Patrick Barclay Interview: Cantona, Glazers and Mourinho

Patrick Barclay
Patrick Barclay on Sunday Supplement talking about his new book Football – Bloody Hell!

A couple of weeks ago I thought I would take the wife away for the weekend as it was her birthday. One of her requests was that I didn’t mention United or football in general at all over the course of the trip – unfortunately (for her) I came across ‘Football – Bloody Hell!‘ by Patrick Barclay in a Tesco service station on the way there and ultimately let her down on my original promise. I read the book in a matter of days and found it compelling from start to finish. After I had finished with the book, I decided to try and get in touch with Patrick to see if he would do a small interview for the website and thankfully he accepted.

The questions put to Patrick are in bold, with answers underneath. You can purchase a copy of ‘Football – Bloody Hell!’ from here.


1. Who is Fergie’s greatest signing since he took over in 1986?
Has to be Cantona. I’d love to be more imaginative – and there is an argument for Schmeichel – but, if you check the statistics, United averaged a goal a game before Cantona arrived from Leeds – and two a game thereafter on their progress to the first championship under Ferguson. On top of that, there’s the effect on young players of Eric’s attitude to training.

2. Jaap Stam’s exit is usually considered a mistake by Ferguson – is there another player that Fergie got it wrong with?
Inevitably, he’s made some bad buys, but the percentages help to explain why Ferguson has been so successful for so long. Even some of his relative flops, like Forlan, have gone on to prove themselves elsewhere. Veron was a crashing error. If we’re talking sales, Beckham was as badly judged as Stam in my opinion.

3. Fergie’s legendary temper is nothing surprising (quote from book – anger is his petrol), however some accounts from the book paint him as a quite ferocious man, who is very unfair at times. But do you think that this ruthlessness is needed to be in the job for so long?
Ruthlessness is necessary in any good manager; that’s true. But I do think Ferguson has been unfair to people who might have expected better, like Strachan and Kidd.

4. One of Fergie’s greatest assets is his ability to evolve and adapt to new football methods and surroundings – in this time who do you believe was Fergie’s greatest rival?
Ferguson’s greatest rival in England was Jose Mourinho. In fact Mourinho beat him. Where Ferguson got lucky was with the fall-out between Mourinho and Abramovich at Chelsea. Mind you, he didn’t half make the most of his luck in completing a hat-trick of titles! Wenger, of course, is his most durable rival. But the trophy gap has taken the heat out of their exchanges. In fact, they quite like each other.


5. What are your thoughts on foreign ownership in football and Ferguson’s defense of the Glazers?

I’d prefer controls on not only foreign ownership but all ownership. In Germany, no one can own more than 50 per cent of a club and that should be the rule here. Ferguson’s defence of the Glazers is natural. It was the shares held by Magnier and McManus, Ferguson’s erstwhile horse-racing friends (speaking of horses have you had a look at the Grand National betting odds yet?), that enabled the Glazers to take control of United. Ferguson has done well to distance himself from this fact. And to get away with such enthusiastic support for the Glazers. While United keep thriving on the pitch, he can get away with anything.

6. For those fans who believe Ferguson is a genius – what would you say to them? (Patrick states that Fergie is not a genius in the book)
It depends how you define a genius. In Football – Bloody Hell!, I quote Carlyle, who defined genius as ”an infinite capacity for taking pains”. By that token Ferguson is a genius. But Brian Clough and Jose Mourinho have achieved success much more quickly and cheaply and – in Clough’s case – from a much lower base. Don’t forget that both Aberdeen and United finished second in their respective leagues under other people – Billy McNeill and Ron Atkinson respectively – in the clubs’ last full seasons before Ferguson came. Clough was unquestionably a genius in my mind. Ferguson has proved himself a superior manager – but maybe not a genius.

7. Carlos Queiroz was quite unpopular when he first joined United but left in 2008 with a reputation as a man who aided Ferguson tactically, which resulted in the 2008 European Cup – how important do you believe a good assistant is to Ferguson?
Quite important. But the value of an assistant is hard to quantify. Look at the people who dismiss the contribution of Micky Phelan, for example, without having a clue what it is.


8. Which team was more talented – 1994, 1999 or 2008?

My favourite was 1999. Great to watch, largely because of wing play and the telepathy of Yorke and Cole. Yorke was one of the best players of the Ferguson era, in my view. He could make them and take them – and he did everything in such style. Old Trafford or the Nou Camp – it was all the same to him. What a character. What a talent.

9. What do you think of United so far this season and how likely is a nineteenth title in May?
A fairly decent chance of that 19th title. No one else seems to want it. Except Liverpool, of course.

10. Who do you think will be United’s next manager and will Ferguson ‘move upstairs’ as Busby did?
I wish United would move Ferguson ”upstairs”, but not in the Busby way. Busby was in fact marginalised. Ferguson should become a sort of executive director, working hand-in-glove with Jose Mourinho or whoever United can get as his successor, so that there is no extra pressure on the new man. Mourinho would be ideal because he has proved himself at least as good a manager as Ferguson. But is he gettable? Time will tell.

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16 Responses to “Patrick Barclay Interview: Cantona, Glazers and Mourinho”

  1. Before some smart arse comments negatively (we’ve had one clown over the past few weeks) on the fact that SE.com have another interview then please don’t as I will only be accepting comments discussing the points raised within this discussion.

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  2. Bhargav says:

    LOL at Stretford End’s comment :P

    Good interview. Ever so debatable issue of Fergie’s role in Glazers being owners continues.
    SOO WELL said when he describes ‘No one seeems to want the tile’ has literally been the story of this season

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  3. Bhargav says:

    Sorry i meant “TITLE” not tile ! :D

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  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stretford End, Manchester Utd News. Manchester Utd News said: The Stretty Rant: Patrick Barclay Interview: Cantona, Glazers and Mourinho http://bit.ly/hzdXRX [...]

  5. Chudi says:

    who’s the idiot complaining? Should be thankful the site is bridging the gap between these people and us the common fan, asking questions we would like to.

    Interesting point on Sir Alex’s mistakes, who is to say England is for Forlan? Spain is a different ball park and whilst he has shown an ability to score goals, there is no guarantee that he would get goals if he came back to England now.

    Good read guys keep it up!

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  6. RedScot says:

    Interesting interview and views from Patrick Barclay.

    1.His view is subjective naturally.I understand what he says about Cantona and what he brought.I would nominate Ole Gunner Solskjaer also.266 full appearance 126 goals.The main return the trophy in Barcelona and 6 league Championships when he was playing at United.His work as reserve team coach, and the legacy he has left behind him.
    2 Beckham hardly covered himself in glory or success after he left United for Madrid or Milan so I think the departure of Beckham was the correct decision at the point in time with the “Circus” that followed the brand.
    3 I think Sir Alex will be more capable of judging the likes of Gordon Strachan than Patrick Barclay after all he did work with him at Aberdeen as well as United.So he would full know how to control Strachan and motivate him and assess wether his time was up or not.Strachan is an obnoxious character anyway.Fight fire with….!
    4 Chelsea the season before Mourhino arrived had spent£ 160 million in the “sweetie shop” and during his first season in charge a further £60 million.so it was hardly a remarkable feat!
    5.I wont comment on that.He is out of his depth.Regards football finance.
    6.If he considers achieving from a low base as a sign of genuis, like Brian Clough.The point of Mourhino achieving from a low base is laughable if you review his expenditure at all Clubs outwith Porto.
    Sir Alexs achievements at Aberdeen from a low base.Jousting with giants in the shape of Glasgow Celtic and the mighty Glasgow Rangers.
    3 Premier leagues.
    1 League cup.
    4 Scottish cups
    1 European cup winners cup.
    1 European super cup.
    Thats “Genuis” with almost zero funding in relation to the Ugly sisters in Glasgow.
    7. Agreed.Jaysus something must be wrong I must be softening agreeing with Barclay.
    8.Cant debate the point with sincerest knowledge of the 94 team.My favourite team was 2008, but i am 19.Although what i have seen of the 1999 team on film, magic.
    9.Is that Barclay humour regards to liverpool, stick to writing about football Patrick leave the humour to comedians.United will win it, the Premiership that is!
    10.I wonder if he understands anything about Uniteds history and tradition of developing youth and having a fast flowing exciting team to admire on the pitch.Not some self massaging egotistical provacatuer and the helm of this magnificent football club.Time will tell yes it will.
    Long live the “Genuis” we have navigating us through troubled times.

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  7. Fred the Red says:

    Before Mourinho took over at Porto they were Champions something like three out of the previous four seasons. At Chelsea he took over a Ranieri team that were semi finalist in the Champions League and sitting top four in the table. The mainstay of his were Ranieri signings and players brought through the ranks.
    At Inter

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  8. Joe McQuoid says:

    Quality blog, and enjoyed the interview with Barclay, keep up the good work.

    Don’t agree with everything Paddy says, but makes some interesting points, and I’ll be buying the book soon to see what else he says about SAF.

    Read another Barclay interview, in UWS (I think!), saying how Fergie was unhappy with the book, and even instructed Mourinho not to do an interview with PB for it, after Barclay had just landed in Madrid to meet him.

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  9. Ian says:

    I think Ferguson misjudged Beckham’s commitment, personally, but it’s hard to know what he saw at the time.

    Also: I’m not convinced Fergie should be put into a role where he’s kept in the loop in terms of team management unless that manager specifically requests his advice. Whoever follows Fergie is going to have a tough enough time as it is without him looming over them if they don’t want him there. And I think Ferguson would appreciate that as a manager who demands control.

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  10. Chris says:

    Brilliant interview. It’s very interesting to see a respected journalist’s opinion on old blue nose. I haven’t read the book but may do so as it seems like it takes a very different angle to a normal autobiography. From Patrick’s answers here, it is clear that he has mixed opinions about Ferguson. He does seem to respect Ferguson’s success over a long period of time but seems to question a few things about his personality and his label as a football genius.

    Do we know what Ferguson’s feeling on the book is? How he feels about being labelled a ferocious man? He’s probably pleased with that one! Do these guys actually have a ‘history’?

    It’s an excellent point he makes about club ownership. I didn’t realise that in Germany no one can own more than 50 per cent of a club. Considering
    how badly (i.e at many clubs, the fans are no longer as important….like ours!) some clubs have been run in recent years, this rule seems to initially make a lot of sense. What do other people think about it working in the Premier League…..and at Man United??!!

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  11. Red devil says:

    That was another great piece Yolkie. What I like about this is that you are not just writing all pro united. You take in that everyone may not have the said opinions about Sir Alex.
    Keep up the good work Yolkie

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  12. Patrick Barclay says:

    Thanks for the nice presentation and interesting reactions. Best wishes. Feel free to do another one at the end of the season, say. Best wishes, Paddy.

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  13. Patrick Barclay says:

    Just noticed double best wishes – well, it is Christmas!

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  14. RedScot says:

    @Patrick Barclay, yes it is Scottish piss taker.Keep up the good work you Genuis!
    And i will shout at the Sunday supplement he fuckin hates Sir Alex.
    One of the most balanced on that show! Its a Scottish trait.
    The end of the season when we lift the Premiership Pot, I betcha your not at the party Patrick. :)
    Merry Christmas God bless.

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  15. Yolkie says:

    Red Devil, cheers for the nice comments but I actually didn’t do this interview! That was the gaffer, but I’m sure he’ll be chuffed to hera the nice words.

    Best wishes x 2 to you too Paddy!

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  16. Yolkie says:

    hear* the nice words too..

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  17. jon taylor says:

    Every week in the Times Barclay writes a negative story about Man Utd. This last week he twist Rio’s words until they meant something totally different (poor journalism).
    I don’t know why he doesn’t just write a piece titled “I hate Man Utd” and be done with it.

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