Ferguson takes on Beckham, Keane and Rooney in book
Sir Alex Ferguson has used his autobiography to settle scores with David Beckham and Roy Keane, saying of the former that he had to leave Manchester United as he “thought he was bigger than the manager.”
Ferguson’s much-awaited autobiography was released to the press on Tuesday, ahead of its general publication date on Thursday, and did not disappoint those hoping for an insight into some of the rows that marked his lengthy career at United.
One of the most prominent targets was Beckham, who has an 11-page chapter reserved for him. Ferguson claims the world famous midfielder thought he was bigger than his manager, resulting in his departure from Old Trafford in 2003.
“The minute a Manchester United player thought he was bigger than the manager, he had to go,” he wrote. “David thought he was bigger than Alex Ferguson. That was the death knell for him.
“David was the only player I managed who chose to be famous, who made it his mission to be known outside the game. I felt uncomfortable with the celebrity aspect of his life.”
Of the famous incident in February 2003 when Ferguson kicked a boot that connected with Beckham’s face following a game against Arsenal, Ferguson wrote: “He was around 12 feet from me. David swore. I moved towards him and, as I approached, I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye.
“Of course, he rose to have a go at me and the players stopped him. ‘Sit down,’ I said. ‘You’ve let your team down. You can argue as much as you like.’ I called him in the next day to go through the video and he still would not accept his mistake. As he sat listening to me, he didn’t say a word. Not a word.
“‘Do you understand what we’re talking about, why we got on to you?’ I asked. He didn’t even answer me. The next day the story was in the press. In public, an Alice band highlighted the damage inflicted by the boot. It was in those days that I told the board David had to go.”
Regarding Keane, his former captain who left the club in acrimonious circumstances following some severe criticism of his team-mates in an unaired programme on MUTV, Ferguson also spoke candidly.
“Roy overstepped his mark, absolutely overstepped his mark,” said Ferguson in a press conference to launch his autobiography. “That’s the sort of personality he has. For some reason he decided to criticise his team-mates. He did it in an MUTV show but we couldn’t release that video.
“A few days later a few of the younger players were booed as a result of what he’d said. So we decided we had to do something. The meeting we had in that room was horrendous. But I just couldn’t lose the control of that situation. If I had let it pass, the players would have looked at me differently, much differently.”
In the autobiography itself – where he describes the infamous MUTV interview as a “joke” and a “disgrace” – Ferguson writes of the former Republic of Ireland international: “The hardest part of Roy’s body is his tongue. He has the most savage tongue you can imagine. He can debilitate the most confident person in the world in seconds with that tongue.
“What I noticed about him that day when I was arguing with him was that his eyes started to narrow, almost to wee black beads. It was frightening to watch. And I’m from Glasgow.”
Ferguson’s relationship with Wayne Rooney became strained in 2010 when the striker said he would not sign a new contract because the club did not share his ambition.
“Wayne said we should have pursued Mesut Ozil who had joined Real Madrid from Werder Bremen. My reply was that it was none of his business. I told him it was his job to play and perform.
“It was a sorry episode for Wayne because it portrayed him as a money man. With the fans, it left a residue of mistrust.”
Ferguson said he was offered the England manager’s job before Sven-Goran Ericsson was appointed in 2001 and before that in 1999 when the job went to Kevin Keegan.
“There was no way I could contemplate taking the England job, can you imagine me doing that?,” the Scot said. “No, it wasn’t a bed of nails I was ever tempted to lie on.”