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In his 25 years as manager of Manchester United Football Club, Sir Alex Ferguson has won everything, most of them more than once. He's taken his team to the top of English football with some lavish purchases, some expert man management and a ruthless dedication to his club and his players. Depending which side of the fence you sit on, this has made him either the most popular, or most hated, man in English football. I'm in the latter group. I'm a Liverpool fan.
Will Tidey has been a Manchester United fan for most of his life and he's of an age that Sir Alex Ferguson has been Manchester United's manager for most of this time. Tidey takes us through the whole of Ferguson's tenure at the helm; his appointment, the wins, the losses, the disappointments and the celebrations. As a dedicated fan and sports journalist, he's shared them all, witnessed many first hand and written about some of them. ''Life With Sir Alex'' is his recollection of these years, written from his standpoint as a fan, not as a journalist.
Despite our differing opinions of favourite teams, there is something very familiar and comforting about events here. Tidey and I are of a similar age and the first F. A. Cup Final he recalls watching in 1985 is also the first I remember seeing; at the time he was six years old, I was nine. Virtually every event and player he mentions in this book is one I recall from my own lifetime as a football fan. Whilst much of what's here reflects badly on my own favourite team who have been in decline during this period, it was strangely relaxing to be able to read a book based in my own lifetime and with so much that I recognised.
What helps with this is that Tidey is a very clear writer. Even though he's frequently dealing with facts and figures such as match results and goal scorers, this is a very readable book. Even allowing for it being quite a short book, I read through it in a couple of days and whilst I wouldn't say I found it compelling, it did prove more difficult to put down than I anticipated. Tidey moves through the matches and the seasons at some pace, which helps keep things fairly interesting and the whole book is more readable than I expected, considering the level of detail here.
However, the book's main advantage is also its major weakness. Although this is written as a fan, Tidey's journalistic training comes through. This certainly helps the quality of writing, but it does remove a little something from the book. In many parts, it feels as if he's telling the story from the point of view of an observer, rather than as a fanatic. When the personal touch is added, such as when he was living in New York, or recounting the story of his visit to Barcelona, it added something a little more personal and I felt the book had some passion in these sequences that was missing in other places.
Perhaps my being such a fan of Nick Hornby's ''Fever Pitch'' made me expect a little more in the way of humour and passion than was evident here. These things weren't entirely missing, they just weren't as much to the fore as in that book. What we have, however, is a hugely detailed recounting of Alex Ferguson's Manchester United history. For any Manchester United fan in their mid-30s, as I am, or any younger fans who missed the early years of his reign and would like to catch up, this is a very accessible history of that period.
But given Ferguson's stated aim early in his management to knock Liverpool'' off their f**king perch'' and how well he succeeded in that aim, this certainly can't be recommended for a Liverpool fan, although with copies from as little as £2.50 from the Amazon Marketplace, it's a decent read for a Manchester United fan, as well as football fans who don't hate Sir Alex.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published in my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk