An interview with Sir Alex
All characters and events in this piece – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional. Obviously.
“Nelson Terry here for Sir Alex Ferguson.” I said into the intercom outside Carrington training ground. A big, burly man comes out of the security hut. He walks with an air of self-importance, the sort of fellow who takes his job seriously. When he gets to the car he inspects my credentials and gives me a red coloured pass.
“Don’t lose it. You won’t be able to leave without it,” he growls.
As I drive into the main reception area I think of my editor’s parting words of encouragement: “Don’t be scared, he’s an old softie really.” Sir Alex, a softie? I chuckle and take a deep breath – I’m about to interview Sir Alex Ferguson in my first proper field assignment!
I walk over to the reception desk to make my presence known. “Nelson.” I clear my throat. “Nelson Terry here for Sir Alex,” the last line is supposed to be delivered confidently but my vocal chords go several octaves higher than planned, reaching decibel levels last heard during puberty. Why am I so nervous? I’d prepared for this interview thoroughly by kidnapping my younger siblings during supper and cross examining them about their meal. It’s just a routine interview Nelson, I tell myself, the sort of thing you’ll be doing prior to any match day.
“He’s out on the pitch, you can go to him if you like,” the receptionist’s voice interrupts my pep talk.
On my way to the training pitch, I can feel the excitement building within me. This is it. A football whistles past my head and I look up to see Anderson raise an apologetic hand whilst the rest of the squad collapse in a fit of laughter. Sir Alex gives the Brazilian a ticking off before beckoning for me to join him in his office.
“I’ve got a nice brew waiting for us up there,” he says, rubbing his hands.
As we make our way to his office I mentally run through the questions. My editor wants his thoughts on the team’s upcoming Europa League campaign plus the title fight and any potential summer transfers. That shouldn’t be too hard.
“Through here son,” he opens the door and walks over to his desk. Two cups and a teapot are laid out for us alongside a pack of biscuits with foreign markings on them.
“New signing, eh?” I comment, pointing to the biscuits. Sir Alex stops reading the papers on his desk and raises his eyebrow at me.
“Take a seat, let’s get this interview done shall we?”
I clear my throat and awkwardly shuffle towards the chair.
“You’re new. I haven’t seen you before,” Sir Alex remarks as he takes his seat and watches me fumble with my bag. “They usually send that bloke with the beard.”
“Oh, Andrew, he’s left. I’m the new reporter, nice to meet you.” I hastily remove my hand from my bag and offer it to Sir Alex. He gives me a funny look and my arm is left dangling in oblivion for what seems an age. Then I look down at my hand. Somehow, my cheese and tomato sandwich has leapt from by bag and gatecrashed my handshake.
“Sorry, er, erm.” My tongue wrestles with my apology. “Er I…sorry about that.” I smile weakly and return my wild sandwich to its cage. I attempt another handshake but halfway through I think better of it. This leaves my arm stuck again in midair but this time it does this twitching thing that gives the impression it was attached to my body by force.
Sir Alex coughs, reminding me of his presence. “Take it easy son. No need to be nervous.”
“Okay, right.” I set my dictaphone on the table and open my notepad.
Our interview, surprisingly, goes well. We discuss the team’s injury problems and the Premiership. I even manage to stimulate the corners of his mouth into something resembling a smile with a few of my jokes but his demeanour changes when we start talking about Europe.
“So how do you fancy your chances in Europe?” I ask.
“Well, quietly confident I’d say. It’s a tough competition and we’re up against some of the best teams in the world but who knows, we could make it three finals in four years!” He coughs and scratches his neck.
Three finals? I stop writing and look at him. Have I missed something?
“Sir Alex,” I say, flipping through my notes, “you haven’t been in any of the previous finals of the Europa League.”
“What do you mean lad? I’m talking about the Champions League,” he replies.
“Yes, but you were knocked out by Basel.” Now I’m confused. And then I realise…
“Is this why you didn’t enter a squad into the Europa League?”
“What?” He snaps.
“Well, there have been rumours that Manchester United didn’t enter a team into the Europa League.” I cough nervously and scan the room quickly for exit routes. “Would you care to comment?”
“No, I bloody well will not!” he splutters. “How dare you?! Get out! Get out now!!” He jumps up. “This is a Champions League club!” The last line is delivered with venom so potent my bowels start line dancing.
I quickly gather my stuff and rush out of the room, narrowly avoiding a collision with the file cabinet. As I stand panting outside the door I realise I left my dictaphone on the desk. After a quick prayer I summon enough courage to knock on the door.
“What!” Sir Alex bellows.
I turn the handle slowly and poke my head through the door. “I seem to have for-” my sentence is cut short by an object whistling past my ear and hitting the wall.
“Ouch!” Well at least I think it was the wall. I close the door and turn round to see Michael Owen on the floor clutching his knee.
“Michael! Are you okay?” I run over to him and pick up my dictaphone. It’s fine.
Two coaches coming up the stairs spot Michael and rush to his aide. They look at me suspiciously before probing and prodding his knee. Michael squeals in pain and Sir Alex’s door flings wide open. He looks at Michael, then at me, then at Michael, then at me again. His eyes narrow. I offer a clumsy apology and make a quick exit down the stairs.
Andrew can have his job back.