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The quantity of coverage afforded Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography is no surprise given the outstanding achievements across an improbably extended career. This is the football publishing event of the year, of the decade, of arguably forever, because nobody is liable to repeat the success or longevity of the Scot.
Not even Jose Mourinho has the allure of his erstwhile rival and, in the world created by the Chelsea manager's boss, the odds against a repeat of the endurance or the domination of the former Manchester United manager are longer than those on Rafa Benitez queuing up for a signed copy of either rival's memoirs. Were, a decade and a half hence, the Portuguese to accuse Roman Abramovich of underinvestment then it would be superficially sensational but also laughable, and Mourinho's restlessness may give him access to the secrets of some leading forces across the continent, but this means his is not the central tale of any league or of any club unless he finally settles down in his second spell at Stamford Bridge.
Ferguson, bestriding the decades in which football changed so much, will surely remain unchallenged in significance. However, it is noticeable from the coverage that he can at last be challenged by those who write about him.
Ferguson may have the front page of the country's best-selling paper, for his views on David Beckham and the role his marriage played in his departure from Old Trafford, but The Sun's back page is more revealing. After a night when Arsenal lost at home to Borussia Dortmund, the lead story trumpets 'Betrayed', lending credence to Roy Keane's analysis on ITV. Meanwhile, in the Daily Mirror, the essay-length headline on Oliver Holt's piece is revealing in more ways than perhaps intended: 'Now the power's faded, all that's left is settling a few old scores'.
The intention is to sum up a book in which Ferguson puts the boot into a string of former friends and enemies alike, suggesting the manager has nothing better to do now that he has retired from the dug-out to the boardroom. But the fact that the Scot no longer controls access to information about the most popular club in the land means he is not alone in being able to settle scores.
For years, usually privately but sometimes publicly, Ferguson has let his disdain for the media run unchecked, banning anyone who dared step out of line and thereby cowing reporters afraid of getting anywhere near that line. A largely favourable book could spell banishment; in his final season, accurate reports on Rio Ferdinand's injury prognosis led to exile for Daily Telegraph and Daily Star reporters. Complaining about this, of course, risked further retribution. The mask slipped in 2011 when an American reporter asked about Ryan Giggs's preparedness for the Champions League final when he was missing training amid revelations about his private life, and an open mic picked up Fergie instructing a press officer to ban the journalist in question.
Of course, that was a UEFA press conference and Ferguson lacked the power to enforce his wishes. But now he has lost most of his power over every reporter, the hold that led to stories being suppressed, to headlines that took his side in disputes not on merit but because a rival manager would lack his power. Roberto Mancini was one who commented on this phenomenon, perhaps overlooking the role success played in generating deference towards his cross-town opponent, but with a valid point.
The journalists writing frankly about the pointless vindictiveness exhibited in some of Ferguson's latest attacks on Beckham et al would blanch at the suggestion that they are the ones settling scores. It would have been preferable if they had published and faced the Scot's damnation in the past. But it is Ferguson's own fault, and a measure of overdue justice, that in what should be a celebration, his flaws are overshadowing his glories.
It doesn't really matter what journalists write, the facts are there for all to see and Sir Alex Ferguson's triumphs will last forever in the memory. He is the most successful manager of all time. No one will ever come close to equaling his achievements. You have 'settled your score', but in all honesty it means absolutely nothing and you know it. Do you honestly think, as he sips another glass of red wine, he gives a flying f*ck what you have written? He won, you spent twenty odd years sucking it up. Deal with it and accept your puny insignificant journo role and be grateful at least that he's no longer tormenting you. He doesn't care; he's won everything!- stevenmd1982