Wed, Nov 07, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Ferguson laments `soft' treatment of young stars

AP , LONDON

Imagine Wayne Rooney arriving at Manchester United and being ordered to wash Alex Ferguson's car.

Or Cristiano Ronaldo beginning his United career by scrubbing the mud off his teammates' boots.

Or teenage signing Anderson handed a can of red paint and told to work on the doors of the Old Trafford stadium.

"I'd say the difference with young players now is that we do everything for them," Ferguson said. "The old tradition was that the young players did the boots, washed the manager's car, used to paint the stand. By creating that soft approach or easy approach, you do everything for them. Sixteen-year-old boys, not even allowed to clean their own boots!"

Times have changed, but not Ferguson's winning mentality.

Celebrating 21 years as manager of Manchester United yesterday, Ferguson is basking in success.

An apprentice toolmaker on the tough shipyards on the River Clyde in Glasgow, Ferguson played part time before becoming a pro and going on to become the most successful coach in English soccer.

Despite collecting 20 trophies in 20 seasons, including nine Premier League titles, five FA Cups and a European Champions League, Ferguson remains hungry for more success.

"Last year's [Premier League] championship was as good as the first," he said. "Winning is your drug. There are no thoughts about [retiring] at the moment, definitely not."

When Ferguson took over at Old Trafford in 1986, Ronald Reagan was US president, Jack Nicklaus was Masters champion, 20-year-old Mike Tyson was about to become the youngest winner of the world heavyweight title, a teenage Boris Becker had won Wimbledon and Chris Evert was French Open champion.

When Fergie arrived, Rooney had just turned one and Anderson wasn't even born. Even Ryan Giggs, now in his 18th season with the club, was only 12.

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