Sir Alex Ferguson was famous for his "hairdryer" screaming sessions – tirades of halftime abuse that were explosive enough to singe the follicles of the unfortunate player on the receiving end.
The verbal volleys remain part of the former Manchester United manager's legend. And for all the fiery words and seemingly uncontrollable rage, they were always delivered with calculating intent and they were designed to motivate both the castigated victim and his teammates.
Ferguson, who retired last spring after leading United for 26 years of unprecedented success and who just might be the greatest coach in soccer history, has similarly pulled no punches in his long-awaited second memoir, My Autobiography, which was published on Tuesday.
A series of his past players and rivals have found themselves in the firing line across its fascinating yet often poisonous pages, and this time the end game is a little harder to identify.
[Slideshow: European leagues' top 10 players from past week]
Ferguson's barbs were aimed at stars such as David Beckham, longtime captain Roy Keane and opposing coaches like Rafa Benitez, and they're the kind of juicy stuff that would delight any publisher. But Ferguson is also guilty of selling out on some of the men without whom he could never have reached such great heights.
For Ferguson was always the one who wanted everything kept in-house and private, shunning the media to such an extent that he even once refused to be interviewed by United's own in-house television channel. He was the one who was about team and harmony and togetherness, yet has now turned up past grievances in a way that is often not particularly delicate.
In 2003, Ferguson and Beckham were embroiled in an extraordinary spat highlighted by a locker room incident that saw Ferguson lash out at a stray cleat on the floor. The shoe accidentally flew into the midfielder's face and caused a wound above his eye. Beckham later moved to Real Madrid but the pair reconciled, and for the entirety of Beckham's time in Major League Soccer, he offered only praise whenever questioned about Ferguson.
However, the book dredges up the incident once more, with Ferguson seemingly unrepentant over the issue and critical of Beckham for making it his "mission to be known outside the game."
Then there is Keane, a spiky and difficult character but a midfielder of exceptional passion and intensity who played a huge role in building United's modern dynasty following his arrival at the club in 1993.
Keane spent 12 years at Old Trafford, most of them as captain, and accumulated seven Premier League titles. But Ferguson's book accuses Keane of becoming impossible to deal with once it became clear he was fading as a player. Ferguson also accuses Keane of lacking the patience to be a successful manager.
[World Cup qualifying: Has Cristiano Ronaldo's luck finally run out?]
Those words prompted Keane, now a television pundit with the United Kingdom's ITV channel, to hit back.
"I do remember having a conversation with the manager when I was at the club about loyalty," Keane said. "In my opinion I don't think he knows the meaning of the word."
Soccer players and managers routinely offer up quotes of such mind-numbing blandness that a literary bombshell should be welcomed with open arms, and in many circles, Ferguson's book is. But a book that is touted as "warts and all" should surely be just that.
In particular, the matter of the Rock of Gibraltar racehorse – the remarkable saga that many believe had a significant impact upon United's modern history – is conspicuous by its virtual absence.
There are just a handful of brief references to what Ferguson called a "misunderstanding," a sticky situation that saw him locked in a financial dispute over the champion horse's ownership rights with former friends and business tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier. McManus and Magnier, whose company owned a 30 percent stake in United, responded by applying strong pressure to Ferguson in 2003 and 2004 and pushing the club to investigate the dealings of the manager's son Jason, a soccer agent. The Irishmen subsequently sold their stake to United's current American owners, the Glazer family, who took on hundreds of millions in debt in order to make the acquisition, thus curtailing the club's spending power.
Of all the mystique surrounding Ferguson, the Rock of Gibraltar dispute was one that was particularly anticipated when it came to the launch of his new book, but it was not to be, with a short paragraph doing little more than extolling the horse's stamina.
But perhaps we should not be surprised. Ferguson has always been one to dictate his own terms, and nothing much has changed now. On a whistle stop media tour to promote the book he has been charming, lively and to the point, while back home United has spluttered to a dismal start to its new life under David Moyes.
While the Red Devils look to regain some of their lost fire, their old boss is still throwing out plenty of incendiary words via the chronicle of his career, doing it, as usual, his own way.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Sir Alex Ferguson
- David Beckham