Sir Alex Ferguson: David Beckham was never a ‘top player’

In his new autobiography, to be released on Wednesday, Sir Alex Ferguson talks about Italian corruption, falling out with Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney and why he didn't like Owen Hargreaves.

Sir Alex Ferguson retired as Manchester United manager at the end of last season. His autobiography is released on Wednesday. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images
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Sir Alex Ferguson was at a Milan derby when a senior Inter official said to him: “Do you know the difference between the English and the Italians? In England they don’t think a game can ever be corrupt. In Italy they don’t think that a game cannot be corrupt.”

Ferguson tells the story, which is sure to outrage Italians, in My Autobiography, his latest volume, which covers his life from 1999 to the present. It will be published on Wednesday, but Ferguson was in London to launch the book on Tuesday.

The book is certain to be a bestseller, especially among Manchester United fans who will be particularly interested in their former manager and current director’s take on key events in the club’s recently history.

On his disagreement with Wayne Rooney in May 2013, Ferguson wrote: “He came into my office the day after we won the league and asked away. He wasn’t happy about being left out for some games and subbed in others. His agent Paul Stretford phoned David Gill [the former United chief executive] with the same message.”

Of signing Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich, Ferguson said: “When I signed him there was something about him I didn’t like. The thing every good leader should have is an instinct. Mine said to me: ‘I don’t fancy this.’ When he came over to Old Trafford for the medical, I still had some indefinable doubt. He was very hail-fellow-well-met. Almost too nice.”

On the fall-out with Roy Keane, which led to United’s captain leaving the club in 2005, Ferguson said: “The hardest part of Roy’s body is his tongue. He has the most savage tongue you can imagine. He can debilitate the most confident person in the world in seconds with that tongue. What I noticed about him that day as I was arguing with him was that his eyes started to narrow, almost to wee black beads. It was frightening to watch. And I’m from Glasgow.”

Ferguson fell out with several of his biggest stars, including David Beckham. Of an incident which made headline news a decade ago: “He was around 12 feet from me. Between us on the floor lay a row of boots. David swore. I moved towards him, and as I approached, I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye. Of course he rose to have a go at me and the players stopped him. ‘Sit down,’ I said. ‘You’ve let your team down. You can argue as much as you like.’

“David had a fine career. He gave me 12 to 15 goals a season, worked [hard]. He never attained the top level where you would say: that is an absolutely top player.”

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