Ferguson basks in Holmes crowd while publicising autobiography

It wasn’t exactly a tough audience for the former United manager

Alex Ferguson picutred in the Convention Centre, Dublin, where he launched his book.

Alex Ferguson picutred in the Convention Centre, Dublin, where he launched his book.


It was, as Alex Ferguson declared when arriving on stage, “Friday night in Dublin!” But if this was officially an away fixture for the former Manchester United manager, it was also a home from home. And as if to put him even more at his ease for his appearance at the National Convention Centre on his book promotion tour, it was man called Holmes who was asking the questions.

The scene was set by a cinematic voiceover that introduced the interviewer as “the legendary Manchester United supporter, Eamonn Holmes”. With that, the slim prospect that the club’s most successful ever manager would face a Dublin grilling disappeared.

Not that the 2,000 who had paid €40 each to see the event wanted confrontation. The admission price included an autographed copy of Ferguson’s autobiography but, clearly, many had it already. “Everybody loves Alex Ferguson,” chanted the more zealous fans. And here at least, that seemed to be true.

In terms of a hard-hitting or forensic approach to interviewees, Eamonn Holmes will never be confused with his namesakes, Larry or Sherlock. But he did at least raise the Keane issue: “Where did it all go wrong?”.

And although Ferguson didn’t add any new fuel to that fire, he wasn’t backing down.

He again defended his decision to end Keane’s United career, while admitting it was the “hardest” of several very hard decisions he had made in his 27 years at Old Trafford.

The Corkman’s appointment as Ireland assistant manager gave him a diplomatic way out, however. He thought it was “fantastic” for all concerned, suggested it would be priceless experience for Keane if he ever went back to the Premiership, and attributed his early setbacks in club management to inexperience.

It sounded conciliatory, even if elsewhere in the interview, protesting at the impossibility of naming his all-time first 11 at United, the only automatic choice Ferguson could identify was a different Corkman, Dennis Irwin.

That aside, the nearest thing to controversy was when, speaking of another former defender and his media career, Ferguson joked that Gary Neville should “stick to analysis”. He added: “I’m not saying that his commentary’s not good, but . . .”

As one veteran manager to another, Ferguson put in a kind word for the departed Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni. He thought it was “admirable” to take on the job at his age, all the more so when he couldn’t speak “very good English”.

The interview was predicted to last about an hour. But it was introduced as “Fergie Time” by Holmes and, as Fergie Time always did, it ran longer that was strictly justified. Not that, in this case, the manager needed any late goals. After 75 minutes, he exited the stage to a standing ovation, the same as the one he got when entering.