Sir Alex Ferguson: 'I have never held a grudge'

The departing Manchester United manager conducts his final pre-match press conference

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson today told the media that while he may have had disagreements with them, he has “never held a grudge”.

The departing Manchester United manager was speaking at his final pre-match press conference to look ahead to this Sunday's game against West Brom.

During the press conference the assembled media presented him with a cake - in the shape of a hairdryer - to honour of the 26 years he has spent at Old Trafford.

"It's fully deserved," he joked.

"There have been some times when I have not agreed with what people have written and when you write positive things I tend to dismiss them.

"But I have never held a grudge. It is not my style."

Ferguson's reign at Manchester United has been littered with falling outs and fiery encounters, including with journalists. The Independent's own northern football correspondent is currently banned from attending Ferguson's press conferences after the Scot was angered by a story he wrote.

Ferguson was in an emotional but cheery mood as he looked forward to his 1500th and final game as United manager before he stands down in favour of David Moyes in the summer.

"It has been amazing," he said.

"Sunday (the home game against Swansea) was amazing and the parade on Monday was unbelievable.

"I thought the scenes after the treble in 1999 couldn't be beaten but I think Monday probably did."

Ferguson confirmed he has a League Managers' Association meeting on Monday and horse racing commitments on Tuesday and Wednesday, ensuring the start of his retirement will be a busy one.

"It is going to be a different life," he said.

"I have had 40 years as a manager."

As he prepared for the end. Ferguson could not help recalling where it all began, at Firs Park in Falkirk, home of East Stirling.

"I have had 39 years as a manager," he said.

"On that day in 1974 when I started at East Stirling, I had eight players and no goalkeeper. Today I have six goalkeepers and about 100 players.

"I remember the old chairman Willie Muirhead, he was a great chain smoker.

"When I asked him for a list of players he started to shake. His cigarette was going 100 miles an hour.

"I had to remind him a couple of days later. He gave me a list of eight players and no goalkeeper.

"I said 'you know it is advisable to start with a keeper, are you aware of that?'."

And so Ferguson began building the first of so many squads he has assembled during his time in the game. And he did it on a shoestring.

"My first signing was a lad from Partick Thistle called Tom Gourlay.

"He was big. My god he was big. I paid a £1,000 for him. All the rest were £100 signing on fees and free transfers."

Glamorous it was not. Yet as Ferguson sees it, the lessons learned in those early days, sweating for a living in the lower reaches of Scottish League Division Two, provided an invaluable education for what was to follow, first at Aberdeen and, for the last quarter of a century, Old Trafford.

"It is an education for anybody," he said.

"In management, anybody should start out in that kind of way. I spent £2,000 on five players."

There was no social media then, no 24 hour rolling news stations and no agents.

"It is inevitable change comes around," he said.

"You have to manage that.

"There have been big changes at this club in terms of the number of staff, sports science, modern technology.

"When I started as a manager there were no agents. There was no freedom of contract either.

"The media was different too. That is a difficult job given the pressure journalists are under with modern TV, the internet, Facebook and all the other nonsense."

Ferguson confirmed Anders Lindegaard will start his final game as Manchester United manager - and Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand will be on the bench.

Ferguson promised Lindegaard he would make sure he reached the 10 Barclays Premier League appearances which at the time the Scot thought were required to qualify for a title winners' medal.

The manager has since learned that he would have been able to give Lindegaard a medal anyway, but nevertheless he intends to stand by his pledge to get the Dane into double figures at West Brom on Sunday.

"I stand by that," he said.

"Anders will be in goal. I will play one or two younger players, and I want to play Jonny Evans and Phil Jones at centre-half because they are the future.

"Nemanja and Rio will just have to make do with a place on the bench."

Instead, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones will be in central defence for the trip to the Hawthornes.