5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Fergie Time...On Your Own Time (And Chair),
This review is from: Alex Ferguson My Autobiography (Hardcover)
(WARNING: The review of this book may or more likely will contain spoilers!)
Do you know what's ironic, or at least has the potential to be ironic? In the opening chapter of Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography, he mentions that after an entertaining 5-5 draw with West Brom in his final league game in charge of Manchester United at the conclusion of the 2012/13 season, Ryan Giggs jokingly said in the dressing room that "David Moyes has just resigned." Well based on United's performances so far this season, that piece of supposed light humour may very well become a reality in the near future.
But while that debate rages in the football forums, I have a review to take care of...this book. It's been highly talked about since its release with some ex-United players not taking too kindly to Fergie's opinions and choice of words. As a Manchester United supporter (there, I said it!) I found it to be a highly enjoyable read; but even if I wasn't a supporter I still would've found it more than engaging enough to see it through to the end. I don't think it's quite the blow-your-eyebrows-off-of-your-face book that the media have made it out to be, but it certainly grabs your attention and gets you thinking.
While there is a bit of talk about Alex Ferguson's early life and managerial days at St.Mirren and Aberdeen, this book mainly focuses on the period between 2001/02 (the season he was supposed to retire but then changed his mind) and 2012/13 (when he did actually retire). He talks a lot about his thinking behind his transfer purchases, the United youth system, his methods of dealing of problematic players, and the in-game tactics used to ensure the Red Devils remained a competitive force both in the English Premiership and in the UEFA Champions League.
In the early chapters Ferguson talks about his no-nonsense temperate; the importance of keeping his teams focused and in line, reminding them that he was in charge and that they would be facing severe consequences if they stepped out of line. One example of this is when -during his early years of management- he fired a player for making a rude gesture in a team photo. He comes across as being a very, VERY passionate man when it comes to football (as if all that TV coverage wasn't obvious enough). In fact, in those same early chapters, he talks about having a steely determination, never giving up and always looking for a way to comeback and improve on previous results. The words are actually quite uplifting. If you're a person who's currently down on their luck and can't seem to catch a break, those are the kind of words you need to hear...the kind of words you want to hear. In spite of Ferguson's notable fiery temper though, the foul language is kept relatively light in this autobiography, unlike Harry Redknapp's offering which was pretty much profanity-laden from start to finish.
The so-called juicy bits can be found halfway through, and Ferguson doesn't mince his words for even a short line. He rates Australian goalkeeper Mark Bosnich poorly, portraying him as a greedy pig that couldn't stop eating; while Owen Hargreaves apparently disappointed him by having no confidence in his ability to overcome injuries. Even the better Manchester United players get a text book slapping. While Fergie acknowledges David Beckham to be a hard worker and a fine footballer of his generation, he does express a strong disliking towards his celebrity lifestyle, and that from his POV his focus was more on being famous than improving the United team. Having seemingly patched up their differences a few years back, you can't help but wonder if Fergie is trying to reopen old wounds with comments like that towards Beckham; and if so, why? Why bother kissing and making up when you're just planning to shoot him down again?
However the ex-United player who bears most of the criticizing brunt is the 90's midfield engine, Roy Keane. According to Alex, Roy's attitude was especially problematic during his final few months at Old Trafford with a series of petty arguments, and a general feeling that Roy was trying to take over the manager's hot seat in an underhanded manner. The chapter on Roy Keane plays out more like a well-written thriller, and every page turn builds up the excitement more and more and more until his eventual departure. Definitely a chatterbox worthy bunch of pages.
The truly unexpected stuff for me comes in Ferguson's interests outside of football. Sure he's dabbled in owning race horses for quite a while, but aside from that I couldn't help but feel that football was all he knew, that there was very little beyond the goalposts of the beautiful game. So to read that he has a strong fascination for former US President John F.Kennedy, and more precisely his assassination (with many books on the subject in his home), made me let out a sizeable "Huh?!" Mind you a few surprises are usually welcome in a book, and I suppose many of us do have an unexpected hobby or two, so it's all good.
One thing that'll surely get the football lovers talking is Ferguson's choice of words before and after matches, and in the media. Many a paper have stated that Fergie was playing mind games with his opponents (managers in particular) in order to unsettle the opposition and give his team the advantage. However Fergie insists that this has never been the case, saying that he was merely expressing his honest opinions about his opponents and that the papers (and other media) simply made it out to be mind games. Is he telling the truth? Well, I'm trying to look at it like this. This is his autobiography, his page-by-page opportunity to tell it like it is. Why would he lie about that in his own book, especially knowing that he is now in the late autumn of his life?
Overall Alex Ferguson's autobiography gets full marks from me. Its mixture of strong views and exciting action, mixed in with small amounts of surprises and even a motivational speech, all add up to make it one of the best books I've read so far. At times I even found myself reading about four chapters in one sitting, it is that good. Whether you're a diehard Manchester United fan, or an individual looking to bash them at every single opportunity, this is a book you simply HAVE to read.
Update - 26/4/2014: Well, looks like David Moyes is gone. More of a sacking than a resignation, but he is gone.