Sky Sports chief football interviewer Geoff Shreeves has revealed the time legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson ‘launched himself’ at him during an interview.
The iconic Red Devils boss was incensed with Shreeves’ line of questioning towards a young Cristiano Ronaldo.
In his new book, ‘Cheers, Geoff! Tales from the Touchline’, serialised by The Sun, he revealed his closeness to the iconic coach – for better and for worse.
“Fergie was certainly no stranger to whispering in my ear, telling me to ask about a certain player or situation he wanted to highlight,” Shreeves explains.
“He loved the cut and thrust and used interviews for a message to his players, the fans or even the Manchester United board.
“But he also stood up for his players, as I discovered after an FA Cup win over Middlesbrough when Cristiano Ronaldo went tumbling to win a penalty.
“I asked Cristiano whether he went down easily. Ronaldo is pretty non-committal but says it was a penalty.
“I certainly wasn’t aware of the impending explosion.
“Sir Alex comes out of the dressing room and stalks straight towards me.
“’You and your effing questions, you’re effing out of order’, he snarled.
“’The boy hardly speaks English, you’re f***ing bang out of order’, plus even more colourful language.
“’Don’t talk to me like that,’ I replied. ‘I’m not one of your daft, young players’.
“That saw the Ferguson red mist turn deep crimson.
“He launched himself at me physically, with only United’s head of communications, Di Law, who jumped between us, preventing a full confrontation.
“‘Don’t even think about it,’ I said to Fergie, which was met with an immediate, ‘F*** off, you’re barred,’ as he was hurried away from the scene.
“I thought I’d done a decent job but as soon as I got home, I stuck the tape on.
“Then I saw I had got it wrong. It was heavy-handed, piling into him, demanding to know if he was a cheat.
“I wrote Fergie an email, admitting I’d got it wrong. No response.
“Our next game was a Champions League match with United in Rome.
“In the tunnel he appeared out of nowhere and goes, ‘Right, you ready for that interview?’
“I replied, ‘Look, I meant what I said in my email’.
“He said: ‘Listen, you don’t need to say anything else, you apologised. It will never be spoken of again’.
“People might feel I sold myself short but my job was to work with Fergie, not against him.
“Funnily enough, Cristiano was at the centre of another of my Fergie showdowns.
“United were in Lisbon for a Champions League game against Sporting. Ronaldo is the obvious interview.
“Halfway through I hear a noise behind me. I can see Ronaldo’s body tense up and his demeanour visibly changes. That can only mean one thing — Sir Alex.
“I can feel him on my shoulder. I rattle through a few questions and end it earlier than planned.
“That’s not good enough for Fergie, though. ‘F***ing joke, what’s this, a f***ing documentary? You’re taking the p***,’ he hissed. ‘Too many f***ing questions’.
“The next day, I was on the sideline. Fergie slowly wanders over to me and said, ‘Do you want the team?’ Of course I want it.
“He gives it to me then Di Law comes over, a big grin on her face.
“‘Did he give you the team?’ she asked. ‘He’d forgotten to change his watch when you were doing the Cristiano interview; he was convinced you were making him late for training’.
“Fergie couldn’t actually apologise but was trying his best to make up for his mistake.
“And even on his last day at United, in 2013, Fergie had to have the final word.
“I joined the lap of honour, grabbing a word with the players.
“Suddenly, I’m catapulted forward and almost knocked off my feet.
“I regain my composure and my balance, look round and there’s Sir Alex, cackling away, having stuck a shoulder in my back, trying to knock me over, still just a 70-year-old schoolkid in love with football.”
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