Red nose stuck in our business again

Blimey, I thought we had all heard the last from the red-nosed old scrote, but sadly Alex Ferguson continues to haunt us from the grave of his managerial career.

This time we have him wasting not a second to screw some more money out of his last autobiography by adding a few chapters that basically rubbish us and twist the knife into David Moyes, the man he selected as his replacement.

Nothing, though, is sacred when there is money involved for Fergie, I have always refused to use the Sir title, bestowed by Alistair Campbell in the aftermath of Manchester United's extremely fortunate Champions League victory over Bayern Munich, who still can't believe how they threw it away in Barcelona.

Fergie, in those extra chapters for the paperback version, insists that he tried to persuade Moyes not to axe Mike Phelan as his number two. Oh, and he has launched a laughable defence of Big Sam by insisting that 'the West Ham way' does not exist. I'm sure you have all seen the quotes by now, so I don't need to re-cycle them here any further.

Why he needs to rush back into print I don't really know, he's a multi-millionaire travelling the globe now on lecturing contracts and glad-handing his way around any celebrity gathering he can get an invite to. But there is money to be made, and when that's the case, it seems Fergie is never far away.

Now a few of you by now will have gathered that during my former life when I was earning a living, I spent nearly 15 years working with Manchester United--in a professional capacity I hasten to add--that meant weekly contact with the old villain.

I still bear the scars! Just the mention of his name brings me out in a cold sweat. Moving on eventually to working with Liverpool and Everton was like a breath of fresh air, two proper football clubs and some decent managers to work with in the shape of Howard Kendall, Joe Royle, Moyes, Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez.

Now, just to give support to his old mate Big Sam, Fergie has launched an attack on us that might just show some bitterness that a little old club from the East End could be such a thorn in his side, stopping United winning the title twice, and, incidentally, the double in 2000-01... thanks Paolo .

Now Fergie knows exactly what we are about, our style, and our approach to the way the beautiful game should be played. It is exactly the way his teams played, with an attacking, passing game full of flair and entertainment. Much like the Liverpool of old with their pass and move. It's not rocket science, but it takes money to do properly--certainly these days.

And Fergie to my knowledge has in the past frequently said how tough he found it was to play against us, how we always tried to attack. Now he comes out with this clap-trap.

I wonder what John Lyall would have made of Fergie's recent remarks, or Alan Curbishley and Harry Redknapp. All three frequently said what a good relationship they had with Fergie, one of mutual respect and admiration. So was Fergie just laughing behind their backs while being nice to their faces?

Fergie has branded us with being lucky or never frightening him, and that last season's team was full of average players. (Maybe not too wrong there!)

But over the decades we have managed very good (and plenty of crap) performances against his teams. Were we lucky when Paolo Di Canio made a muppet out of Fabien Bartez? Or when Carlton Cole played Jonny Evans off the park? Or when Ludo Miklosko stopped United winning the title with a magnificent display in '95?

And if we are so average, why did he move heaven and earth to get Paul Ince, or try so hard to sign Di Canio. And the fact that he had Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick in his sides suggests that the West Ham way had some merits. And then, of course, he nicked Carlos Tevez. That bad, are we?

Seemingly the real reason for the outburst is his clumsy attempts to support Sam Allardyce, something he has plenty of previous for.

Remember the running battle he had with Benitez. The day that the former Liverpool boss made an unfortunate cut-throat gesture at Anfield while Liverpool were battering Bolton, for once.

Sam was unhappy with that, Benitez tried to suggest he was telling his players an in-joke after a free-kick routine had gone wrong but still produced a goal. No, I wasn't convinced then either?

But the dressing rooms were barely cleaned before Fergie, from the safety of Old Trafford, was launching into a defence on the radio of Sam, having probably not even seen the incident.

Benitez hated what he considered to be the Fergie mafia of managers, the group of bosses who grovelled and fawned around the United chief. The Spaniard unwisely went public about it all, and very quickly Roberto Martinez came out in support. Bad move.

Martinez was managing Wigan at the time, a club ruled by Dave Whelan, a chairman who never failed to be gushing about United and his mate Bobby Charlton in particular.. And of course Wigan got plenty of players on loan from Fergie.

So Martinez very quickly changed his tune. Very sorry he was to have upset the cartel. There were others. I witnessed a painfully, embarrassing exhibition of forelock tugging from newly promoted Tony Pulis once, at a football dinner, when the Stoke boss sat next to Fergie on the top table. Cringeworthy it was, and of course Ryan Shawcross became available!

And there was also some disquiet when certain managers withdrew their players from loan spells at Preston after Fergie's lad Darren was sacked.

I would consider Steve Bruce and Moyes to be part of Fergie's gang then, too. And both benefited from decent loans and signings from OT. And Fergie and Sam have always been big mates.

So the power of the man was obvious. Now it seems he is still having an impact following his retirement, but defending Sam is just not needed. He has shown he is big enough and ugly enough to cope on his own, as we have seen in recent weeks as things have started going well for us.

My colleagues on KUMB have kindly printed a long list elsewhere of the times we have beaten Fergie's lot over the years, they were not all lucky, although for some reason he did see fit to apologise to Neil Warnock for fielding a 'weakened' side against us on that last day with Tevez kept us up.

All this rumpus about Fergie and West Ham brings back a few memories for me of having to work with the man. He could be amusing and entertaining, but 99 per cent of the time he was difficult, real hard work.

He had a very black and white view on life. You were either with him or a'gin him (a Jock word he used). There was no place for being objective in his eyes.

Many people were banned by Fergie in those days, it happened to me twice. Once when I was producing material to go with an interview with someone or other who suggested he would be United manager until he was 60. Good grief, he went on longer than that.

Anyway, some clever clogs in my London office got the art department to produce a drawing of what Fergie would look like at 60. It was not too flattering. Next time I saw him he hurled abuse and threw me out. For several months.

The next time I was asked to submit a trio of interviews during the summer break on Fergie's career. I dutifully interviewed Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan, amoungst. They were, not surprisingly, very complimentary. That is until I saw Fergie a couple of months later for the first day of the season and he launched another tirade, claiming I was trying to damage his takings from his first autobiography that was just about to be published. Another long period of silence and isolation followed.

Then there was the time he walked past me in the corridor and blurted out that I had insulted him in the coverage of Eric Cantona's move from Leeds. I had described the Frenchman as a 'Leeds cast-off.' Not the cleverest of remarks, but he was certainly being shunted out by an exasperated Yorkshire club. More silence and hard work.

Fergie has the ability to manipulate situations, always to his or Man United's benefit. I know that from the one time he asked my opinion about a player, Paul Ince.
It was the week of Ince's wonder display in November '88 that saw him score twice and end up playing centre-half in a 4-1 League Cup win over Liverpool. I mentioned I had seen the match, and Fergie pumped me for information about Ince. Little did I know wheels were already in motion and Ince was a Man U player less than a year later.

Right, glad I have got all that off my chest. I have waited a few years! Better though that I stop now and don't elaborate on a shocking incident on a flight back from Athens with Man Utd that would surely have seen Fergie sacked if it had happened these days in the forensic world of twitter and 24 hour news.

It's enough to say that even now Fergie cannot keep his nose out of our affairs, can still see the chance to stir things up from a distance and is no doubt enjoying the current annoyance from E13. Thankfully, though, I don't have to see him again, and when the dust has settled, neither do West Ham.

Enjoy your retirement, Fergie, but you had better give the East End a wide berth now on your travels.

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