Danny: Lasting as long as he has, beating the system, defying age. I made this point for the paper. Just compare him to the rest of the greats: Busby was 62 when he bowed out. Shankly was 60. Paisley was 64. Clough was 58. And then there’s Fergie – he’s 71, he’s got a pacemaker and he’s booked in for a hip replacement, and the first reaction when the news started to come through was ‘he’s not, is he . . ?’ Even though it all added up, there was still that jolt. I think a lot of people could seriously imagine going on another three years, maybe even longer.
S: Most memorable Fergie presser?
D: That’s a difficult one… People watch these press conferences now on MUTV and must think it’s a load of rubbish – deliberately bland answers, dreary questions etc etc – but when he did it away from the television cameras they were the best event of the week just about every time.
In terms of bollockings, the Veron one stands out, or an almighty one when someone asked about the FA charging Rooney for slapping Tal Ben Haim. He got so worked up in that one he swiped his hand at the tape recorders on his desk and sent them flying into the wall. What he didn’t realise was that a work-experience girl cowering at the back of the room. There was one when he threw someone out, was in the midst of a full-on hairdryer rage and Richard Tanner from the Express got so muddled he stuck up his hand like we were in Grange Hill and volunteered to go as well.
Another one lasted 38 seconds, if I remember rightly. He got us in, told us we could all fuck off and then we all traipsed out again. One of the journalists had driven from Newcastle to get there. Fergie was smiling as we headed off, that’s the abiding memory.
Yet it’s not all about shouting and slamming etc. They stand out, yes, because when he gets going it’s remarkable to see. But there was a lot of humour in those days too. And great insight. And some pretty remarkable stuff (he was convinced at one point two of his least favourite referees were boyfriend and boyfriend). More than anything, when he actually talked football and let you into his world it was genuinely fascinating and – here’s the thing – you learned from him, all that experience and football knowledge.
The one that really stands out, if I have to narrow it down, came after Rooney’s transfer request. Rooney and his camp tried to take him on in a PR contest and Fergie just cleaned the floor with them. The cow in the field, and all that. It was a masterclass.
S: His best signing?
D: Roy Keane. Yes, I knew he cost a few quid etc but Keane was immense, wasn’t he? What a player. It’s a shame things have got so bitter with him and United.
S: Your favourite Fergie quote?
D: “People say mine was a poor upbringing. I don’t know what they mean. It was tough, but it wasn’t bloody poor. We maybe didn’t have a TV. We didn’t have a car. We didn’t even have a phone. But I thought I had everything, and I did: I had a football.”
S: Finally, who should the club replace him with?
D: I like David Moyes and I have known him, loosely speaking, going back to when he was at Preston. He’s done a consistently good job at Everton – a very good job, in fact – and I can see them struggling without him next season. However, answer these questions: will United win the Champions League with Moyes in charge? Or would they have a better chance with Mourinho? I think it’s pretty obvious, whatever the guy’s occasional flaws.
Daniel Taylor has written a book on Ferguson: This Is the One: Sir Alex Ferguson: The Uncut Story of a Football Genius. Follow him on Twitter.