Few people can tell Alex Ferguson he’s wrong without fearing one of his legendary outbursts. The Manchester United manager’s wife is one of them.
He remains indebted to Cathy Ferguson for bullying him into scrapping retirement plans in 2002.
Had it not been for his persuasive wife, the usually uncompromising Scot wouldn’t be on the verge of a 10th Premier League triumph and a second Champions League title.
Instead, today’s league finale at Wigan would have been watched from the directors’ box. And there would have been no seat in the Moscow dugout for the May 21 clash with Chelsea in the Champions League final.
Six years after abandoning plans to relinquish the Old Trafford hot seat, Ferguson shudders at how close he came to walking away from the love of his life.
“It doesn’t sit easy with me, I don’t know how I would feel watching sat in the directors’ box,” the 66-year-old Ferguson said on Friday. “It would have been difficult. The decision was taken because my wife told me I wasn’t resigning. It’s the only time I’ve ever been bullied.”
The hunger for success is as fierce as it was 21 years ago when he arrived from Aberdeen.
“It’s such an emotional game,” he said. “Sometimes you get a bit nervous, sometimes you get a bit overconfident, but that’s the nature of the game.”
He snaps quickly if his achievements are questioned.
Six of the first Premier League titles from 1992 were captured by United, but only two of the last six.
“That’s failure is it? It’s harder to win than ever before,” he shot back.
Ferguson wrestled the trophy back from London last May after a year with Arsenal and two with Chelsea.
Owing to the vastly superior goal difference of his attacking side, United will defend their title today by matching Chelsea’s result against Bolton.
Even if the sides aren’t separated by points, will it take away from the achievement?
“Are you serious?” he responded to the question at Friday’s press conference. “You win the league because you’re the best team, no matter if it’s goal difference.”
While taking a rare moment to dwell on the past, Ferguson said he never fears future failure.
“At this club you can’t have doubts, because you know there’s an expectation that you have to deliver,” said Ferguson, who is on a one-year rolling contract. “Managing change, whether it’s in sport or business, is the most difficult thing to do.”
“A lot of decisions were made about the vision for the club and where we should start to rebuild, which is not easy. Some people become a huge part of your club, players like [Nicky] Butt, [Phil] Neville, [Roy] Keane, but time catches up with everyone. A lot of big decisions were made about how to redevelop the team,” he said.
And they delivered.
Veterans Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are still the heartbeat of his team, but have been blended with youthful exuberance in the guise of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.
“This has the makings of a very, very good team,” he said.