Questions for Fergie
Ahead of this week's release of Sir Alex Ferguson's new autobiography we pose some questions we'd love to see answered by English football's most successful ever manager. Ghosted by Paul Hayward, it's unquestionably the most highly-anticipated sports book of recent years
By Daniel Storey & Alex Dunn
Last Updated: 22/10/13 2:34pm
What do you believe was the greatest strength of your United sides?
The most famous aspect of Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United tenure was undoubtedly the club's ability to come back from adversity through late goals or comebacks. Evidently the basis for their breathtaking Champions League victory over Bayern Munich in 1999, such a reputation was well-founded. Last season in the Premier League alone, United scored 12% of their goals in the last five minutes of matches.
Or, was their strongest attribute the ability to overcome a new rival, dealing with adversity and coming back stronger, revitalised for the battle? First Blackburn emerged, with Jack Walker's millions, and they were brushed aside the next season. Then came Arsenal with Arsene Wenger's modern coaching methods and investment in youth - they went the same way. And finally came the nouveau riche and foreign investment of Chelsea and Manchester City. Both won their titles, and hurt Fergie and United in the process, but at the end of his tenure his side were back to the place where he took them most often - back to the top.
Is there one player you wish you hadn't allowed to leave Old Trafford?
Few players crossed Alex Ferguson, but those that did cross that particularly fine line rarely remained at the club for too long thereafter.
So, is there one player that Fergie wishes had not slipped through the net? David Beckham perhaps, who famously had his eyebrow cut by a stray boot and went on to enjoy four successful years in Madrid. United failed to win the title in the three seasons following the England captain's departure.
Or could it be Gerard Pique, whose move to Barcelona came after just 12 league games for United. The Spaniard may have been clamouring after a move back home, but should United have not tried harder to hold on to an individual who is now amongst the top defenders in world football, especially given that the fee was below £5million.
And finally, what about Paul Pogba. The France international is still just 20 years old and a mainstay of the Juventus side, with rumours of a £40m bid from Chelsea now surfacing. It is less than 18 months since Pogba left Manchester with only seven appearances (and 68 minutes of Premier League action). "I didn't want to sign a contract as Ferguson didn't play me, even though there were no midfielders there," is Pogba's summation of the situation. Would Fergie give him some game time if he had his time again in the hope of retaining such a talent?
If you were allowed the opportunity to replay one of your matches in charge, which would it be?
At United Ferguson saw far more success than failure, with his side finishing in the top four every season since 1991. However, ever the perfectionist, there must be individual matches that Fergie wishes he could have again.
Perhaps the Champions League final of 2011, before which the manager described a strategic plan to win the match, including a 3-4-3 tactical switch should his side concede. Ferguson gave a start to Ji Sung Park in a game during which his side were comfortably defeated 3-1 at Wembley.
Another may be the final game of the 1994/5 season, when champions elect Blackburn Rovers lost at Anfield to seemingly let United sneak away the title. However, United could only manage a 1-1 draw at Upton Park against a West Ham side that finished 14th.
Or as recently as last season, will Ferguson talk about the Nani red card versus Real Madrid, which prevented any chance of him going out in style with the Champions League trophy.
Did you consider recommending anyone else other than David Moyes to be your successor?
Sir Alex has been unequivocal in his support for his fellow Scot but with Moyes having made a pretty miserable start to life at Old Trafford, there will already be some United supporters who in idle moments ponder what life might have been like with Jose, Pep, Jurgen or Jupp.
"David must just try to maintain what we have done for the last 20-odd years. That's the key. He shouldn't try to do anything better or less. Keep the success going, it's not easy to win a trophy in our league. For David, winning a trophy would be an incredible achievement this year. It doesn't matter what it is. Whether it's the League Cup, the FA Cup, the European Cup or the Premier League," said Ferguson of his successor.
After winning the league by 11 points last term it's hardly surprising ensuring seamless continuity was at the top of the board's wish-list, with Moyes seemingly the safest option in terms of 'maintaining' Ferguson's momentum. When in his first act as United boss he replaced Ferguson's backroom staff with his own it's fair to say more than the odd eyebrow may have been raised.
But were there viable alternatives? Jose Mourinho's gushing post-match performance after his Real Madrid side knocked United out of the Champions League last season couldn't have been more transparent had he handed his CV to Geoff Shreeves and asked him to pass it on to David Gill.
Mourinho's version of events is that he and Ferguson confided their respective plans to one another before they went public. If indeed they had discussed Ferguson's retirement, and there's nothing to suggest they didn't, it seems disingenuous to suggest the possibility of Mourinho taking the reins wasn't at least alluded to. If Mourinho's spiky personality was considered too much of a handful (Sir Bobby Charlton certainly isn't a fan) then what of Pep Guardiola - a manager Ferguson has conceded got the better of him whilst at Barcelona.
It'd be a major surprise if Ferguson undermines Moyes by suggesting other parties were sounded out, but don't rule him out dropping in a few names to keep things interesting.
Did you genuinely dislike any of your rival managers or was it all a matter of mind games when it mattered?
Sir Alex Ferguson didn't always get along with his fellow managers. FACT. In May of this year Rafa Benitez spoke of his relationship with Ferguson: "He doesn't (like me), he doesn't, but it depends on the moment. You have to do what you have to do for your team. At the time (of their first bust-up), he knew that Liverpool were very close. That was the situation."
That there's no love lost between the pair is hardly a fresh insight but the most intriguing part of Bentiez's statement is where he claims 'it depends on the moment'. It's a little unbecoming to only be mates with those below you in the table but it's a mantra that served Ferguson well over the years. In Arsenal's glory years he wouldn't have shared the time with Wenger but when trophies dried up in north London relations thawed to the extent a tête-à-tête over a bottle of red seemed the right and civilised thing to do.
The one fly in the ointment with this theory is the good natured relationship he enjoyed with Mourinho throughout his time in England. Here were two genuine rivals going toe-to-toe both domestically and in Europe, but rarely were they anything less than cordial as Ferguson was happy to indulge his chippy competitor with a wry smile and shake of the head.
It he can go 500 pages without aiming at least a sly off the ball dig in Benitez's direction it'll be a surprise, but more interesting will be if he reveals his relationships with his fellow managers were more calculated than simply being based purely on personalities, jarring or otherwise.
What questions would you like answered in Sir Alex's new book? Have we covered the major issues, or are there still plenty of topics that need discussing? Let us know the questions you want answering and we'll publish the best of your responses below...