Sir Alex Ferguson has quashed speculation that he might be considering calling time on his managerial career next summer by declaring that retirement is “for young people”.
Making it clear that he ends to stick around at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future, Manchester United’s manager said: “I’m in no mood for it; as long as my health is good I intend to carry on.
“If my health deteriorated it would be different but retirement is for young people – they can do something else. If I get off that treadmill where do you think I’d go – only one way, down.”
When it was put to him that three years ago he tentatively mentioned 2011 as a potential date for stepping down, Ferguson replied: “I’ve changed my mind – again.”
Addressing a sports congress in Doha, where he has been lending his enthusiastic support to Qatar’s bid to stage the 2022 World Cup, Ferguson had warm words for the Glazer family, United’s controversial owners.
“We have a great relationship, they never bother me, they never phone,” he said, beaming. “They never interfere. What more can you ask for? I’m in a privileged position. I’ve heard of English owners texting managers during training sessions.”
Not that the United manager’s horizon is entirely irritant-free. Indeed Ferguson made it clear that he regards Paul Stretford, Wayne Rooney’s agent, as a particular nuisance.
“Some young people today take bad advice,” he said, referring to Rooney’s expression of a desire to leave Old Trafford, before the England forward’s well- documented U-turn which has furnished him with a handsome new contract.
“He’s got an agent who is not the most popular man in the world, certainly not at our club. But there’s nothing wrong with making a mistake as long as you recognise it. He [Rooney] has apologised and signed a new contract. I think what we want is Wayne back to his best. When that happens I think everyone will be OK.”
Asked if his prized possession had been unsettled by illicit contact with Manchester City, Ferguson merely said: “You’re never going to find out.”
Quizzed on the vexed subject of his “noisy” Mancunian neighbours, Ferguson initially appeared conciliatory before directing a sharp jab at Manchester City’s seemingly soft underbelly.
“You CAN buy success if the structure is right,” he said. “They’ve bought some good players, no question, but building spirit is not easy when a collection of different individuals come into the dressing room. It’s a big challenge, it’s not easy.”
Few managers are more expert at taking the locker-room temperature than Ferguson. In what could be construed as a tacit warning to Rooney, he said. “My concern will always be control. The minute a player threatens my control in the dressing room I have to take it seriously. If he’s affecting results or morale or spirit he has to go. My strength has to be obvious for all to see.”
United’s manager proved entertaining on the subject of that beast otherwise know as the modern player. Describing the species as “cocooned”, Ferguson then lamented the present day “look at me” culture. “Young people today have an image of themselves and they need to be seen, so they have these tattoos and earrings,” he explained.
As the call to prayer drifted through the desert air from nearby minarets, the Scot temporarily forgot he was in the Gulf. “You all play for your pub teams on a Sunday,” he told a puzzled audience, many of whom celebrate their weekend on a Friday and, as Muslims, do not drink.
It was a rare slip on a day when Ferguson also endorsed the candidature of Sunderland’s Steve Bruce as a future England manager, admitted that, as a much younger man, he would have relished the challenge of coaching Barcelona and sang the praises of José Mourinho.
When he does eventually accept the Glazer family’s equivalent of a farewell carriage clock before bowing out, it would be no surprise if Real Madrid’s “Special One” proves his preferred choice of successor.
In the interim Ferguson has made it clear that he rather than the next United manager will build the next Old Trafford side. He envisages it comprising a mixture of youthful promise and established talent and appeared fully confident the Glazers would stump up the necessary cash.
“It’s important to sign young players but the time will come when we have to deviate from that,” he said. “Several players from the squad are going to be going soon. Next year or the year after I’m going to have to sign some experienced players.”