The eyes are not quite the same steely hue, the voice is huskier and the manner more modern, but when you listen closely there is no mistaking that the new manager of Peterborough United is a son of the greatest living football manager in the land. Signature answers to leading questions, responses that bat a query back at its originator, but loaded with Fergie spin, and a transparent sense of ambition coupled to a Glaswegian work ethic all conspire to give him away.
Darren Ferguson, who will be 35 on 9 February, knows he cannot escape his name or the baggage that comes with it now he is a Posh boss. A modest, but experienced League player, he accepts this cross with the same wry, dry sense of resignation that has coloured Sir Alex Ferguson's humour through three decades of unprecedented success. But, he made clear yesterday, he has no intention of living in any gilded paternal shadow; he is adamant he is embarking on a career that will be conducted his way.
"I can't change my name," he conceded. "And that has its pros and cons. But I can go to [him] for some advice if I need it. I know I am always going to have the name tag on me, as I did as a player. It's not going away. Obviously, management is a different kettle of fish from being a player. And, obviously, you can't compete with what he has done in football, but I'm going to be my own man, start out in management in my own right and, hopefully, I can be successful. That's all I can hope for."
The answers are considered and deliberate. There is no lack of confidence. And after seven successive defeats, the new Posh manager is attempting to infuse his players, two-thirds of whom he has confronted on the field in his time at Wrexham, with the same self-belief before they tackle a difficult derby game at Lincoln City tomorrow.
"We are still only three points off the play-offs," he pointed out, after three days' work involving paint-ball outings, Italian lunches, double sessions of training and an introduction to the long dark hours of office work at Peterborough's cosy old London Road stadium.
"It's like a whirlwind, very different from being a player, and I am learning all the time," he conceded. "I have spoken to many managers, mostly young ones - like Aidy Boothroyd, Davie Moyes and Paul Ince - to pick their brains and draw advice. I've not spoken to my dad for that but I know he is proud and excited, just like any father."
Remarkably, given the importance of the appointment, Ferguson has yet to meet his new club chairman and employer, Darragh MacAnthony, 30. He took the job following a 90-minute telephone interview.
However, he said his ambition was matched by his new chairman, who wants to help Ferguson to build a new structure for the club by reintroducing youth and reserve teams and achieving promotion.
His famous father, said Ferguson, "was obviously a big influence, he gave me a few bits of advice - and a rollicking when I needed one". But this guidance never turned into interference, he said. "He was always enthusiastic for us all to do well - myself, and my two brothers - in whatever walk of life. All of us have got a good work ethic and we were brought up properly."
Their similarities include temperament. "Yes, in a lot of ways, I am like him," he said. "Definitely I like to think my man-management skills and how we treat people [are similar]. But I don't think I'll be throwing teacups at people! I think a lot of that is a myth. He's had his tantrums, or whatever you want to call them, but there are managers out there who have done it 20 times more - and it's just because of the name and the club that it is going to happen. But, if you ask the players who played for him, they all have had respect for him. A lot of them became managers: it tells its own story."
His father's enthusiasm is matched by his mother's concern. "She was pleased for me," he said. "But she said I was mad!"
And his children, a boy and a girl, have complained already that they may never see him as he lives away in a flat shared with his friend, the coach Kevin Russell, until he can find a family home and move them south. "We'll sort it out eventually," he said.
But first they need some Posh results on the pitch.
The 30-year-old tycoon behind Posh
The chairman of Peterborough is Darragh MacAnthony, a 30-year-old Irish property tycoon, who owns MacAnthony Reality International. Born in Dublin, he went to live in Spain aged 23, after dropping out of a business course at London University.
MacAnthony arrived with £4,000. Seven years later his personal fortune is estimated at £200m and his company has offices in 15 countries. He says that his involvement with Peterborough is a hobby (with privileges) but is serious about taking the club into the Premiership and says that he sees this as a challenge and is not planning to walk away. He likens the experience to that of owning a racehorse - "something to enjoy" - but he wants the club to do well.
MacAnthony became chairman last September, after buying 200 shares from the previous chairman, Barry Fry, but plans to become the sole owner. "I expect to lose money but I am willing to do that to take the club to the Premiership," he said.
MacAnthony will invest £3m over the next two years. He lives in Spain, but commutes regularly to oversee the running of the club.
Sam BettsReuse content