Fergie to quit within three years
Sir Alex Ferguson has stressed his confidence about keeping Cristiano Ronaldo, whilst also admitting he will quit Manchester United within three years.
Speaking to Sir David Frost in an exclusive interview for Sky Sports, Ferguson speaks about his future and the recent speculation about his prized asset Ronaldo.
Ronaldo has told the Iberian press that he will be disclosing his plans for the future this week - with Real Madrid desperately trying to seal his signature - but Ferguson stands resolute that the Portuguese ace will remain at Old Trafford.
"I'm confident about that. I'm very confident, yeah. It's a game they play all the time," Ferguson opined.
"And in the past they've done it with Beckham, they've done it with Van Nistelrooy, they've done it with my fitness coach last summer, they took him away from us, so we're used to it.
"And it's a great, in a way it's a compliment to the standard of players that we have, you know, and we always seem to produce, but I am more than confident Cristiano will be there next year.
"We have very determined directors in the Glazer family, who will not be messed about in this situation. And David Gill is of the same mind, so the core structure of Manchester United in terms of who run the football club, are adamant and are of the same mind, we want Cristiano to stay for a long long time, and of course, we have rewarded that.
"He is on a fantastic contract and quite rightly so, he's the best player in the world - he deservers to be recognised in the monetary sense that he's happy with and we're happy with."
Turning to his own future, Ferguson - 67 in December - admitted he will be giving up his job before his turns 70.
"I think no more than 3 years - two, maybe two more," he admitted.
"I have also got to respect my wife too, cos she's - she's suffering. She did suffer because she doesn't go to the games. She's not a football fan you know - she's an Alex Ferguson fan - she's a mother to all these three boys and a grandmother to her children - her grandchildren - that's her life.
"I think also what you've got to bear in mind also is the changes to management anyway - for instance, there was some promising managers at this very moment in time as we're sitting here, and then a few bad results and they're out of a job, and if that happens, who's going to last the pace? But it's not that, obviously the board and David Gill's mentioned it to me in the past - it's David's decision and it's in the Glazer family's decision - they have to be comfortable with it, you know?"
Speaking about a possible successor, Ferguson insists that he will not necessarily have to have United links and once again heralded his own number two Carlos Queiroz.
"It's not a prerequisite for the job. I'm sure of that," he continued.
"I mean I didn't play for United. I mean Matt Busby played for Man City you know? So I think it will be down to ability and how well some managers are doing at the time.
"And of course, you can't discount my assistant ,Carlos Queiroz, cos I think he's outstanding. He's done fantastic work for the club - so that's no worse than anyone."
But the Scot did confirm that he had no intentions of working with any successor.
"Oh the field will be left clear simply cos I would not, I mean people say that if you're about the place that you'd be in the road, and God, when you've done 21, or 22, 23 years. You need a rest! I deserve a rest!" he said.
"I wouldn't have interest in the team at that point in terms of how it was run or how, no - it's the manager's domain and furthermore, as Bobby Charlton has done with me, 100 per cent support for the manager - you know why? Cos it's the most difficult job and the most important man at Manchester United is the manager - without question, the minute that ever changed it would mean massive free-fall in the club.
"You can never allow the players to run the football club and you can never allow the supporters to run the football club and they've all a part to play. Without our supporters, we'd be nothing - without the players, we'd be nothing. They are the most important components of a football club - but somebody has to run it. Somebody has to be in charge, and the manager is the best man - and has always got to be supported."
Ferguson was then asked about some of his regrets and whilst reiterating how much he rues letting Paul Gascoigne get away, he also revealed how he regretted sanctioning Jaap Stam's departure to Lazio.
"Jaap Stam was the one. Without a question," he said. "I made a mistake there.
"Jaap had got an Achilles operation and he'd been out for six months, and when he came back, Steve McClaren, assistant at the time, and I thought he had lost a yard of pace you know.
"And we said we'll leave it over the summer, and in the summer, we thought we'd have a chance to sign a player and we'd use Jaap as a part of it but it didn't work.
"It was very presumptuous right enough so I said well, let's wait. At the start of the season, he had a bad start to the first game of the season, we played Fulham and didn't have a good game and I thought, and at that moment Lazio come in and offer £16.5 million for him which was a lot of money.
"Jaap would be about 30 at that time, maybe 31, and I thought it's bloody good money that for a centre-half. And I bought it. I jumped at it, and we got Lauren Blanc too for a couple of years. Fantastic, marvellous man, great influence with young players - absolutely first class, but he was a different type of player from Jaap, and older of course, I think Lauren was about 35, 36 at the time.
"So then Jaap goes to Lazio and I went to see him play a game and I says bloody hell, he's playing fantastic. So therefore it was a bad decision, you know - based on you know maybe a sort of a too hurried decision on his form. You know - I should maybe have waited a bit longer."
Ferguson denied Stam leaving had anything to do with his autobiography which was released around the time of his exit.
"Not a bit - I clarified that with him right away - I said hey, 'You're stupid, you do a biography - you don't lay yourself open to criticism like that'."
On the ones that got away, Ferguson still recalls his Gascoigne disappointment.
"One was Alan Shearer but for me, the disappointing one of all was Paul Gascoigne," he said.
"Paul Gascoigne to me was the best player of his era in English Football. He was a breath of fresh air because he played with a smile, and he played with a cunning and an aggression - apart from all the great abilities he had, he loved playing and he loved winning.
"My first experience of Paul - I had just joined the club in 86, and 87 in the March, we played Newcastle in a wee game, and they were just bobbing above relegation.
"And he had been injured, and he had come back and he had won the two previous games I think, and we got them there in a wee game, and my three centre mid field players were Robson, Whiteside and Moses.
"Three very competitive footballers. Great footballers. And he absolutely tore them apart. He tore them apart. It ended up with one situation.
"He nutmegged Reme Moses right in front of me in the dugout, and went up to Reme right after he did it and patted him on the head. And I was out of that dugout, 'get that little so and so!' And Robbo and Whiteside are chasing up and down the pitch and couldn't get near him and I says after the game, I says to the chairman 'Don't leave here, get on that, onto that chairman of Newcastle, I've gotta get this boy, he's the best I've seen for years and years.
"And we had the chance to speak to him, he had a chance to speak to, to Tottenham. I spoke to him the night before I went on holiday, he says 'Mr Ferguson, you go on holiday, enjoy yourself, I'll be signing for Manchester United', I said, 'oh great' went on my holidays, lying by the swimming pool - tannoy, Mr Ferguson come to reception, it's Martin Edwards
"He says I've got bad news. He's signed for Tottenham. I said oh God almighty, how could that be? He says, well, apparently that Tottenham have, have bought his mother and father a house in the North East and that swung it.
"Well I think that was a bad mistake and Paul admits it to this day because as a 19-year-old lad going to London is not easy for a footballer."
Ferguson thinks United would have been a much better place for Gascoigne to play.
"We had Bobby Charlton a Geordie. We had Bryan Robson a Geordie. Steve Bruce a Geordie, we had Gary Pallister from Middlesbrough - we had a structure of players who could have helped him and I think it would have given him some discipline, maybe it would have helped him too," he added.
Finally Ferguson was asked about the top-five players of his reign but he could not separate his top-three of Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and Roy Keane.
"Well Robson definitely. Cantona definitely. Keane. It's hard to, those three were definitely [giants]," he said.
"Eric's great asset was to score important goals at important times or make a goal at important times. That's what his great asset was. Just when you're saying to yourself, God we need a goal here - up he'd pop. And he'd either make one or score one. He was a fantastic personality -I've been very lucky - the players I've had. Some fantastic players. "