Tevez, Rooney, Keane: 9 Man Utd players who fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t become the greatest manager in modern football history by constantly playing the nice guy – quite the opposite, in fact.
The Scot forged a legacy at Manchester United that will never be eclipsed, joining the club in 1986 and leading them to an eventual revival that blossomed into 13 Premier League titles, a treble and two Champions Leagues, among countless other accolades, across his legendary 26 year spell as manager.
To have such an impact takes obvious abilities that very few others on the earth possess, as well as a fine blend of extremely sharpened tactical understanding, impeccable man management and brilliant people skills, in order to ensure he had good eggs around him who could join him on the journey.
Ferguson never settled. He was a master at refreshing his squad and knowing when to recycle players, while also constantly tinkering with his coaching staff. But what he was also so good at was knowing when to put his arm around someone, and when to show them the exit. People knew where they stood with him, and if they didn’t like it, they were out.
Not everyone wanted to work under his guise, creating several instances of players infamously falling out with the Scot. Here are nine of those examples.
Having quickly become a fan favourite at Old Trafford, Argentine full-back Heinze performed a complete U-turn in 2007 when he tried to force through a transfer to fierce rivals Liverpool, after losing his place in the first team due to an injury in the season prior.
You simply do not do that. A player hasn’t transferred between United and Liverpool since Phil Chisnall did so back in 1964.
Furious with his attempts to force through a move to the Merseyside club in the summer of 2007, Ferguson blocked the transfer from happening despite the Reds showing interest. Heinze was sold to Real Madrid towards the end of the transfer window, with David Gill backing the manager and reiterating that the club wouldn’t sell to their rivals under any circumstances.
When you score as many goals as Rooney did for United, there’s a little bit more wriggle room to be demanding and – in some people’s eyes – difficult.
Rooney was never the easiest character to work with, particularly in his younger days and considering the press often associated with him, but things seemed to really boil over in 2010 when he handed in a transfer request. The England international was stalling over a new contract offer amid offers from elsewhere – including Manchester City according to reports – and had concerns about the club’s long-term ambitions following the sales of key players the year before.
Ferguson laughed it off and Rooney subsequently tried to leave the club, but later signed a new deal and patched up their differences. This came less than a year after Rooney was benched for a game against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League which clashed with the birth of his son Kai.
One of the departed star players that left causing Rooney his concern was Carlos Tevez, who departed in 2009 following the end of a strange two-year loan agreement that ultimately didn’t result in a purchase, to the disappointment of United fans.
The Argentine was electric for the Red Devils after signing from West Ham, but for as good as he was, Ferguson never quite warmed to his attitude at times, while Tevez was also unsure of the boss. Their relationship ended in the summer of 2009 when he signed for neighbours Manchester City just weeks after winning the Premier League.
He’s since never been afraid to criticise Ferguson, and held an ‘RIP Fergie’ sign on a bus parade with City in the years after. A real shame that it ended the way it did.
🗣| Carlos Tevez on RIP Fergie stunt:
“It seems like Ferguson is the president of England. When he speaks badly about a player, nobody says he has to apologise. But when someone comes out with a joke about him, you have to say sorry. I don’t say sorry!” pic.twitter.com/Ey3HRjDQSS
— City Chief (@City_Chief) January 7, 2020
The winger spent eight years at United after signing in 1988, but towards the end of his time, had simply ‘had enough’ of Ferguson’s way of running the joint.
He previously told the Quickly Kevin; will he score? The 90s Football Show podcast: “I couldn’t quite work out why I was playing bad one week and really good the next, and I wasn’t getting any help from him, so I just thought it’s time to go somewhere else and try pastures new, and maybe if someone buys me for a few quid they might be on my side a little bit more.”
Sharpe would later call Ferguson a ‘bully’ in his autobiography, and the two have never quite seen eye to eye ever since.
Keane’s bitter end to his career at United is no secret to anybody.
After signing in 1993 and establishing himself as one of the best midfielders in the world at his peak, Keane began to be phased out in the mid-2000s as injuries caught up. Tensions began to flare in pre-season ahead of the 2005-06 campaign, with Keane unhappy at the pre-season facilities – arguing with Ferguson about it – and later phoning into MUTV suggesting that he’d be open to playing elsewhere. Again, Ferguson wasn’t pleased.
He played what would be his final game for the club in September 2005 against Liverpool, getting injured before his sudden release in November, after he criticised the squad again on MUTV. Keane later revealed that the incidents on air were merely the icing on the cake for tension that had already built up, believing the club wanted him gone.
Keane isn’t happy at losing to Ferguson in a Man Utd quiz.
What incredible footage this is pic.twitter.com/lKvlLhq25V
— ᗷIᒪᒪ ᖇIᑕᕮ 🎙📻 (@billrice23) August 10, 2022
Arriving into England in 1991 at a time where foreign exports like himself were still somewhat uncommon, Kanchelskis quickly looked like an incredibly piece of business for United.
The Russian winger made the right flank his own and was one of just 11 foreign players in the Premier League during its inaugural season. And as time went on, he simply got better, upping his goal contributions and importance. He was flying in 1994-95, but was unexpectedly sold to Everton at the end of the season after falling out with Ferguson earlier on in the campaign, having failed to patch up their differences.
United recouped a club-record fee and would allow David Beckham to take his place on the wing, but it still felt like a case of selling a good player too soon.
A feud that actually pre-dated Ferguson’s time at United, Strachan had fallen out with the Scot when the pair worked together at Aberdeen.
Strachan opted to sign a pre-contract agreement with German side Cologne despite Ferguson telling him not to, which left his manager furious. He never went through with the deal, instead signing for United in 1985 instead. But it saw their relationship end on a sour note, which made things awkward when the pair were reunited in Manchester in 1986.
The winger didn’t last long when Ferguson arrived. Injuries played their part, but Ferguson also wanted to move the team on and sold him in 1989 after it was obvious the pair did not get along. He later said in his autobiography that Strachan ‘couldn’t be trusted an inch’.
There was a lot of work to do at United when Ferguson arrived in 1986, with the club a complete sleeping giant and still looking nothing like First Division title challengers.
McGrath was the starboy in the old guard under Ron Atkinson when they came close to winning the title in 1985-86 before a collapse and Ferguson’s subsequent arrival. And while he remained a prominent player at first, his influence around the club quickly began to wane with the Scot around.
Ferguson would do his best to rid the club of the drinking culture that had developed and had to get rid of McGrath in doing so, who had began to struggle with injuries. By 1989, the manager had seen enough and shipped him off to Aston Villa after he appeared to do a TV interview after a few drinks.
Whiteside was a hero at United pre-Ferguson for breaking through as a teenager and scoring the winner in the 1985 FA Cup final, but Ferguson didn’t like his association with the drinkers at the club.
He was involved in the interview that ended up being the final nail in the coffin for McGrath, and also left in 1989, despite supporters still holding an affinity for the forward who, despite trouble with regular injuries and a decline following Ferguson’s arrival, still showed signs of promise.
Fergie had none of it, though. Despite a somewhat bright start under the Scot, Whiteside could never get up to speed with the new standards and ultimately never won over the manager after being associated with enjoying a drink. That was enough for Ferguson to move him onto Everton after eight years at the club.
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