The Dugout - Sir Alex: Why we kept Scholes a secret

Fri, 13 Jan 11:19:00 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed Paul Scholes as the best passer in football, and revealed why the midfielder's comeback was kept secret.

2012 Sir Alex Ferguson LMA - 0

Speaking exclusively to Eurosport-Yahoo! the Manchester United manager raved about Scholes's enduring ability, and said his registration remained under wraps to ensure the maximum impact ahead of United's FA Cup tie against Manchester City.

In a wide-ranging interview, Sir Alex also praised his former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's managerial success with Norwegian side Molde, who he led to their first league title last year.

Solskjaer's meticulous preparations for a career in coaching were detailed, while Sir Alex said the apparently unassuming striker possesses inner toughness.

Sir Alex also spoke about the pressure on managers, which he believes is greater than ever due to intense media attention in football.

Sir Alex Ferguson

On Paul Scholes's return:

"I don't know how we managed (to keep his return under wraps). We registered him on the Friday, and we thought somehow it would get out. We kept it on Friday as late as we possibly could. Of course the game was on Sunday so you had Friday night, the whole of Saturday and Sunday morning to worry about it, but somehow we managed to keep it quiet. We didn't let any of the players know.

"We did that simply because of the impact value. We were going away from home in a very difficult FA Cup tie against City. We had 5,000 fans at that end of the ground and as soon as they knew his name was on the team sheet they were fantastic, there was a great response.

"There were no negatives as far as I was concerned ... The only negative you were going to get was from the press, and one or two have been negative. They're making out it's been a 'regressive step' for Manchester United. How can it be regressive? You're getting a player for nothing who's been part of the club for 20-odd years, so how can it be regressive?

"He knows the club. He's not going to play every game, and Paul knows that. But in terms of composure and passing ability, is there a better player going around? Definitely not."

Sir Alex on the pressures that the modern day manager faces:

"It's more intense, now. There's more profile towards managers' performance, particularly headlines in newspapers with turnips on top of their heads and all that stupid carry-on that the press involve themselves in.

"I think it is more intense today than it has ever been, and I think that has a lot to do with a change in the culture of human beings, the society that we're in nowadays. If you look at photographs from way back in the 60s, there's a great one in the United Unseen archives, and it shows you a photograph of Leeds United and Manchester United players scrapping in the middle of the pitch. It shows you the background of the crowd and there's no emotion in the fans. Whereas today their veins are coming out of their necks. So there's a change in the culture of the society we're living in today."

On man-managing high-profile players:

“What you have to do is (ensure your players) understand how fragile that celebrity status can be, in terms of - one minute you're a star, the next minute you're not a star. They have to deal with that.

"Dealing with success I think for young people is a bit more difficult today, because of television and the headlines they can get. So the work you do with them in terms of getting them to keep their feet on the ground - I say to them all the time: 'Go back to your mother the same person you were when you arrived. That's important, because I'm sure your mother doesn't like to see you change.' And we don't like to see them change either."

On Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's managerial success:

"Ole was one of these professionals who used to take down all the notes of the training sessions and in games also. I think the problem for footballers today is that when they get to the end of their careers they decide to go and become coaches because there's nothing else in their mind that they think they can do. Whereas with Ole, he always wanted to stay in the game. So from an early age his preparation was (with a view to) staying in the game as a coach or a manager, as he is at the moment. So he's given himself a better chance than the rest.

"He's got an inner toughness, no doubt about that. Ole comes across as a nice man, and he is a nice one. He's got a lovely manner about him. But if you go to a club like that (Molde) in Norway that has never won the league in their history and you win the league, you have to have something about you to do that."

On singling out his best-ever signing:

"That's impossible, absolutely impossible. If you look at value, we got Peter Schmeichel for £505,000, Brian McClair for £800,000. It's impossible. We got Roy Keane for £3.7 million, Gary Pallister £2.3m. You try to measure that against the prices you pay for the players now: Wayne Rooney was £26m for instance, Ronaldo was only £10m. So how do you equate value? The only way I can interpret it is this way: How long did he play for me, for United? How successful were they in that period? And there are too many that come into that category, you couldn't possibly say who was the best."

Sir Alex Ferguson was speaking to Yahoo!'s 'The Dugout' through its partnership with the League Managers Association

Interview by Alex Chick - @alexchick81 / Eurosport