Fergie plans youth overhaul
By Adam Marshall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The Scot has signed a three-year extension to his current contract, which was due to expire at the end of the season.
"Obviously, there was a big U-turn and it only came about through the intervention of my wife and sons," he stated.
"I was worrying about what I was going to do. I couldn't see myself riding into the sunset just yet.
"Cathy said retire when you are tired.
"Whatever way you look at these things, I feel strong, young and fit and hopefully my health maintains.
"There are areas where we can make improvements but we still have a vibrant youth system, fantastic medical and coaching staff and that is a great platform.
"But I feel we can get better and make ground up there.
"Manchester United is a difficult club to leave, it is ingrained in the fabric of your life. Not just with personal relationships but also people who watch you play, the supporters, and it becomes personal so it is a very difficult club to leave. I found that in the last few months.
"Hopefully we'll have success in the next few years, and I am delighted to remain here.
"My main drive is to look at the youth system. Les Kershaw has been a tremendous servant and has been talking of retiring so I think we'll try and sort him out. I want to keep him in some capacity and that part of the club is very important.
"I have something in mind but until I sort it out with Les, I cannot say much more.
"Administration is a problem for me. We're looking at that. It becomes claustrophobic in the office in terms of volume and it wears me down. I look at it and become depressed.
"You don't get the same optimism when you look at the papers on your desk. Maybe I'll take a day off now and again to save my energy.
"Once I look at the youth side, that is the key to something else, possibly, and only when we sort that out will we look to something else on the other side.
"The media input is massive now but, on the football side, I had eight staff at Manchester United in 1986 and now I'm delighted to say I have great, unbelievable medical staff, everything you could possibly require on the medical staff, it's absolutely brilliant.
"I know the players are in good care. It's first class, the rehabilitation from injuries, and that's a massive step from 1986.
"I now have 30 football staff."
As for midfield star David Beckham's new contract, Ferguson is hopeful everything will be resolved positively soon.
"I think Peter (Kenyon) has been working hard on Beckham for the last two years and it is an ongoing situation," he affirmed.
"I think David knows that and wants to stay, as does Roy Keane. Any first team player we will always try to re-sign, and David is no different. Hopefully something will happen in the next few weeks.
"The offer there is a good one and David knows where he is. I hope me staying will have an influence.
"I think when David was left out of the team it was for the best reasons and that has come to fruition now. His form now is the cause of resting him. If I hadn't you would not see that form today.
"Teddy Sheringham left last year at 35, and I felt Andy Cole, at 30 years of age and on that length of contract, I started worrying he would not get picked in every game, and that was a worry for Andy, so I got Diego (Forlan) in at 22, and Ruud van Nistelrooy is 25.
"I couldn't believe Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer) has just turned 29, as he looks 21 and he's fresh and he's such a young person.
"We brought in (Laurent) Blanc, who has been magnificent at 36, (Denis) Irwin is in last season at club at 36, and we have to address that situation.
"We looked at the age situation and, if you analsyse the squad, I think it's quite good for age. We don't have a lot of an older age and have a good crop of 27-30, a good age group, so the composition of the squad is good, particularly for ages.
"You have to think 'Can we improve by bringing someone in?' - either buying or on the younger side and that is what we have done well - although it is hard for young players, it is not beyond them - (Luke) Chadwick, (Michael) Stewart, (Wes) Brown, (John) O'Shea are all first team squad players and capable of playing at any time.
"We have two or three exciting prospects in the youth team and I hope we can continue this.
"We have never been able to buy five players at a time as we did in 1989, because the structure of the club is very good now.
"I think the team is coming to the boil but we do that most years at this time. We are always ready for battle but I am confident the form is back and it will stay there.
"(Peter) Schmeichel has gone but we've got the best keeper in the world there in (Fabien) Barthez. (Jaap) Stam has gone but Blanc has been magnificent and the criticism against him has been unfair. Ronny Johnsen, who played in the final, has been unfortunate with injuries but he's back.
"The bulk of the 1999 squad is still there.
"The competition in The Premiership is fierce, I still think one of four teams can win it. Chelsea and Leeds need to win all their games, I think, but the four at the top are looking very strong.
"I keep saying that we just hope to win a major trophy every year so there is no point in getting carried away. The FA Cup is still a major tournament and we were disappointed to go out. That, the league and the European Cup are the three trophies we'll be chasing for the next three years.
"Bobby Robson was no bearing on my decision, nothing to do with it but, for anyone else, he is a marvellous example. He went abroad for eight or nine years and I think that helped him with the nice climate and lifestyle, and think he's kept his energy. It's phenomenal what he's achieved at 69.
"My plan was to go away for a couple of months at the start of next season and come back in October but that is easier said than done. It would have been very difficult."
Ferguson also angrily refuted claims in one newspaper that one of his sons (Jason) was not being allowed to handle any future transfer dealings as an agent.
Peter Kenyon enthused about Ferguson's decision to extend his successful stint at Old Trafford.
"Some 18 months ago, when I became chief executive, I met Alex and wanted to meet him because I thought he was too young to retire," said Kenyon.
"He was fit and healthy and we had a lot still to achieve at Man U.
"I couldn't persuade him then and there has been speculation as to who was to follow Alex. We went a long way down that road and said it would not start in earnest until after Christmas.
"This season was a big one - the pressure was enormous and we wanted the focus kept on the team.
"Shortly after Christmas, Sir Alex wanted to rethink that position.
"I was confident from day one we would have the best manager in place for next season. We've achieved that - we've got the best manager and we've got continuity.
"His record as a manager is second to none. It speaks for itself so this is a big day for Manchester United.
"It spells a future and perhaps the only people disappointed will be some of our competitors.
"Three years, starting on 1 July, is a great result for everyone connected with Manchester United."