Re­turn of ‘en­cy­clo­pe­dia’ Fer­gu­son mas­sive for United: Po­chet­tino

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

Alex Fer­gu­son’s re­turn to Manch­ester United’s train­ing ground has been mas­sive for his old club, ac­cord­ing to the man tipped to take over at Old Traf­ford next sea­son.

Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino, whose side host United in­terim boss Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer’s resur­gent team at Wem­b­ley to­day, is a huge ad­mirer of Fer­gu­son — a man the Ar­gen­tine de­scribes as an en­cy­clo­pe­dia of foot­ball.

Fer­gu­son re­port­edly gave a rous­ing speech to United’s first­team squad af­ter be­ing in­vited back by Sol­sk­jaer re­cently — his first ap­pear­ance at the train­ing ground since emer­gency surgery for a bleed on the brain last May.

“I think it’s fan­tas­tic news be­cause he is foot­ball,” Po­chet­tino told re­porters at his news con­fer­ence on Fri­day.

“I think to be in­volved again, I think for him and for Manch­ester sure it’s a mas­sive im­por­tant thing.

“He’s one of the peo­ple I ad­mired the most. An in­spi­ra­tion.”

The Scot, now 77, re­tired as United man­ager in May 2013 af­ter win­ning 38 tro­phies dur­ing 26 years in charge.

Fer­gu­son’s re-ap­pear­ance at the Car­ring­ton train­ing ground has added to the feel-good fac­tor sweep­ing the club in the wake of Jose Mour­inho’s sack­ing last month — a move that in­stantly put Po­chet­tino’s fu­ture at Tot­ten­ham in the spot­light.

For­mer United and Nor­way striker Sol­sk­jaer has won all five of his matches in charge and Po­chet­tino said the Fer­gu­son ef­fect can­not be dis­missed ahead of Sun­day’s Premier League clash.

MAS­SIVE IM­PACT

“I think all the fans of Manch­ester United, and of course for the play­ers and for the staff, to have a per­son (like him) in­volved is a mas­sive im­pact,” he said.

“And I think he was the best man­ager in the world, in the his­tory of foot­ball. To have the pos­si­bil­ity to see him ev­ery day is mas­sive. It’s like hav­ing the big book of Larousse (an en­cy­clo­pe­dia), like a dic­tio­nary.

“I re­mem­ber it was a trea­sure for me when my dad and mum gave a present to me at Christ­mas. It was a book where you find ev­ery­thing. He (Fer­gu­son) is an en­cy­clopae­dia of foot­ball.”

Po­chet­tino said he was present on one of the great­est nights in Fer­gu­son’s 27 glit­ter­ing years as United boss — the 1999 Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal at Barcelona’s Nou Camp when sub­sti­tute Sol­sk­jaer scored a stop­page-time win­ner against Bay­ern Mu­nich.

“I don’t know how we found the tick­ets,” said Po­chet­tino, who was then play­ing for Es­panyol. “We were in a very bad place and started to walk, we crossed and jumped, up, up and up, and we ar­rived at the Pres­i­dent’s (box) and found two seats.

“When Sol­sk­jaer scored, we were shout­ing, cel­e­brat­ing, I don’t know why. Be­cause in that mo­ment we were neu­tral. But the at­mos­phere was amaz­ing.”

With Tot­ten­ham third in the league 10 points clear of six­th­plaed United and in the ti­tle race, the days when Fer­gu­son could tell his play­ers “It’s only Spurs” when the sides met are over.

Much of the credit for that goes to Po­chet­tino who has steered Spurs to fifth, third, sec­ond and third place fin­ishes in his four sea­sons in charge.

Which is why Tot­ten­ham’s no­to­ri­ously tough chair­man Daniel Levy might need to be at his most ob­du­rate to de­ter any ap­proach fort eh Ar­gen­tine from United’s hi­er­ar­chy. Per­versely, should Tot­ten­ham win on Sun­day it would make Levy’s task harder.

“Daniel is not an easy per­son to do busi­ness with,” Po­chet­tino said. “We need to give him credit be­cause when he was first here 18 years ago it was a dif­fer­ent club, not fight­ing rel­e­ga­tion but mid-ta­ble. Cer­tainly mid-ta­ble in terms of fa­cil­i­ties. Now it is at the top.

“In the last few years, we have been fight­ing with the big sides and that is mas­sive credit to him.”

Alex Fer­gu­son (left) re­port­edly gave a rous­ing speech to United’s first-team squad af­ter be­ing in­vited back by in­terim boss Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer re­cently — his first ap­pear­ance at the train­ing ground since emer­gency surgery for a bleed on the brain last May.

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