While Sir Alex Ferguson was a fine goalscorer is his days as a player, it’s probably fair to say his legs had gone by the time he was appointed Manchester United manager. But that didn’t stop him donning his boots and shinpads for one last time in what must be one of the most bizarre tales of his 27 years in charge of the club.
Fergie’s last hurrah as a player, if you can call it that, came during a strange mid-season trip to Bermuda for two friendlies in his first full season in charge of the club.
Travelling to the Caribbean in November 1987, United faced fixtures against Bermuda and Somerset Trojans, the latter of which was played on a cricket ground.
Ferguson was understandably not too keen on the trip in the first place and had previous experience of touring the Caribbean when in charge of St Mirren.
That tour featured Ferguson bringing himself on as a player to exact revenge on Guayana’s centre-back for his “cruelty” in “taking liberties” against St Mirren’s young striker Robert Torrence. Fergie was sent off for a challenge that left the defender rolling on the floor “like a dying man”.
In an earlier trip to the Caribbean with St Mirren… pic.twitter.com/QOWoYY2ekd
— Unique Treble (@Unique_Treble) July 7, 2020
After United beat Bermuda 4-1 in their opening match of the tour, injuries began to pile up – so much so that a British ex-pat came off the bench for United in one of the two friendlies – and Ferguson witnessed more violence in the second game when goalkeeper Gary Walsh suffered a kick to the head that Ferguson later suggested took the player years to recover from.
Ferguson was 45 at the time and his assistant Archie Knox was 40, but both men entered the fray in the second half.
“Archie was angry at the Walsh challenge and wanted to make his presence known,” former full-back Arthur Albiston told GQ in 2019. “Had he been 10 years younger he might have made a tackle!”
Knox got his revenge in a different way, scoring a long-range strike, while Ferguson also reportedly came close to scoring with a header in another 4-1 victory.
“It was humorous because at that time he was in his 40s and we were teasing him about how easy we could get past this old man,” former Trojans and Bermuda keeper Llewellyn Simmons told the Bermuda Sun in 2013.
played bda a few days earlier too. i was there for both. was only 11 so dont recall how good fergie played but he was fantastic to all of us post match. threw my ball in the bus window for all the players to sign. and the day after i got to meet my heroes at elbow beach. pic.twitter.com/u0JEdHuQiy
— redtro (@TRO16) July 7, 2020
After the story resurfaced once again on Reddit, a Bermudan Chelsea fan posted a few more little details about the fabled trip, featuring this little beauty: “That evening a Scottish friend of mine (a Dunfermline fan) got into a heated argument with Fergie at a cocktail party, after the manager complained about how dirty footballers were today (perhaps because of the injury to his keeper). My Scottish friend promptly brought up the elbows Fergie used to throw while playing for Falkirk.”
One positive to come out of the tour was United’s discovery of a young Bermudan by the name of Shaun Goater, who they ultimately signed after a successful trial.
Given Fergie later discarded Goater before he made a first-team appearance only for the striker to later become a Manchester City hero, famously scoring a brace in 3-1 derby victory over United in 2002, file this whole tour under ‘one to forget’ for the Red Devils’ iconic manager.