Ferguson laments 'fragile' stars

Sir Alex Ferguson admits the toughest part of his job these days is dealing with today's "fragile" footballers.

The Manchester United manager has handled some of the game's hard men in his 23 years at Old Trafford, such as Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce, Paul Ince and Roy Keane.

He has had famous run-ins with Andrei Kanchelskis and Jaap Stam, which saw them run out of club and country in swift time.

But he claims dealing with today's pampered superstars is much more difficult.

Ferguson said: "It's a different player character we've got today. The players are more fragile than players of 25 years ago. They are more cocooned today by their agents or the press they receive at times.

"They are less likely to hold their hands up and say they're at fault for things. If you go back 30 years ago you had a player who had a certain pride and responsibility in their own performance.

"They were less protected so they could come in and say 'Hands up, it was my fault, blah, blah, blah.' And that was good.

"But today they are very protected. They are more fragile than ever. That's a lot to do with the type of people who protect them, agents."

You suspect there are no football agents on Ferguson's Christmas card list. The very mention of their profession provokes an involuntary grimace of contempt.

He illustrates with a recent story.

"We had a young boy get in the England Under-21s," said Ferguson. "His agent phoned up the next day and said, 'I think it's time we sat down for a new contract for the boy.'

"In his mind he thought that demanded a new contract. I said, 'Let's see how he plays for Manchester United.'

"But that's the way the world is now.

"When you think they (agents) are conducting most transfers now, it's not right."

Ferguson was speaking at an inaugural dinner of the League Managers' Association Hall of Fame 1000 Club, celebrating the 18 men to have managed more than 1,000 domestic league or cup matches, including Sir Matt Busby, Brian Clough, Alec Stock and Sir Bobby Robson.

Of the 14 surviving members 10 were present at the Hilton hotel in London and as well as Ferguson there were Dave Bassett, Steve Coppell, Brian Horton, Lennie Lawrence, Harry Redknapp, Denis Smith, Jim Smith, Graham Turner and Neil Warnock. The four missing were Alan Buckley, Dario Gradi, Joe Royle and Graham Taylor.

For success and longevity no-one, however, comes close to Ferguson whose managerial record at East Stirling, St Mirren, Aberdeen, Scotland and Manchester United stands at 1,928 games, of which he has won 1,104, drawn 468 and lost 356, a win percentage of 57.26%.

He notched up another rare defeat, however, when his £55,000 bid for a modern painting in a fund-raising auction was blown away by a £65,000 offer from Table 28.

Not that Ferguson looked overly bothered as he embarked on a frothy question and answer session with Tottenham boss Redknapp.

Redknapp told of the day West Ham's Paulo Futre demanded the number 10 shirt at Upton Park, instead of his squad number 16, because he believed he was in the same class as Pele and Maradona.

Ferguson told of how he had started in management at East Stirling with eight players and no goalkeeper two weeks before the start of the season, And promptly went out and signed his first player, George Adams, who cost £100.

"I overpaid," chuckled Ferguson with a charm which demonstrated the other side of the 67-year-old who last week was banned from the touchline for two matches and fined £20,000 for calling referee Alan Wiley "unfit".

The opinions flowed like the red wine he adores.

On the press: "The Press today have a very difficult job. They are trying to compete against Sky television, against the internet. Some of them are in an impossible situation.

"They have editors who demand they have to have copy that sells the newspaper. They are under unbelievable pressure."

On fans: "There's a book called United Unlimited and there's a fantastic photograph in it of Manchester United v Leeds United back in the Sixties and there's absolute mayhem in the middle of the pitch.

"The players are fighting and scratching. Denis Law having lumps pulled off him. Jack Charlton there. In the background there's not a bit of emotion in the fans.

"See the culture of the fans today. They are over the fence, screaming and bawling. It's a different time. You can understand why chairmen react quickly and get rid of their manager."

On the title: "My experience tells me two teams break away towards the last part of the season."

No names, but no doubt either he meant Chelsea and United.

On his worst signing: "Ralph Milne. I only paid £170,000 but I still get condemned for it."

At which point Ferguson remembers one he has tried to forget - Eric Djemba-Djemba.

"So good they named him twice," grinned Ferguson, who revealed his misfiring former midfielder, now with Odense BK, had just come in the top four for the Player of the Year in Denmark.

Not perhaps one of the fragile ones, after all.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own