Kevin Garside: Ferguson opens up to a journalist – surely there’s a book in that?

If only he’d come to understand earlier there is nothing to fear in dialogue

Thrilled to read an interview with Sir Alex Ferguson in an English newspaper at the weekend. Maybe the new hip has increased mobility in a media setting. Or maybe he has a book to publicise. Oh yes, that will be it. Out this week in fact. Funny how business has a way of changing attitudes towards a body of men and women to whom Fergie would gladly have sold a virus.

This mighty tome covers the last great period of his time as manager of Manchester United, and endlessly fascinating it promises to be. A lot of it will be fresh since for the most part he could not be dragged to a post-match conference at gunpoint to account for his thinking when he was cracking the Old Trafford whip. Snippets for MUTV and a weekly pre-match briefing, which he gave reluctantly, do not balance the scales. Moreover the anti-media position corrupted the entire staff so that after a defeat at Fulham or a draw at Birmingham, for example, there would be zip from any United employee.

In this period of uncritical love for Ferguson it is odd how little commentary there is among members of the fourth estate on past disdain. I wonder if media management forms any part of his brainstorming sessions at Harvard Business School, one of the more interesting relationships being cultivated in retirement. So, Sir Alex, what would you advise we do in delivering a media strategy for our business? Cultivate personal relationships? Ensure an open line of communication with relevant figures? Take individuals out to dinner? Smile more? Sir Alex? Are you still there, Sir Alex? Come back!

The power was and clearly still is with the guv’nor from Govan. It was his understanding of power that served him so well at United, underpinning his authority and longevity. Ferguson managed in a period that saw the most radical change in communications since the invention of the Caxton press. If he understood the 24/7 demand of the digital age, he refused to accept it. He didn’t have to. So huge is the United brand, so great the demand for all things red, the deportment of the manager is irrelevant as long as the team is winning. And Fergie was brilliant at that. There is no need to project, on behalf of sponsors and “partners” who pour money into the United vault for the privilege of association, when the goals are going in.  

I know many of you will be choking on your muesli at the thought of an indignant press in the matter of relations with football managers after the “monkeygate” episode that engulfed Roy Hodgson last week. Personally, if I were Roy, I would have been more upset at the cartoon depiction of myself as an airline pilot taking the nation on a summer carnival to Brazil via “Royanair”. This kind of soft lampooning is tongue-in-cheek, of course, and clever, drawing on Hodgson’s revelations that he might have been a travel agent in another life, but it is lampooning nonetheless and in poor taste, given past indiscretions involving speech impediments.

However late Ferguson’s sympathy for the devil was to develop, we should be thankful that he has at last seen the light, and that he wants to enlighten us with a deeper insight into his indubitably brilliant management of one of the world’s marquee football clubs. If only he had come to understand earlier that there is nothing to fear in open dialogue. The iron control that he imposed by not engaging during the period that we are about to consume in his second autobiography is for the old Soviet Union.

I have to be careful here. Only twice in more than 20 years in newspapers have I received letters from a subject in sport, both from Fergie. The second balanced the other in that its tone was one of support for a position taken about Rafa Benitez over an incident during his time at Liverpool. It follows that the first was of the damning variety, the equivalent of the Beckham boot. He took exception to a number of observations, most vehemently against the suggestion that he had Soviet or, more precisely, Stalinist tendencies.

It was a purple riff too far and he was right to be offended. Stalin was a monster responsible for the deaths of millions and the corruption of a philosophical position ascribed to Karl Marx that still has resonance in today’s political arena thanks to the editor of one Fleet Street title. Fergie was just a controlling bastard to members of the press, whose job it was to report on the institution he governed. Yet here he is using the very same media platform he found so distasteful to promote a book that hardly needs the hard sell.

I feel the hat-trick letter coming on...

Newcastle players celebrate, Mario Balotelli scores, Alan Pardew and Brendan Rodgers
footballNewcastle vs Liverpool , Arsenal vs Burnley, Chelsea vs QPR and Everton vs Swansea
i100Amazing Amazon review bomb
Arts and Entertainment
The Spice Girls' feminism consisted of shouting 'girl power' and doing peace signs in latex catsuits
musicWhat is it? You know what you want it to be...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
Moss and Grimshaw arrive at the party
peopleKate Moss, Claudia Schiffer and Nick Grimshaw at Jonathan Ross's Halloween party
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
travelPurrrfect jet comes to Europe
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the London premiere of his new film The Imitation Game
people He's not as smart as his characters
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities