.
His stance on the Ferdinand drug test is sure to invite criticism from the sporting community. It has long been recognised that it is the athlete’s responsibility to attend a test once informed of the request to give a sample. Having been told he was required to attend a random drug test, Ferdinand left the training ground claiming he had forgotten and instead taken himself shopping.
Ferguson acknowledges that Ferdinand was informed by the club doctor, Mike Stone, that he was required when the testers arrived at United’s Carrington training base. But he says the testers were “nowhere to be seen”. “Rio made a mistake but so did the drug people,” he writes.
“Rio was not a drug taker,” he adds. “We would have known. It shows in their eyes.”
He comes across as a huge admirer of Ferdinand, but he did take issue with wide-ranging off-field interests which include a media company and a restaurant.
He warned Ferdinand he would “not be with us much longer” if he didn’t change but credits the defender with responding to the warning in the correct way.
Ferguson also says England coach Roy Hodgson called him asking if he thought Ferdinand “could work with” John Terry following Terry’s conflict with Rio’s brother Anton. Hodgson has always maintained that he dropped Ferdinand for footballing reasons.
STEVIE’S NO SCHOLES
Steven Gerrard is not a “top, top player,” according to Sir Alex Ferguson, who felt the Liverpool and England captain “seldom had a kick” when coming up against a midfield of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.
But despite this, Ferguson admits he did try to buy him in 2005. Gerrard has spoken of Ferguson’s desire to sign him and the story is confirmed in the Scotsman’s autobiography.
“We made a show of him in the transfer market, as did Chelsea, because the vibe was that he wanted to move from Anfield,” writes Ferguson. “But there seemed to be some restraining influence from people outside the club and it reached a dead end.”
FRIGHTENING KEANE WAS SO SAVAGE
Roy Keane’s personality changed at Manchester United when he began to lose his dominance in midfield, according to Sir Alex Ferguson.
In his book he also reveals details of the Irishman’s Old Trafford exit, writing of the “relief” felt in the dressing room when the former skipper left the club in 2005.
Ferguson also says Keane agreed to clear the air with Ireland boss Mick McCarthy and stay with the team at the 2002 World Cup, only for McCarthy to give a press conference that left Keane with no way back.
Ferguson recalls an incident when the Irishman rejected three different villas during pre-season in Portugal in 2005, on the grounds that one room in each did not have air conditioning. Ferguson says it was their first major row and the beginning of the end for Keane at United. The final straw was Keane’s MUTV interview in 2005, after a 4-1 defeat at Middlesbrough. “That was a killer,” said Ferguson. In the interview, Keane described Kieran Richardson as “lazy” while attacking Darren Fletcher and Rio Ferdinand.
Ferguson confirms the video was intercepted before broadcast, but says the situation became a crisis when Keane found an ally in Gary Neville. To Ferguson’s astonishment he echoed his captain in criticising Carlos Queiroz’s training.
Ferguson felt Keane had the power to turn teammates against him and branded the interview “a disgrace”. Keane then suggested they watch the tape as a group and let the players decide. Ferguson agreed. Edwin van der Sar was the first to criticise Keane and was supported by Ruud van Nistelrooy. Keane attacked both before turning on Quieroz, although Ferguson says he “saved the best for me” and accused the manager of bringing his private life into the club over the Rock of Gibraltar affair. “Keane has the most savage tongue you can imagine,” says Ferguson, before confessing to how “frightening” he can be.
Ferguson and Quieroz decided they had to “get rid of him”. “I think the dressing room relaxed when Roy left,” writes Ferguson. “Relief swept the room.”
On the World Cup walkout, Ferguson writes of how he asked Keane to think of the impact it could have on his family. Keane was furious about the facilities when players arrived in Saipan, and gave an interview to the Irish Times that prompted McCarthy to confront him. Ferguson says Keane agreed to patch things up but McCarthy attacked him in a press conference before he got chance and Keane flew home.
Ferguson believes the root of the problem at United was Keane’s difficulty in facing up to being a fading force, writing: “I believe that Roy Keane’s behaviour changed when he realised he was no longer the Keane of old.”
Finally, Ferguson gives a scathing assessment of Keane’s managerial prowess, accusing him of panic buying.
“I didn’t feel Roy had the patience to build a team,” he says.
I TURNED DOWN ENGLAND…TWICE
Sir Alex Ferguson says he was approached twice by the FA to become England manager; first in 1999 prior to the appointment of Kevin Keegan and second in 2001 before Sven Goran Eriksson got the job.
In his autobiography, Ferguson also reveals how the FA wrote to him last year asking him not to discuss Harry Redknapp’s prospects of replacing Fabio Capello ahead of Roy Hodgson.
“I was offered the job on two occasions,” said Ferguson.
“There was no way I could contemplate taking the England job,” he said. “Can you imagine me doing that? A Scotsman?”
Ferguson jokes he would have tried to “relegate them”.
Ferguson also highlights what he considers the crucial mistake made by Steve McClaren during his brief but difficult tenure as England manager.
McClaren was Fergie’s No 2 when United won their European and domestic treble in 1999. But Ferguson writes: “The England job requires a particular talent and that skill is the ability to handle the press.”
Ferguson says McClaren “made the mistake” of trying to be “pally with one or two”, adding that, if you cut “90 per cent” out, the rest are “after your body”.
Ferguson says he once asked Paul Scholes: “What has Eriksson got?” Scholes, he says, could “shed no light”.
ROONEY AND HIS AGENT ASKED FOR MOVE
Sir Alex Ferguson has repeated his claim that Wayne Rooney asked to leave Manchester United at the end of last season, while also claiming for the first time that the request was repeated by his agent Paul Stretford.
Daily Mail first reported Rooney’s verbal request to leave in a meeting with Ferguson; something that was then admitted by Sir Alex during a television interview but denied by Stretford’s official spokesman.
In his new autobiography, however, Ferguson returns to the subject while also writing of how Rooney struggles to remain in peak condition compared to players like Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo. There is also an indirect criticism of England manager Roy Hodgson for allowing Rooney to go on holiday just before Euro 2012.
Ferguson writes: “He came into my office the day after we won the league and asked away. He wasn’t happy with being left out for some games and subbed in others.
“His agent Paul Stretford phoned David Gill with the same message.”
Ferguson says he left David Moyes to resolve the situation with the 27-year-old striker, but in the same ‘Rooney’ chapter he also reflects on an incident in the winter of 2011 when he had to take disciplinary action against the England star.
Ferguson confirms that Rooney joined Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson on a night out in a Southport hotel and was enraged to discover them “weary” in training next day.
He said they were fined a week’s wages and dropped for the next game against Blackburn. On Rooney’s fitness issues, Ferguson talks of how he needs “to be careful” and states that his qualities as a player can be “swallowed up by a lack of fitness”.
He then adds that it was “not wise” for England to let him take a holiday at a time when he was recovering from injury before Euro 2012 because he might “lose his edge”. – Daily Mail