This past week has been all about one man – Sir Alex Ferguson.
The 71-year-old who retired at the end of last season after 26 years in charge at Old Trafford revealed all in his autobiography released this week – from David Beckham’s wife to his former club captain Roy Keane to England captain Steven Gerrard to rival manager Rafael Benitez, Ferguson managed to upset everyone.
Not everyone, I suppose – he had nothing but good things to say about the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, the Neville brothers, United fans and the club in general. He reserved his scathing criticism for the likes of Wayne Rooney and other notable aforementioned club legends that may have upset the apple cart at some point or another.
Pundits, professionals and industry insiders have come out to attack, defend and generally give their tuppence worth on the subject this week – Paul Merson and Martin Keown were shocked, Robbie Savage thought it was poor taste, Brendan Rodgers said it was harsh, and Roy Keane said he was disloyal.
Above all else, I think it reflects more poorly on the man himself – Sir Alex. When he retired in May, the world of football wrapped their arms around him and, rightly so, they paid due respect and honoured one of the greatest managers in the history of the game. He was celebrated, revered and even those who disliked him as the boss of Manchester United couldn’t fault his passion, dedication, commitment and, above all, success. Everyone wished him well.
From that platform, the pedestal he was placed on, he didn’t need to look back on his time at United with such disdain for some of the people he worked with, many of whom were a big part of his success, and look down from that platform to judge and berate them – he didn’t need to use his life’s story to settle old scores. He chose to.
Whatever he felt at the time of the events in the book and whatever he feels now, he ought perhaps to have respected the privacy and dignity of those he, at one point or another, had very close working relationships with.
I can understand (although I don’t agree) with his dismissal of Gerrard and his shot-popping at Benitez – that’s not unexpected – but his personal attacks on Beckham and his wife and his former club captain and star striker (who still plays for United) was not only poor taste but poor judgment on his part and, more than anything, completely unnecessary from such a well respected man. It lowered him and devalued his reputation as much as theirs.
Swansea boss Michael Laudrup said he would have preferred to read about Ferguson’s tactical ideas and management strategies more than the character assassinations of fellow professionals and I have to agree with him. Ferguson recently published an article with Harvard Business School on his experience in management and what it takes to be successful. That was far more interesting the rounds of shots he fired at those who he felt aggrieved with in his book.
If the intention was to set the record straight and hurt those who hurt him, somewhat vindictively, then Sir Alex Ferguson has surely missed the point of an autobiography – it’s not supposed to be about other people, it supposed to be about the author and, ironically, the author in this case has only really served to hurt himself.
Instead of letting sleeping dogs lay and being remembered as the legend he is, people will now also remember how spiteful, hurtful and disrespectful he could be to his colleagues and staff. That's the Alex Ferguson we had elected to forget in May but that's now the Alex Ferguson that will be remembered. For better or worse.
image: © tomjoad