Avid football and Manchester United fan Sean D’Mello reviews the second autobiography of Sir Alex Ferguson
Football is a game of measures. You can’t come out punching because that will leave you exposed and eventually lead to your downfall. This is as true for the players on the pitch as it is for a manger in a press conference. So it’s no surprise that when Sir Alex Ferguson, famed former manager of Manchester United, released his autobiography it was met with as much furore as the launch of a new phone or gaming console.
Ferguson wanted to tell his tale and without having to worry about fines or repercussions; he wasn’t holding back.
Ferguson was at the heart of Premier League football for 35 plus years. In that time he faced tough oppositions, volatile players, demanding supporters and incessant journalists. In the weeks leading up to his autobiography, the publishers released snippets from the book. Each snippet was juicier and more eye opening than the one that came before.
The book delivers exactly what it promises. It gives you behind-the-scenes look at the framework of Manchester United and the part-corporate world of professional football. Ferguson tells of how players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney came to join the club. He narrates how he spent days on the phone with United rival Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger before Wenger allowed notable Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie to join United. Most fans think that rivals hate each other immensely, but Ferguson refutes the claim, saying he is cordial with them outside of work. Ferguson also takes the time to tell his side of the story when it comes to infamous incidents, most notably the boot incident with David Beckham (Ferguson kicked a football boot into Beckham’s face in 2003, necessitating stitches on Beckham’s forehead) and the unexpected departure of Irish footballer Roy Keane from the club after quarrels with Ferguson.
When you’re in the game as long as Ferguson was, you’d know it is never going to be always smooth sailing, so for every heartwarming story about Ferguson sharing a glass of wine with Jose Mourinho, there is a story of betrayal and deceit.
Ferguson takes the time to give invaluable advice to people looking to become football managers and coaches. He tells you what to look for in a player and what to say to that same player after a defeat, when all looks bleak. There are moments in the book that seem a bit drab, moments where Ferguson goes on a rant and you feel like adopting one of his iconic poses and point to your watch, an indication that he’s wasting your time.
Sir Alex Ferguson shows you how and why he is considered a father-figure and the roles expected from him as a top level manager, but his autobiography is not just for the Manchester United fanatic or die hard football fan; the book is for anybody curious about the world of football and football clubs, as well as for the football player who dreams of making it big and for the sports fan that doesn’t understand just why football is so popular. Being Ferguson’s first-hand account of his time as manager of Manchester United, it does not attempt to be objective and it certainly doesn’t refrain from being self-indulgent and brazen.
I thought of several ways to end this review, but I feel the best way to do it is to leave you with two lines from the book…
Is there any club in the world that can give you more heart stopping moments? I hope no one will disagree when I say: nobody was short-changed. It was never dull.
(Sir Alex Ferguson on Manchester United)
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Page extent: 416