Sir Alex Ferguson autobiography overview: Tackling rival managers, the England job - and how Gerrard and Lampard 'are not top, top players'

Ferguson reveals he was twice offered the England manager's job

Ferguson is respectful to Arsène Wenger, friendly about Jose Mourinho, but critical of Rafael Benitez. It is no secret that Ferguson and Benitez did not get on, but it was not just the Spaniard's personality Ferguson did not warm to.

His teams, he remarks, had no coherent strategy, they were 'unimaginative' and 'dull', and Benitez was more interested in 'destroying a game than winning it'. To Ferguson, a believer in attacking football, these are damning faults. Ferguson, who doesn't remember meeting Benitez when he came to watch United train as a guest of Steve McClaren while still working in Spain, says Benitez's mistake was to turn the rivalry 'personal' because Ferguson, with years of trophies behind him, could wait while Benitez needed to win things. As of the famous 'facts' press conference, the 'facts', said Ferguson, were wrong. Benitez, says Ferguson, was 'a control freak' and one who had no interest in forming friendships with other managers though many younger ones would have like to learn from him. If the first allegation is a bit rich coming from Ferguson the latter reflects his interest in helping the profession's rookies.

However, Ferguson grudgingly admits Benitez has his strengths. That players worked hard for him, that he has the self-belief a manager needs, and that he was, in a back-handed compliment, a 'skilled pragmatist'.

Mourinho is also called a pragmatist, but it is part of a warm portrayal. Ferguson once told the Independent he saw himself in Mourinho and it is clear he likes the younger man's personality, suggests he can laugh at himself, and admires his relationship with players, approach to matches and ability. In particular, he says he was absorbed by Mourinho's challenge at Real Madrid whose Galactico entertainment-focussed policy ran so counter to Mourinho's methods.  There is not, however, any discussion of Mourinho thwarted hopes of following him at Old Trafford.

His relationship with Arsene Wenger, said Ferguson, is now cordial, but there was a period around Pizzagate when it was frosty. Wenger's brain, he says, was 'scrambled' after that 2004 defeat for his Invincibles. Challenged by Ferguson for confronting Ruud van Nistelrooy after the game Wenger was 'livid' and had 'his fists clenched' [Ferguson actually revealed to The Independent some months afterwards that Wenger came at him 'with fists raised']. Ferguson said he still has no idea who threw the pizza which ended up 'all over me' but notes that Cesc Fabregas has usually been blamed.

He and Wenger eventually made up, to the extent Ferguson was pleased United did not score more goals in the 8-2 win in 2011 as Wenger was being huimiliated He always admired the way Wenger's teams played, and has never thought he would leave Arsenal. But he feels Wenger was too sensitive about players being tackled and signed too many players in the mould of Tomas Rosicky and Andrei Arshavin, and in recent years too many average ones. There is a dig, too, when Aaron Ramsey says he went to Arsenal because they produce more home-grown players. Ferguson points out that, Jack Wilshere aside, Arsenal hone players signed young from elsewhere whereas United develop their own.

* England

Ferguson reveals he was offered the England manager's job twice, in 1999, in the wake of Glenn Hoddle's departure, and two years later, after Kevin Keegan, who had replaced Hoddle, quit. England then turned to Sven Goran Eriksson. Had he taken the job the first time United might never have achieved the treble, but there was never any likelihood of it.

"There was no way I could have taken that," he said yesterday. It didn't take me long [to say no], 10 seconds. There was no way I could manage England. Think of me going back to Scotland!"

He would not, he admits, have relished dealing with the press, which he regards as a 'special' requirement for England managers.

* Rival players

Ferguson did not feel Steven Gerrard was 'a top, top player', nor regard Frank Lampard as an 'elite' international player, though he regarded both as high class club players. The combination of the two, he adds, was 'a nightmare' for successive managers of England as they team did not function if they were paired in a 4-4-2.  Ferguson tried to sign Gerrard when given the impression in 2004 that he wanted to leave Liverpool. However, it seemed Gerrard was Chelsea-bound when, writes Ferguson in a phrase that raises more questions than it answers, 'there seemed to be some restraining influence from people outside the club' and the deal was called off.

Michael Owen, he writes, would have been one of the great strikers if he had joined United at 12 years old, intimating he would have been developed more carefully and skillfully rather than overplayed when young. Owen he wished he had signed earlier.

Fernando Torres he tried to sign several times and was surprised when Liverpool got him. He had, says Ferguson, 'cunning, a shrewdness that was borderline Machievellian' and a 'touch of evil'. He also had a devastating change of pace but did not react well in adversity. Other players he admits got away in the transfer market: Ronaldinho, Petr Cech, at 19, for £1m, Paolo Di Canio, who wanted too much money, Tim Cahill. Paolo Maldini he enquired after - "I loved him, a fantastic player," he said yesterday, adding, "I made an approach to his father, [ex-Italy coach] Cesare, and he gave me a look that meant I didn't need to go back."

Kenny Dalglish's signings in his second period at Liverpool do not fare well. The pace, courage and £20m fee of Stuart Downing is criticised, the gait of Jordan Henderson raises concerns about his long-term fitness, and Andy Carroll's poor mobility limits his effectiveness. As for his favourite foreign player (of those who did not play for United): Gianfranco Zola.

 

Further reading...

Sir Alex on...the end of his relationship with David Beckham

Sir Alex on...Beckham and that flying boot

Sir Alex on... Rock Of Gibraltar 'misunderstanding'

Sir Alex’s reign in pictures

My Autobiography: the key observations

Sir Alex on...the ‘battle of the buffet’ after Arsenal victory

Sir Alex on…turning down the England job twice

Sir Alex on…Cristiano Ronaldo, the greatest player he worked with

Sir Alex on… Rafa Benitez turning their rivalry personal

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution