Sir Alex Ferguson has a reputation for many things. Chomping away during matches like a cow who has been told its grass will be taken away tomorrow, drinking whisky until his nose looks like it is suffering quite severe bruising, and shooting his mouth off to anyone who comes close to offending him in some way.
What he is not renowned for is going back on what he has said and taking it back. And what he is definitely not well-known for is showing remorse in these instances. Surely that would be a display of weakness? If he showed any remorse he would Arsene Wenger on the phone offering a free psychological consultation. And was it not the great philosopher Elton John who once said: “It always seems to me that sorry seems to be the hardest word.” But SAF seems to have made an exception to this rule for Paul Ince, even if he did stop short of a direct “sorry“.
In many ways Paul Ince was a proto-Beckham. A small indication of what was to follow. He had been brought to Old Trafford by Ferguson and become an integral part of the team, but when Fergie felt that the personality cons outweighed the footballing pros he was only too willing to sell. The rumours remain that the United manager (as he later would with Beckham) felt one of his star assets was getting too big for his boots and would have to go. Few people would suggest that Ince’s move to Inter Milan was borne out of football reasons.
The evidence to back-up the theory would arrive when Ince was back in the Premier League with Liverpool. A camera crew in the United dressing room filmed Fergie calling his former player “a big-time Charlie”. You would argue that he has said worse over the years, but Fergie has now admitted that his words were a mistake ahead of sparring with the now Blackburn manager.
Fergie said: “I regret saying that. That was a mistake. We let a camera into our dressing room, which we had never done before, and it won’t happen again. It wasn’t a personality issue with Paul. With Paul you could not have a honeymoon all the time, because he was such a volatile character, but he never let us down.”
Whatever next? An apologetic phone call to Victoria Beckham. He will have to wait until Wenger gets off the phone anyway!