As Manch­ester United cor­re­spon­dent for the

Manch­ester Evening News since 1995, Stu­art Mathieson can pro­vide more of an in­sight than most into Alex Fer­gu­son’s press room prow­ess

Can you re­mem­ber your first ever press con­fer­ence with Fer­gu­son? It was at the Cliff – United’s for­mer train­ing ground – and it was very nerve-wrack­ing. It was an in­tim­i­dat­ing en­vi­ron­ment, be­cause Fergie was so un­pre­dictable. You never knew how he was go­ing to re­spond to a cer­tain ques­tion. His mood could com­pletely change in an in­stant.

Do you think he would de­lib­er­ately try to in­tim­i­date jour­nal­ists? Def­i­nitely. If you phrased a ques­tion wrong in a press con­fer­ence he would be­lit­tle you, which would dent your con­fi­dence. He could de­ter jour­nal­ists from ask­ing cer­tain ques­tions by re­spond­ing in a par­tic­u­lar way. But there were times when you were con­vinced you were about to get the hairdryer and then he’d be nor­mal. He kept you on your toes.

Can you re­mem­ber the worst bol­lock­ing you re­ceived from him? I asked a very sim­ple ques­tion: ‘Are you happy with Danny Wel­beck’s start to the sea­son?’ The ex­pres­sion changed on his face and he tore strips off me – even the other jour­nal­ists in the room were stunned. The fol­low­ing week Wel­beck scored at Real Madrid. I asked the same ques­tion and he gave me the an­swer I had wanted first time around!

Did you have ways of de­fus­ing his rage? I think per­sis­tence was the best method. If you were afraid to ask him ques­tions he would smell weak­ness. I’d al­ways con­tinue to ask him the ques­tions that I needed for my story and I think he ac­tu­ally re­spected me and the other jour­nal­ists for do­ing that.

How did he com­pare to David Moyes and Louis van Gaal? David wasn’t quite as con­fi­dent. He wasn’t as com­fort­able field­ing ques­tions when he knew it was on live tele­vi­sion. That was prob­a­bly be­cause he didn’t have the same suc­cess be­hind him that Fergie had. Louis had a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing fiery but he was en­gag­ing – you could have a laugh with him.

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