Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson launched his new autobiography on Tuesday, lifting the lid on his relationships with stars such as David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney.
Ferguson said Beckham became too obsessed with fame in the latter years of his Old Trafford career and reiterated his claim that Rooney asked to leave the club at the end of last season.
He confirmed that Keane, his long-serving captain, was asked to leave the club after lashing out at several of his younger team-mates in an interview with in-house television channel MUTV that was never broadcast.
He also revealed that he was twice offered the England manager’s job, in 1999 and 2001, but turned it down.
“There was no way I could contemplate that. It wasn’t a bed of nails I was ever tempted to lie on,” he said in ‘My Autobiography’.
Ferguson, 71, stepped down as United manager in May after a record-breaking 26-1/2 year tenure in which he won 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League crowns, five FA Cups and four League Cups.
The Scot developed a reputation for imposing unyielding discipline on the players in his squad and he was particularly forthright about several of the superstars he worked with.He described Beckham as “the only player I managed who chose to be famous, who made it his mission to be known outside the game”.
Ferguson said he decided to sell Beckham to Real Madrid after an incident following an FA Cup loss at home to Arsenal in February 2003 when he accidentally kicked a boot into the midfielder’s face during a post-match argument. “The next day the story was in the press. In public an Alice band (worn by Beckham) highlighted the damage inflicted by the boot,” Ferguson said.
“It was in those days that I told the board David had to go. The minute a Manchester United player thought he was bigger than the manager, he had to go. That was the death knell for him.”
Expanding on the story at a press conference in central London to mark the launch of the book, Ferguson said that Beckham’s focus shifted after he married the pop star Victoria Adams in 1999. “The big problem for me is that he fell in love with Victoria. That changed everything,” he said.
Ferguson described Ronaldo, who left United for Madrid in 2009, as “the most gifted player I managed” and said watching him play for the first time was “the biggest surge of excitement... I experiencied in football management”.
The Scot also disclosed the contents of the conversations he had with Rooney on the two occasions he asked to leave the club.