LONDON - I’ll never forget a conversation I had with Sir Alex Ferguson in the Old Trafford tunnel after a game in 2004. Manchester United had just beaten Tottenham and as I left the changing room Sir Alex stopped me to ask after my dad, Harry.
At the end of a brief chat, I said: "Your No 7 is a bit special. That’s some player you’ve got." He replied: "Trust me, in a few years that lad will be the best player in the world."
That player, of course, was Cristiano Ronaldo. Over the years I enjoyed plenty of battles with Ferguson’s teams. There was the final day in May 1995 when my dad’s West Ham side stopped him winning the title while I was facing champions-elect Blackburn with Liverpool.
Sir Alex also sent Southampton down in 2005, ensuring my playing career ended in relegation.
But whenever I watch Ronaldo now I am reminded of that afternoon 14 years ago when Sir Alex told me he had unearthed a genius.
I wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to plenty more football conversations with the great man soon.
I was preparing for Match of the Day when news reached the studio that Sir Alex Ferguson had been taken ill.
It had been a day of huge drama at the foot of the Premier League but none of that mattered. Our thoughts were only with Sir Alex and his family.
He was Arsenal’s biggest adversary when they were battling Manchester United for Premier League titles. Never mind their great players such as David Beckham and Ryan Giggs — when you played United, it felt like you were taking on Ferguson.
Sir Alex was effectively their 12th man on the pitch. Such was his influence on referees that it was always in the back of my mind that I should try to usher him away in the tunnel should he approach the officials at half-time.
He was hell-bent on winning yet still took the time to come into our dressing room and congratulate us after we won the title at Old Trafford in 2002 — even though he must have been hurting.
I have the utmost respect for Sir Alex. He is the ultimate fighter and I wish him all the best in his recovery.
Such is Sir Alex Ferguson’s meticulous eye for detail that as Manchester United manager he assigned members of the SAS to monitor potential transfer targets — including me.
While at Norwich I was given the chance to move to Old Trafford. Though I chose to sign for Blackburn instead, I was surprised to learn years later that the scouting process extended beyond the pitch.
In his book, Manchester United: The Untold Story the club’s former head of security, Ned Kelly, revealed that I was watched 24 hours a day for two weeks.
There was still a big drinking culture among footballers in the early Nineties. Sir Alex wanted his club to be the elite and needed to know that his recruits behaved correctly on and off the pitch. It shows just how ahead of the game he was. How often now do we discuss whether a player has the right character for a big move?
I faced Sir Alex several times during my career. He had an uncanny knack of getting inside your head, not least when we were closing in on the title at Blackburn in 1995.
I wish him a speedy recovery — many of today’s bosses could still learn a thing or two from the master of the mind games.
Jamie Redknapp played for Bournemouth, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton and made seven England appearances during his career.