Sir Alex Ferguson’s ‘My Autobiography’ had been gathering dust in my email inbox for a couple of years until very recently when I decided to read it. A friend had sent me the soft copy as soon as the book was published following the gaffer’s retirement in 2013 but I prefer reading books in hard copy. Printing and binding the 238 pages was an option but it’s not something I would do, so I let it gather virtual dust.
Ferguson was the manager at Manchester United for 26 years. Having been a United fan for almost half of those years, I was very much interested in reading this book. He had written a premature autobiography ‘Managing my Life’ so this one, coming in the wake of his retirement, was more significant.
He recollects his early years in Glasgow where he was born and raised and where he started his football career as a centre forward. He ventured into business, running pubs in Glascow, before he got into full time management with St. Mirren, Aberdeen and later United.
He narrates funny episodes of his early life with family, friends and his wife Cathy. In 2001, when he was 60 years old, Ferguson says he wanted to retire but made a U-turn after his wife and sons convinced him to stay.
‘’We’ve just had a meeting”, Cathy said. “We’ve decided. You’re not retiring.” As I weighed this announcement I felt no urge to resist. “One, your health is good. Two, I’m not having you in the house. Three, you’re too young anyway.”
Fergie delves into how he built and rebuilt his teams at Old Trafford starting with the famed ‘Class of 92’ and the fresh start in 2002. He narrates how they scouted for players, identified and watched them play and negotiated with their clubs and agents, before signing them.
There is a list of all the players who ever played for Sir Alex at United but there are some players who were so instrumental to him that he wrote whole chapters about. These are David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney. He talks about his relationships, including all the drama, with each one of them.
The Scotsman also talks in detail about his competition with Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Liverpool, Barcelona and Man City in his final years. He lost two Champions League finals to Barcelona and he admits that “Barcelona were the best team ever to line up against Manchester United.”
Outside football, Fergie documents his other interests like reading, horse-racing, good wine and politics. He loved reading biographies of dictators and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was a supporter of Labour Party and its policies. He loved travelling especially to America, where he has a home.
I was really disappointed that he doesn’t mention anything about chewing gum. He however talks about everything else we know about him, from his mind games with other managers, his spats with the media, the famous Fergie Time, the hairdryer, all the trophies he won and especially that night in Moscow when he won his second Champions League.
His favourite goal as United manager? Rooney’s bicycle kick against City. “The execution was incredible. It’s not as if that unforgettable overhead finish was delivered from the six yard line. He was 14 yards from goal. It also took a deflection as he was running in. Nani’s cross veered off a City player, so Wayne was forced to make an amazing mid-air adjustment. That was the best one, for my money.”