Fergie chooses words all too carefully

There was only one moment, really, when Alex Ferguson appeared any way ruffled by questions about the contents of the book which itself caused such a stir yesterday.

Fergie chooses words all too carefully

Naturally, it was concerning the one grand omission from ‘My Autobiography’; the elephant — or perhaps the horse — in the room: Rock of Gibraltar.

It was the closest he came to one of his classic “I’m nae gettin’ into that” moments.

“It’s straightforward. I had an agreement with John Magnier that nothing would be said about it anymore... We won’t be going back to that again. ”

Otherwise, this was a relaxed and rather good-natured Ferguson, unwilling to expand on any perceived criticisms of others in the book but well prepared to crack a few jokes.

The rule in the Institute of Directors in Pall Mall was that each media company could only ask one question so, when the representative from a conglomerate that once tried to buy Manchester United attempted to discuss a series of issues in a single sentence, Ferguson cracked a smile.

“Three questions. Sky: greed!” One of those questions, however, led to what was unintentionally the former Old Trafford boss’s best line of the day.

When he was asked about managing England, he evidently didn’t consider the former FA chief executive Adam Crozier’s name worthy of remembering, referencing him as “the Scots lads from the Post Office”.

Otherwise, the issue offered him a chance to elaborate on his repeated rejection of England, and add a touch more mirth.

“It was my great opportunity in life to relegate them,” Ferguson said. “It didn’t take me long — 10 seconds. I thought about it for 10 seconds.

“There was no way I could manage England, never in a million years. Think of me going back to Scotland. Dearie me.”

For all Ferguson’s parochial concerns, this was a day when his current career as football’s international statesman was perhaps fully revealed. The hugely broad nature of the press conference ensured that his opinion was sought on all manner of diverse issues, from Israeli players to the future of the sport in China.

He took them all on, touching on every issue, adding a bit of an edge where required, but not really delving into anything too deeply.

To a degree, that also reflects the entire book itself, which is not the most introspective. As explosive as it was expected to be, the only chapters that are in any way volatile are those concerning the three most famous players who actually departed Old Trafford after crossing him: Ruud van Nistelrooy, David Beckham and — most conspicuously and cuttingly — Roy Keane. As he maintained when asked about getting his say on such issues, the theme of the book was effectively ‘control’, and keeping it at a club like United. Ferguson said that he felt he had to confront some of the issues the club encountered in the 14 years since his last book.

Evidently, he also wants the English champions to keep something like control on the Wayne Rooney situation too. Although that was anticipated to be the juiciest part of the book, the chapter is surprisingly mild, with only more nuanced criticisms such as Ferguson’s claim that the player is “not the quickest learner”.

Other than that, it says much that the biggest revelation is that Everton chairman Bill Kenwright wept openly when the 2004 deal to take Rooney from Goodison Park came to a close.

Ferguson did stand by both his stance on comments on Rooney yesterday, but tempered it by stating that he would never have dropped the player if he was in the form that he is in right now. “That’s what we want to see.”

The question, then, is how much of this section was held back, how much will be properly revealed in any future book?

Ferguson said that he did run the copy past Manchester United, and they only made one change — a factual inaccuracy regarding Cristiano Ronaldo.

It is the Portuguese player, however, who receives by far the warmest praise as Ferguson writes glowingly of him.

Beyond that, and criticisms for the likes of Rafa Benitez, the greatest value of the book is in the smaller elements; the particular insights from one of the game’s greatest.

Most remarkably, Ferguson reveals that Nemanja Vidic was considering enlisting for the conflict in Kosovo. Roberto Mancini gave him the best wine, and he greatly enjoyed his Manchester City rival’s company.

For the most part, that easy type of discussion is the most conspicuous tone of the book, even if Keane might disagree.

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