Making Cristiano Ronaldo CRY, kicking a boot into David Beckham’s eye… and berating the Man Utd team before lifting the league title! Fergie’s most infamous hairdryer moments after Rio Ferdinand revealed he ‘destroyed’ Ruud van Nistelrooy
- Rio Ferdinand recalled Sir Alex Ferguson’s fury after a defeat at Manchester City
- Ferguson’s infamous ‘hairdryer’ tirades have reduced Cristiano Ronaldo to tears
- David Beckham was once left with a cut eye after being struck by a kicked boot
- Fergie’s 2007 Premier League title winners were also blasted before a trophy lift
- Sportsmail looks back at the famous and wide ranging ‘hairdryer’ moments
Playing for Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson was the pinnacle for many players during the legendary manager’s 27 years at the club.
But while there was plenty of glamour and winners’ medals to take home during his tenure at Old Trafford before his 2013 retirement, for the vast majority there was also no escaping Fergie’s infamous ‘hairdryer treatment’.
Coined by former United striker Mark Hughes, it’s now part of the football lexicon as an example of when Ferguson would erupt into a verbal (and as we will see, sometimes physical) rage at his players from anything as damaging as a derby defeat to a trivial moment in stoppage time – and very few escaped it.
Sir Alex Ferguson was famed for his ‘hairdryer’ treatment in criticising Manchester United stars
Ferguson would tear into his team whether they lost a derby or were about to lift a league title
Former United defender Rio Ferdinand lifted the lid on one such example this week when he recalled how his former manager ‘destroyed’ star striker Ruud van Nistelrooy following a derby defeat at Manchester City in 2002.
Ferdinand recalled how Fergie tore into the Dutchman after he had come back into the dressing room at full-time with a Manchester City shirt, vowing how he would never play for United again if he ever repeated the act.
But how does Van Nistelrooy’s grilling compare to other famous Fergie rants at his side over the years? Sportsmail looks back at some of the former United boss’s most memorable hairdryer moments.
Rio Ferdinand (left) has recently recalled a derby defeat at Manchester City in 2002 (above) as an episode where Ferguson ‘destroyed’ striker Ruud van Nistelrooy
The incident came after the duo’s (pictured above in a 2005 friendly) first Manchester derby
Ronaldo reduced to tears
A look back at Cristiano Ronaldo’s first spell at Manchester United shows a road to glory in his rise to arguably the best player in the world following three successive Premier League titles as well as a Champions League winners’ medal.
Many United fans though will remember those days were far from certain during the Portuguese’s early years at Old Trafford.
A relative unknown after signing from Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2003 at 17-years-old, Ronaldo showed much potential as a skilful winger, yet often left his team-mates frustrated at his lack of final product – often in favour of one step-over too many.
It appeared even Fergie was once done with Ronaldo’s tricks – reducing the teenager to tears in front of his team-mates.
Cristiano Ronaldo eventually became a world class player under Ferguson’s management
In his book Cristiano Ronaldo: The Biography, journalist and broadcaster Guillem Balague writes: ‘In the dressing room, Ferguson could not contain himself: “Who do you think you are? Trying to play by yourself? You’ll never be a player if you do this!”
‘Ronaldo began to cry. The other players left him be. “He needed to learn,” said Ferdinand.
‘That was a message from the team, not just from Ferguson: everyone thought he needed to learn.
‘After the telling off and a few tears, the Portuguese’s reaction was the same as always: keep working in training to improve.
‘Predictably, the group responded by winding him up. “He’s crying in the changing room again! Cry-baby, cry-baby!”.
But even he wasn’t immune to Fergie’s criticisms during his early days at Old Trafford
Beckham’s final cut
Ronaldo of course was almost a like-for-like replacement in the summer of 2003 for David Beckham who had left to join Real Madrid and their ‘Galacticos’ project.
It should have been seen as a big loss for United, but Sir Alex Ferguson would likely have greeted news of the deal by dusting his hands off and a wave of good riddance.
The pair had dramatically fallen out after an FA Cup defeat by Arsenal in 2003, when the pair clashed in front of stunned team-mates after Fergie kicked a stray boot at the then England captain which struck him above the eye.
In the days after, Beckham made no attempt to cover the injury and it proved to be the final straw for the United boss in Beckham’s future at Old Trafford.
Ferguson recalled in his autobiography how the row had started because Beckham’s work rate had dropped amid ‘rumours of a flirtation between Real Madrid and David’s camp.’
He wrote: ‘He was about 12 feet from me. Between us lay a row of boots. David swore. I moved towards him, and as I approached I kicked a boot.
‘It hit him right above the eye. Of course he rose to have a go at me and the players stopped him. “Sit down,” I said. “You’ve let your team down. You can argue as much as you like.”
‘The next day the story was in the press. In public an Alice band highlighted the damage inflicted by the boot. It was in those days that I told the board David had to go.’
David Beckham was left with a notable cut above his eye after Ferguson kicked a boot at him
The real ‘Guvnor’
Despite his importance in the central midfield to Manchester United in the first half of the 1990s, Paul Ince would have likely already had his card marked by Ferguson having been known as the ‘Guvnor’.
And Fergie wasted little opportunity to let one of his star men know who was the real boss at Old Trafford.
Ince recalled this 1993 tale to talkSPORT: ‘We played Norwich away at Carrow Road and this was a time when they were going for the title at the same time as us.
‘I think we were winning 3-0 or 3-1 and we got to the 92nd minute and I’ve got the ball in the middle of the park, I looked up and didn’t see anything, so I went on a mazy run, beat one, a little step over and beat two but then lost the next one.
‘They went back down the pitch and nearly scored. The whistle goes at the end of the game and we are patting people on the back and giving high fives and saying, “what a great result, lads”.
‘Ferguson comes in [to the changing room] and goes absolutely ballistic at me saying: “Who do you think you are? You ain’t no Maradona or Pele.”
Paul Ince discovered there would only be one ‘Guvnor’ following a clash with Ferguson
‘I said: “Gaffer, what are you on about?”
‘He said: “You’ve lost the ball in the 92nd minute and they could have scored.”
‘I said: “But they didn’t gaffer and we won 3-1.”
‘He starts coming up to me in my face and I’m thinking: “I’m not having this”. So I stand up, we are face to face, and he is shouting and as he is shouting I’ve got spit going in my eye.
‘I’m trying to talk back to him but every time I open my mouth the spit goes in so I thought I would keep my mouth shut.
‘[Assistant manager] Brian Kidd stepped in between the two of us and we didn’t speak for five days.
‘We played head tennis on the Thursday and he was the referee. It gets to 9-9, [Steve Bruce] heads the ball up in the air and I do an overhead kick, it hits the line to win the game.
‘Sir Alex goes: “Out.”
‘Because we weren’t speaking at the time I could not say anything. I looked at him, he said: “Out, game over, they won.”
‘As I walked away he said: “There’s only one Guvnor around here, Incey, and it ain’t you.”‘
Ince (bottom right) was crucial to United in the first half of the 1990s, pictured above close to Ferguson (second top right) celebrating the club’s Premier League title victory in 1993
Cantona’s kick… but the team takes the punt!
According to Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona was one of the very few United players never to have been on the end of a severe Fergie tear-down, and that includes the infamous night he launched the shock kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace fan having been sent off during a 1-1 draw in 1995.
The shocking incident led to the talismanic French forward being banned from football for eight months. But according to winger Lee Sharpe, Fergie was more annoyed at his team for dropping two crucial points in the battle for the Premier League title.
‘The manager comes in and he’s absolutely fuming. The door smashes off the back of its hinges. The jacket is off, he’s got the shirt sleeves rolled up; steam coming out of his ears and frothing at the mouth,’ Sharpe said.
According to Lee Sharpe, Cantona got off lightly following his infamous kung-fu kick in 1995
‘There’s benches in the middle of the room with shirts and balls to be signed. Cups of tea and plates of sandwiches. They’re sent f**king flying everywhere.
‘We’re getting scalded and getting egg sandwiches down the back of our necks. We look at each other, thinking: “F***ing hell, Cantona is getting it here”.
‘And then he starts, the manager. ‘F***ing Pallister, you can’t head anything, you can’t tackle. Incey, where the f*** have you been?
‘Sharpey, my grandmother runs f***ing faster than you! You’re all a f***ing disgrace. Nine o’clock tomorrow morning, I’m going to run your f***ing balls off in training.’
‘And Eric… [in a softer tone] you can’t go round doing things like that son…’
Key man Cantona was one of few United players who could escape the hairdryer treatment
(Don’t) sign at your peril
There was no safe haven away from the hairdryer treatment, including the Manchester United team bus – in pre-season as well!
Following a gruelling session in the build up to another Premier League campaign, Patrice Evra recalled how the United manager humiliated them by making them sign autographs for fans they had previously ignored after stepping on to a team bus.
Evra told United’s official podcast: ‘Before we came on the bus, we were really tired, I’ll be honest with you, and there was a queue of fans.
‘The players were like, “when no one signs, no one has to sign”. So we went straight to the bus, every one, and I look out the window and I see Sir Alex Ferguson signing each autograph.
‘I swear he must have signed for like 45 minutes. He was signing for everyone. I say, “guys, when the boss comes on the bus, we are done!”
‘He came on the bus and he gave us the hairdryer. “What the hell do you think you are? Those people are paying your salary. Those people are coming to watch you. Now get the f**k down there and sign!” And we had to sign for each fan. But that’s the mentality.’
Ferguson signs autographs for fans at Manchester Airport ahead of the 2011-12 campaign
Getting shirty at half-time
Even the Manchester United kits could not be saved from the hairdryer treatment.
Players were perhaps fearing the worst when amid a fierce title battle with Newcastle United they found themselves 3-0 down at Southampton at half-time in April 1996.
But Sharpe recalls how a furious Fergie’s first action was to infamously tell the players to remove their infamous grey kit, due to it being hard to spot the players on the pitch.
‘”Get that kit off, you’re getting changed”. Those were the first words he said at half-time,’ the winger recalled.
United returned in the second half with a blue and white striped design but could only muster a Giggs consolation goal a minute from time in the 3-1 loss at The Dell.
In the infamous grey kit, Manchester United found themselves 3-0 down at Southampton
After a Fergie dressing down, United emerged in the second half with a new away kit
Rooney’s hairdryer contract negotiation
Rooney spent nine years under Ferguson so he would have seen the Scotsman on a tirade many times, but he believes it never came as bad following a Champions League defeat at Celtic in 2006.
His strike partner Louis Saha took the brunt of it having missed a penalty and a sitter, but Rooney also revealed the rant was also a blatant criticism of him amid negotiations of a new contract at Old Trafford.
‘It was the worst “hairdryer” I’ve seen’, Rooney said in his 2012 autobiography. ‘He’s in Louis’ face, shouting and screaming. But Louis isn’t the only one getting an earful.
Louis Saha (centre) is consoled by Gary Neville after his miss against Celtic… but Ferguson wasn’t so forgiving in the dressing room afterwards according to Wayne Rooney
‘The manager knows I’ve been negotiating a new deal with the club and he saves some for me, “Players wanting more money from the club and new deals – you don’t deserve anything after that performance!”
‘There’s nothing worse than getting the “hairdryer”. When it happens, the manager stands in the middle of the room and loses it at me. He gets right up in my face and shouts.
‘It feels like I’ve put my head in front of a Babyliss Turbo Power 2200. It’s horrible.
‘I don’t like getting shouted at by anyone. It’s hard for me to take, so sometimes I shout back. I tell him he’s wrong and I’m right.
‘It spurs some of the lads on, but it crushes others.’
Rooney was on the receiving end of the ‘hairdryer’ treatment from Ferguson several times
Champs to chumps
It should have been a day of only joy for Manchester United players as following the the final round of fixtures in the 2006-07 Premier League season they lifted the title for the first time in four years.
So there should have been celebrations in the dressing room at full-time, right?
Not so according to Rooney, who in his autobiography recalled how having lost 1-0 on the day to West Ham at Old Trafford, Fergie had briefly soured the atmosphere by tearing into his side who had already been crowned champions before the match.
‘Most sides would be celebrating in the dressing room, getting ready for the champagne and the photos.
‘Not us. We’re staring at the floor like school kids, the manager giving us the “hairdryer”.
‘After the rollicking, it takes a while before everyone cheers up enough to put their Premier League winning smiles back on.’
Smiles all round as United lift the Premier League trophy in 2007… but that wasn’t the case a few minutes earlier when Ferguson scolded his players for losing at home to West Ham
Spurred on by ‘El Mister’
The probable pre-match team-talk of ‘lads it’s Tottenham’ during a Premier League clash at White Hart Lane for once wasn’t quite going according to plan in 2001 when United found themselves 3-0 down to Spurs having been played off at the park at the halfway mark.
Juan Sebastian Veron had only joined ahead of the season, and the Argentina midfielder admitted that he was left stunned by his first experience of the hairdryer, which inspired the Red Devils into a famous fightback and a 5-3 victory.
‘I’ve never been involved in anything like it’, Veron told the club’s website. ‘El Mister, Ferguson, was not happy at half-time. He said we had no respect for the people. We scored five in the second half.’
Juan Veron was left shocked by a Ferguson team-talk at Tottenham when 3-0 down at half-time, before responding with a goal in the second half in the astonishing 5-3 turnaround
The first hairdryer?
Hughes may have coined the phrase but the hairdryer looked like it had followed Ferguson into the club when he joined in November 1986.
In just his fourth game in charge, his side were beaten 1-0 at Wimbledon in the top flight – a result that left his new side in 17th place.
‘Sir Alex absolutely tore into the boys, I’d never seen anything like this before,’ recalled Bryan Robson, a substitute that day at Selhurst Park, to The Athletic.
‘In fact, I’d never seen another manager, before or since, rage like that. It was pretty formidable.
‘I mean, he gets right up into the individual’s face. It could be a general blast or personal, but usually it was personal – really up close and really personal, one on one.’
Ferguson in the dug-out during his first match in charge of Manchester United in 1986
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