Sir Alex Ferguson was interviewed by Charlie Rose on Tuesday night on PBS. The famous American interviewer sat down with Ferguson for a candid, one-hour one-on-one interview.
While there are no plans by PBS to re-air the interview anytime soon, here’s the transcript of the interview in case you missed the show:
Thanks a million to Tom Clare of Red News for the transcript.
Alex Ferguson (AF): I never worried about teams who spend what they want to spend. It never bothered me. It never bothered me. At the moment we have a lot of Middle Eastern owners, we have American owners of course, Russian owners. It never bothered me one bit. All I was concerned about was that we at United maintained our level of expectation, be competitive, be at the top part of the League. We might not win it every year, but we’d always be up there competing for it every year. The only consideration I had was to make sure that we are there. You do things different ways. I’ve spoken about young players, and yes, that’s really important that part, but from time to time we have spent big money and brought in the player who could make a difference.
Charlie Rose (CR): Who is the best player that you ever saw?
AF: Och, I’m a Pele fan from way back when I was a kid, and then there was always this thing later about Pele and Maradonna. I was young and impressionable as a kid but it was always Pele for me. Today, I think that you have got to look at Messi and Ronaldo. They are unbelievable. The best today. They are fantastic – absolutely.
CR: The best have what it takes is that correct?
AF: The best have the courage and I say this all the time. The courage to take the ball all the time, the courage to make sure that they are not going to be intimidated by their opponents, and the courage to express themselves at all times and I think that all the great players have got that.
CR: Are they born with it?
AF: Possibly, yes. You can develop them through coaching, but I don’t think that you can ever develop the courage. I think that makes a big difference – you either have courage or you have not.
CR: In some ways it’s like a game of basketball, you always want the best players to have the ball in the last 15 seconds.
AF: When we assessed teams, we looked at who was their player who wanted the ball all the time, who is the one who wants to take the free-kicks all the time, who wants to dominate, and he’s the one that you concentrate upon.
CR: This is what the Economist Magazine said about you; Mr Ferguson could reasonably be described as Britain’s Steve Jobs, given his unorthodox talent obsessed, and sometimes bruising approach to making something beautiful. We’ll talk about all those things, but did you think that you were making something beautiful?
AF: I think that the encouragement that I got from the club during the early days when they stood by me when the times were really difficult, really helped me a lot.
CR: People wanted you fired didn’t they?
AF: Yes, that’s correct. One or two banners were up saying ‘time up’ and things like that, but I think it would be true to say that at that period I did lose a little bit of confidence. However, I didn’t lose my determination. I knew that the things which I was doing at youth level were correct. So the Board, Martin Edwards and Bobby Charlton in particular, stood by me because they knew what was happening. So by doing that, I then knew that I was doing something special with these young players – Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, Butt, the Nevilles. They all came into the first team round about the same time. So when people assess United today, they maybe don’t understand that those boys were the spirit of the club. They created the fantastic spirit of Manchester United as it is today.
CR: Looking at the Harvard Business Review. You went up there and they developed a key study. What was the question? Generally these things have a question.
AF: The main central point of the discussion was love and hate. Do the players love me or, do they hate me, or was there a balance? Of course there was also many different opinions about that, but the central thing to it all was respect. That was always looked for – respect.
CR: So you could have the love or the hate, but you looked for the respect every time?
AF: Yes, that was it.
CR: Suppose that they said love or fear?
AF: Yes, I think that fear does come into it in some respect in the sense of when I lost my temper I didn’t hide behind a bush on it in respect to the times that I did lose my temper. But you know the quality that I had when I lost my temper, I never, ever brought it back again. The next day was another day for me.
CR: You never held grudges?
AF: No, never – I never held a grudge and that’s really, really important. And then they understand what you are and who you are. And they could get support from that.
CR: You are a fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin and her book ‘Team of Rivals’ which was about Lincoln choosing his rivals for his cabinet because he respected their talent plus he wanted them where he could see them.
AF: Yes, he wanted to see who they were and how they would fit into his Cabinet, pretty clever really. And of course I think that Lincoln at that time was facing the most difficult period for a President in terms of the South and the North. He was also very good at not making quick decisions. He thought it all through and allowed his Cabinet to have their say and then he would decide thereafter. It’s a great book, a fabulous book.
CR: Did you see the movie ‘Lincoln’?
CR: Did you like it?
AF: I didn’t think that it was a great movie but I thought that the central piece about the period that it had to deal with was fantastic. The acting in that movie was unbelievable.
CR: By understanding that he had to do everything that he could – push, pull, in order to get emancipation because that was the goal and he understood the consequences, so let’s go all out for emancipation.
AF: There was the situation at Antium when he was able to announce emancipation, and winning that particular battle allowed to give that proclamation. It was such an important time.
CR: You are a kind of student of the Civil War?
AF: Yes, I love it. I think that it is a great history, it’s a young history. The funny thing about it is that I bought a couple of books when I was in Chicago having a week’s holiday. I went to a bookstore, and this is about 14-15 years ago now, and I picked these two books up. Then later in I was in London doing a thing about young apprentices, and Gordon Brown came over and asked me what I was reading at the time, and I told him that I had started to read a couple of books about the Civil war. He said to me; “I’ll send you some tapes.” So he sent me a dozen tapes by a Professor Gary Gallagher, and I was playing them in my car every morning going into work. I got really fascinated by it. It is a fantastic history. I’ve since been to Antium, Gettysburg, Manassas – the Bull Run where the first battle; there was two battles there of course, and I went up to Princeton to meet James McPherson, the great historian of the Civil War who wrote the book ‘Battle Cry of Freedom.’ He was very engaging, and very accommodating to me in terms of how he saw it.
CR: But not WW2, not WW1, not the War of 1812 – it is the Civil War that fascinates you?
AF: I took it on and I grew interested and more interested, and I went to a gentleman’s house down south in Atlanta, and he had every armament that was used in the Civil War, and then he showed me the battle plans of Sherman who burned Atlanta.
CR: Famously saying “War is Hell.”
AF: They destroyed all the rail tracks …
CR: I think he may have said, I’m not sure, “the people who hate war the most are those who fight it.”
AF: Of course and that’s a fact.
CR: Patton may have been the exception! Remember he said “I love it!”
AF: How can you love war?
CR: I think that it was probably command that he loved. Napoleon probably loved war too.
AF: I think that before you enter a war and first go into the army, you think that ‘oh! it’s great to join the army’ but when you get there and go into these combats it’s entirely different, it changes you.
CR: So you go to Harvard Business School and they want to do this case study about all this and the question of love versus hate, and you come up with this thing called the ‘Ferguson Formula’. A formula for leadership, a formula for what? Management?
AF: I think that leadership comes along, there’s no question about that, how you have control of a bunch of millionaires, you know. But there it is, it is quite extraordinary. You have to control that part. I think that there are certain things that I would like to put across, and it was always to make the players better human beings, to develop their character, so that when they leave me they could. Never about teaching them history or mathematics, it’s about inspiring them to be the best that they could possibly be.
CR: You are teaching them life?
AF: Yes, I think that is really important. You also develop their character. You know that if you develop the right character, they won’t let you down. Once they go out on that football field, they are playing for all the things that you have ever taught them. Of the winning mentality, of the determination. How to handle defeat which is always just as important. It helps you develop a group of people that are you. You can see yourself in them, and I think that I have always tried to do that.
CR: So every team member that plays for you, you look at him and see yourself?
AF: Not always, but I do like to try and see myself in them. Everybody is different and express themselves in different ways. There are different kinds of talents of course and there are many who I would never have had the talent that they have when I was a player. But I still had that determination to be successful and try my best.
CR: We met a few days ago and you were talking about the idea that often the best players don’t make good coaches or good managers because they don’t understand someone who doesn’t have the same level of skill.
AF: Yes, it’s a fact that. I remember that I was talking to Bobby Charlton about that, and he’d been the manager at Preston North End, and he couldn’t understand why the players could not understand him. So he gave up on it and he was honest enough to say to himself that it wasn’t for him. It’s a fact of life, I think that if you look at my career and I always say this to anybody who wants to be a coach – prepare to be a coach. At 24 years of age when I left engineering to become full time in football, I made sure that I was never going back to engineering. I was doing all the coaching schools so that I’d be able to stay in the game, and I gave myself a chance by doing that. I was only an average player, could score a goal or two, that sort of thing, but I wasn’t a Bobby Charlton or a Messi, or Ronaldo. There are very, very few really great players who have become great coaches. I think that you can look at Beckenbauer who won the World Cup twice with Germany, once as a player and once as coach. You could look at Cruyff who was a great player and did great things at Barcelona. Other than that I can’t think of any of the really great players who have gone on to become great coaches.
CR: Would it have been for you impossible to manage anywhere else? You could not go somewhere no matter how much they offered you, no matter what the opportunity – or, you might have for the right circumstances to prove to yourself that you could do it again?
AF: There was one or two offers that did come along during my time at United, but I always came back to this point; why would you leave United? Where is the bigger challenge? And the thing about challenges is, once you have won something, you can’t live on that. Not at Manchester United – you have got to win the next one. And that’s the challenge. Maintaining that consistency of winning which is a mentality that I have had. Every time we won the League, we would celebrate the night – the next day was another day for me. Where are we going forward? So therefore when clubs came to me and offered me jobs, I thought to myself, “Where is the bigger challenge?” Creating history at United or trying to create somewhere else when I would have start again and build on the philosophies I had when I first came to United.
CR: Let me talk about these principles which are in this article in what’s called the Ferguson Formula. Start with the foundation – what’s that?
AF: Well you start with what you believe in. I believe in building a football club rather than building a football team. I can understand coaches who concentrate on building a football team because it gives them a job. It’s a results industry. You only have to look at Paolo Di Canio last week – 5-6 games into his first season at Sunderland. They allow him to spend £19 million and then they sack him. To me, there is no evidence that that is going to bring success. So in building a football club I wasn’t interested in losing my job because of the results of the first team. I knew that I had to do a job in terms of building the football club, so we worked really hard with the youth system and we made sure that we had a solid foundation that would hold the fort for years and years. So when you see a Manchester United team, we got to a position where I could plan ahead. So I could see three years ahead where this team was going knowing that I had certain players coming through the youth system who would step up when the time was right.
CR: The second one was – dare to rebuild your team which you have briefly touched upon. Even though team may have another great season ahead of them, if in fact you know that to have a good team the next year, the next year, and the next year, you have to rebuild. Even at the sacrifice say of winning?
AF: Well the horrible part of the job really is when you have players who have been with you for years the evidence is always on the football field. So when you see a player and you notice that the level has started to dip, there is no point on waiting another two years. You have to act because you will only hurt yourself. He’ll not want to recognize that the day has come when he has had his time. To have to say that to a player and make the change is very, very difficult. You can only do that if you have a system where you can fill the gaps and rebuild the team. Over the years I have probably built maybe five teams, through the consistency of being there as a manager, and the continuity of the youth system, and the players that you have are not joining last. Even the ones that we buy are not going to last for two or three years. You want them to be lasting six, seven, eight years. So you have to buy at a good age, maybe 22/23 because they have had good experience playing elsewhere and they have got plenty of years left in them. So you can build a continuity of team.
CR: So the main point here is that you have got to be ruled by your head and not your heart?
AF: Oh! Absolutely. It’s a horrible part of the game when you have to tell a player, probably somebody who has helped you win so much that his time is up. You treat them like family, and because they are your family it becomes even more hurting in the sense that you have got to say “well son, I’m sorry, you won’t be a regular here, but you will still have a career elsewhere.’ It’s happened more than a few times but it is not an easy thing to handle.
CR: Then you say that you have got to set high standards and hold everyone to them.
AF: Absolutely. Every training session there is high expectation. The concentration has to be right, and any deficiencies will always manifest themselves on a Saturday, and that’s what we look for at United. I would never envisage having a bad session in terms of the training. We wanted to make sure that the players were completely concentrated on what they were doing.
CR: The training sessions had purpose. You knew exactly what they would be doing in order to get ready for Saturday.
CR: The other one is – never cede control – ever. You have to be in control?
AF: Well the point I’ll make is that you are dealing with very rich young men. I always said to the directors that the minute a player becomes more powerful than the manager of Manchester United, it’s not Manchester United. You have lost control of the whole club. So I always made sure that I was in control. They always knew who the manager was.
CR: Your word was law?
AF: If you want to put it as blunt as that – yes. But you don’t necessarily need to use power in that situation. the control is nice but they know who the manager is, and they know that it is me who is going to make the decisions. They know that they can trust me which is really important. They know that I had the ability to adapt to change, and they have seen that many times over the years. I think these are important parts of being in control of footballers.
CR: What does this mean – match the message to the moment?
AF: The moment that we look for is that they are aware that every game is about winning. We try to get the message across that this is the moment that we have got to win. Every week, my expectation of you is to win the match.
CR: But to come back, and be able to say to yourself that you’re that close to defeat?
AF: There has to be a moment when they realize that they have to show their character to overcome this. We’ve had some great moments. We’ve been behind at half-time and winning games late on.
CR: You liked that didn’t you?
AF: Oh! yes. I loved that. I was a bit of a gambler that way because I always used to say to them at half-time, “Be patient. The last fifteen minutes throw the kitchen sink at them. It’s worth a gamble” You are going to lose the game anyway. There is nothing better than when you get to that last fifteen minutes and you actually win the game late on. The fans are going out of the gates I gave it a try and it worked.
CR: Rely on the power of observation.
AF: It’s an important part that people don’t recognize. I remember when it first dawned on me. I had a young coach at Aberdeen. He said to me, “Why am I here?” So I says “What are you talking about?” He said, “Well, I do nothing. You shouldn’t be doing all the training sessions, you should be in control of the training sessions and let me get on with it.” I said “No, I’m not having that.” He told me that he thought that I was wrong. We had an old trainer there at the time, teddy Scott – he was a great old man. He said to me, “Boss – he’s right.” So I thought about it. We gave it a try and it worked. It was amazing what you were actually watching. Seeing the player’s habits. Seeing the little defects in their performance. You could see sometimes that a player was not quite right on the day and you would wonder what was wrong with him. It could be a million things. And that observation I’ve carried through with me all my career and I’ve used that really well.
CR: You have to make sure that you really are ‘in the moment’ because it is only when you are in the moment that you can see with great focus. You always have to say to yourself, “What is happening here? What is going on?”
AF: That’s the power of observation. You don’t take your eyes of it. By doing that all the time you increase your ability to see things happening
CR: And then there is – never stop adapting – you constantly have to change.
AF: Always. If you have a look at United today Charlie, the training ground is absolutely fantastic. There is only one thing that they don’t do at United, and that is they don’t do operations. MRIs. CT scans, they can do dentistry, they can do the pediatrician work – they can do all sorts of things. That’s one of the things that I fully embraced, and one of the things that I talked to david Gill about. I said, “One of the things that you want to do at this club David, is that when a player is here, he sees that we have the best facilities and that we are always adapting. Sports science for instance. About ten years ago our Doctor came to me and he says “You know, I think that we should really be thinking about sports science.” I said, “Well tell me about it.” He told me that there was two or three clubs experimenting with it, and that we really needed to be ahead of the times. It wasn’t hard to make sure that he was convincing me. He then built his team around young men who had great ideas – ideas jumping out of their head. Great energy, and it took United up a gear again. I always say that to adapt, you only adapt if it is going to give you at least 1% improvement, and progress, and it’s always the sensible way to look at it. Every year at United we adapted to different things all the time. It’s quite amazing.
CR: Let me talk about some of the great players who have played under you. Ryan Giggs you have already mentioned.
AF: He’s wonderful. At thirteen years of age he was actually training with Manchester City when I went to his house.
CR: You and I talked about this the other night. This happens in sports here in terms of basketball coaches recruiting these young kids, because they go there very early when they are 12-13 years old, and you said to me, “You’ve got to get to their mother.”
AF: So it got to a level where me and my assistant, who was Archie Knox at the time, and we were going up to his house every second night. It got to a level when Ryan’s mother said to me, “Will you be back on Thursday?” She was buying in tea for us and supper! The mother is always the strong character in the family home, without doubt. I was always saying to all my scouts “get the Mother.”
CR: Mothers want the best for their sons, they want the best coach because they think that manager/coach will bring the best of their son’s talents out.
AF: There is always a danger with the family in that the Father will try and live his live through the boy. in that the Father will try and live his live through the boy. You get a lot of that, not always, but I have seen a lot of evidence of that and the mother doesn’t do it that way. She is always of the idea that she wants the best for her boy.
CR: Gary Neville?
AF: Aw, fantastic character. Gary wakes up every morning at six o’clock. Reads every newspaper. He wants to know what’s going on in the world and he’s got a moan about everything. But he is such a successful person. He’s now doing this television punditry and he’s very good. He’s also doing very well in business. I wanted to bring him onto my staff but he didn’t want to do that. He’s now with the English FA. He’s wearing many, many hats now. He’s a very, very determined character.
CR: Then there was a fellow named David Beckham?
AF: David, yeah – an amazing boy yeah? I mean what he’s done for himself and what he’s created for himself. He’s an icon for young people, he’s fantastic. He’s a wonderful boy.
CR: How did he do that?
AF: Well, he always had a lovely smile. He’s always presented himself well. As a young kid when I got him at twelve years of age, his great desire was to be the best footballer that he could be. He was a fantastic trainer. Practiced all the time and at night time he would come back with the schoolboys and practice with them. He was in that collection along with Giggs and Scholes and Nevilles. Then of course his life changed when he married the girl from Spice and his focus changed. He got drawn into that celebrity status, and for me, I’m a football man – a genuine football man.
CR: So you had to go to David. Tell me what you said to him when you believed that he was becoming more interested in the celebrity thing.
AF: I think that he got in over his head. Listen, always remember that in the coaching business you can’t allow that. He lost his focus and so we sold him to Real Madrid and he did well. The thing that I could not believe was that he goes to LA Galaxy. I could not believe that, I would never have allowed him to do that. There should have been one goal and that was to go to the best, and Real Madrid were the best outside of United. But then he goes and re-invents himself. He goes back into the England international team, and after a couple of years he goes off and plays for AC Milan and played in their European ties, and then last year, he plays for PSG in the quarter final of the European Cup. He’s unbelievable. Well done to him. You can’t argue with the status that he has in life.
CR: But would he have been better if he had stayed at Manchester United?
AF: For me it would have pleased me more because he was a great, great player because as I say, I’m a football man. But how can I argue with his life. As I said, he’s an icon for young people. He represents himself the proper way and I say well done to him.
CR: Now was he one of those guys you said that you looked for who were bad losers?
AF: Oh! David hated losing. It made him grumpy. The bad losers are always grumpy. The dressing room is not a happy place when you lose. Winning is the name of the game and they don’t forget that.
CR: Again, are you born with that or is that something that you acquire? Is that in your DNA?
AF: I think that it must come from part of your family somewhere along the line. Some people lay back and show their winning mentality in a different way, but some are very emotional about it and demonstrative about it, and David was very demonstrative as a young lad. But I think that it must come from somewhere in the genes.
CR: You’ve given advice to Tony Blair about strategic things and how to handle people?
AF: Yes I used to have some nice meetings with Tony down at Number 10. I always think that Tony was at his best at Question Time. I loved him at Question Time. He destroyed those boys across from him. He was fantastic. I loved to see him doing that. We spoke about many things. The one thing that I said to him was about election time about canvassing was “Why don’t you take a physiotherapist with you?”
CR: The other thing that is interesting me about you is that the sense of mission. You know how to infuse the sense of mission. You know how so that everybody knows when they are playing that they are playing for themselves, they are playing for their team, they are playing for the person to their right or left and they are playing for something larger than themselves.
AF: The team ethic. Look around the dressing room. Look at each team mate beside you and trust them. That’s the essence of a team. That they can understand the qualities and the weaknesses of their team mates. If you look at a game of football, I always think that you maybe need eight to win the game. Three can have an off day or a semi off day but they always work hard – and the players recognize that so they will do that little bit extra to make sure that they get a win. And the next week it may change round of course. That’s the essence of a team to understand and trust each other. And to trust me.
CR: In other words, trust your plan, trust your strategy, trust your team selection?
AF: Which is always difficult because I maybe have to leave five or six players out each week and I always bring them in individually to explain to them why they are not playing. It’s not easy because they all want to play, but the next week they may be in.
CR: So what do you say to them? Give me a speech. Now what about this. I think that it was in 1999 when you won all three major competitions, which was unheard of, and up until the last minute of the European Cup Final, it looked like to everyone that you were not going to win. Your Assistant manager at the time has said of that time that your belief never wavered. Even though it looked like you were going to lose. You didn’t think so.
AF: No, it wasn’t an accident. Scoring the two goals in injury time was not an accident. That was the character of the team. Too many times we had done it that season coming back from a goal down to win matches. you have to say a little bit of fate and a little bit of luck it happens. You don’ know why it happens, or how it happens. We got that little break on the first goal and you could tell that Bayern were finished at that time. The second goal was inevitable.
CR: When the Glazer Family took over was it in 1995, what did it change?
AF: It changed nothing, Charlie. Not a thing. The misconception about the Glazers buying the Club it created a difference within the different factions of the support. The supporters forget the minute that they became a PLC, somebody was going to buy it. Somewhere along the line, someone was going to buy that Club, and the Glazers did that and during my time with them, I had nothing but support. Very strong, single-minded people. Always supporting the manager and the things that happened in the Club. I have no hesitation in supporting the way they’ve gone about their job. Very low-key, very seldom see them. They never gave me a phone call. They spoke to David Gill perhaps once a week about things that were going on in the Club, but never about the team.
CR: When you think about the career. The wins, the losses. What do you remember. Do you remember the losses or the wins?
AF: That’s a good one, Charlie. I could tell you about the bad losses we had. Losing 6-1 to City and 5-1 to City. Those are games you never forget. I remember when we lost the 5-1 game and I came home and put my head under the pillow. I was going nowhere. Cathy came in and said, “what’s wrong with you.” I said, “we lost 5-1” and she said, “no, you couldn’t have lost 5-1.” It was a bad one.
CR: Your wife is wonderful, and you told me a story the other night about putting the statue up about you. They had it under a hood and she comes to you and you said to her, “I wonder who will be here for the presentation”, and she said, “Prince William.”
AF: I said, “No, no chance.” He was president of the FA, and he could have done it. I was standing there and David Gill announces my wife would be doing the unveiling. I couldn’t believe it. I said to her, “How did you manage to do that?” She never, ever went to games. She’d been to a few cup finals and she wouldn’t come to regular games, because she found it uncomfortable. She wasn’t a football animal.
CR: So she was getting ready to unveil the statue, and she does it rather gently. and she almost decapitates you?
AF: She’s amazing. She was absolutely the correct person to do it.
CR: Now what did she mean to you?
AF: Well, from my point of view, she brought the kids up. If you go back to my early days, at 32 years of age I went into football management and was also running two clubs in Glasgow, meanwhile, Cathy’s got to look after the kids, get them dressed, ready for school, doing the homework with them, putting them to bed, and I was out all the time. That role which she played was absolutely fantastic and she always used to say to me, “yes when they get to 16, they’ll be daddy’s boys.” I said to her, “how do you make that out,” and she said, “you wait and see,” and she was absolutely right. They are always right, even when they are wrong, they are always right. It’s always about the support she gave me. She was always ready to tell me the truth. When she’d say to me, “you’re wrong”, she would tell me, and she was very good at that.
CR: Two things that interest me about you are, what happened about you and Wayne Rooney?
AF: Well, I don’t think anything really happened. He came in the day after we won the League and it’s common knowledge that he asked to be away. It’s this expectation thing, again. I am not his PRO,I manage the team, and from what I see on the pitch. At that moment, he wasn’t doing particularly well, but now we see him today. He’s got his energy back. He’s got his purpose back, and he’s doing great. So maybe that was a good turning point for the boy.
CR: Well didn’t you think of him as a son in some way?
AF: Well, he came to us as a young boy, and of course, all the young boys , we do our best to support them and make them better. Anyway, there were some great moments with him.
CR: How did it all end?
AF: I think if Wayne walked in here, today, he would shake my hand.
CR: When was the last time you shook his hand?
AF: The day we won the League, or was it the day that we were presented the trophy? You’ve also got to have a look at the media. Wayne’s unfortunate in the sense that he is England’s big white hope internationally. So therefore, the media always centre around Wayne Rooney. He has people advising him and I think that’s where all that’s coming from. I never fell out with him over anything. Sometimes I would discipline him. Sometimes they all need discipline, but not to the extent that you would think that there was some sort of fall out.
CR: How would you discipline him?
AF: Well, if they step out of line, you normally fine them.
CR: You would not leave him out of the line up?
AF: No, I would never do that because that would hurt us. He is now back to his form and if some way I have helped him to bring that back and make him aware that he’s a great player, it’s for the team. I think it’s been good for him because he’s had to bring it together. The Club did very well refusing to sell him to Chelsea. He realized his only job was with Manchester United. He’s brought back his focus. He’s brought back his work ethic, and his purpose, and he’s playing well again.
CR: What do you think of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea?
AF: It’s a strange one, Chelsea. You know they change their managers so many times. They have won the European Cup and the League three times in Abramovich’s time and they’ve won the FA Cup three times as well, but they still keep changing the coach. It seems to work for them, in terms of keep winning, but if you look at the long-term situation, they have been our main competitors in the last few years.
CR: Suppose he came to you, maybe he has?
AF: There was a time when he first came and approached me and I said, “no, no chance.” I couldn’t do that. Manchester United is my team.
CR: So anybody who speculates that you could be back in football in any way, is simply wrong?
AF: There was a job came up and the odds were 80/1 on Ferguson. They were great odds, but you’d be wasting your money. You’d be throwing your money down the drain.
CR: There is no way Ferguson will be back in football?
AF: I made my decision, Charlie. The timing was perfect. I went out at the top. I went out a winner. Now, I look forward to the challenges of my new life, doing the things I’ve waited to do for 35 years. I want to go to the Kentucky Derby. I want to go to the Masters. I want to go to the Melbourne Cup, but don’t tell Cathy that. There’s a lot of things I want to do. I want to go to the vineyards in Tuscany and France. I’ve done France a couple of times, but I’d love to go to Tuscany.
CR: So now you are having a very good time?
AF: Yes, I’m enjoying it.
CR: What else is on your bucket list?
AF: Yes, I’ve seen the movie. I mentioned the Kentucky Derby and the Masters and the Melbourne Cup. There’s a lot of things that are coming up, now, in terms of doing leadership speeches and these are challenges which I see as once I’ve made up my mind to leave United I was never going to think that I made a wrong decision. I’m just looking forward. I’m not interested in managing. I’m not interested in getting myself worked up about United’s results. They’re in good hands. David Moyes will do a good job and the Club will be right behind him. That’s the great thing about the Club. They’ll stand behind him.
CR: Here’s the scenario: Roman Abramovich has a lot of money and he said, “look, come and manage Chelsea, and I will give you the greatest stable of horses that you’ve ever seen.”
AF: I wouldn’t dream of it. My mind was made up to retire, and I look forward to my new career and new challenges.
CR: Sir Alex Ferguson, it’s been a pleasure.
Again, thanks a million to Tom Clare of Red News for the transcript.