Over a month ahead of the release of Alex Ferguson’s second autobiography, The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor, as informed in all things Manchester United as anybody, has detailed the potential implications of what may be an unsettling tell all. Particularly given Wayne Rooney, a likely target in Ferguson’s book, has just been re-integrated at United, Red Devils’ management are reportedly concerned their former manager’s parting shot could rock a newly stabilized boat.
This spring Ferguson ended his 26-year career at Manchester United with his 13th title and controversy, claiming Rooney had asked for a transfer just before the end to United’s season. That led to an off-season where the 27-year-old was constantly linked with moves away from Old Trafford, most notably to Chelsea, with speculation finally dying out shortly before the close of the summer window. Now back in the team and performing well as United’s number 10, Rooney looks poised to resume business as usual in Manchester.
Hence the danger of Ferguson’s latest memoir, which is scheduled to be released on Oct. 24. From Taylor’s column:
He might be gone but you will be hearing an awful lot about Ferguson over the next couple of months and it is probably no surprise that at Old Trafford they are wondering whether a storm of locusts is about to head their way. Or that one question, more than any other, is being asked: is Ferguson about to blow apart the Wayne Rooney peace process?
He can hardly ignore what has happened, the breakdown of their relationship, the transfer request, the cow looking into the next field and all that, and when Ferguson makes it his business to get in the final word it is a potent pot of poison in which he dabs his quill.
If Taylor’s saying Old Trafford’s wondering, that may as well as be from United themselves. Taylor’s reporting on Manchester United has been as consistently well-informed as anybody. If he’s been told about these worries, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that United’s letting this story out, an early attempt to provide context for a potential blowback.
Given Paul Hayward, a former Guardian scribe, will have his name on the cover of Ferguson’s book, it’s also plausible to assume Taylor’s assumptions about the autobiography’s content aren’t mere speculation. Taylor’s not likely to devote so may words to the subject of mere speculation.
But it is Ferguson’s views on Rooney that threaten the most damage and it is easy to understand why, behind the scenes, United are worried about it undermining David Moyes and creating all sorts of new issues. Rooney, as if it needs recapping, has just spent the summer trying to get a move to Chelsea only for his current employers to make it clear he can think again. Now they are going through the process of trying to convince Rooney he can start enjoying life at Old Trafford again, working on his ego, trying to demonstrate they still value him highly.
“[T]hink again” is a very telling phrase, though in that way, Ferguson’s book can actually help United demonstrate their loyalty to Rooney. If, in the face of the book’s possible controversy, the Red Devils stand behind Rooney and make it clear the player has their full support, Rooney will be able to see the stark contrast between May and now. He will be able to juxtapose the memories rekindled by Ferguson’s words and the behavior he sees from his current bosses. By being reminded how things were, he may be able to appreciate how things are.
It will be delicate for United, though. The last thing they want to do is insult an icon, so being respectful of Ferguson’s words will be a paramount concern. But the public tension between the club’s needs and Ferguson’s stories will be seen by the ex-manager as pragmatism. Ferguson’s not so self-involved to believe United’s current policies will revolve around him. As long as United leave their strongest criticism to Rooney’s private reassurances, the club can serve two masters.
One of the ironies of this situation — a potential book causing so much controversy — is the role Rooney’s book had in the divide between himself and Moyes. The player’s 2006 autobiography led Moyes to sue over claims the former Everton prospect made about his then ex-boss. The libel claim was eventually settled out of the court, with Rooney paying off Moyes while issuing an apology.
Now Moyes and Rooney may have to work together to defuse the effects of Ferguson’s book, though with Moyes having already bent over backwards to assimilate Rooney into the team, the book may only seal their new bond.