When I first heard the news about Sir Alex Ferguson, I was shell-shocked. Obviously, the severity of a brain haemorrhage terrified me.
To hear that he’s up, and talking, put a smile on my face for the first time since finding out what had happened. He’s improving day by day – and we all know that he is a fighter.
I was only at his house a few months ago, we were playing snooker – obviously he won – and he was telling me how he was keeping fit and healthy, and had been training in the gym. So, to hear the sudden news, it really hit me. I could just envision him, in great nick, playing snooker with me. It really knocked me.
Sir Alex has been such a huge part of my life for so long, too. When I joined Man United, Fergie really was a father figure in my life when I was still really young.
I have so much in my life to thank him for. He gave up time to make sure I stayed on the straight and narrow and became the best possible player and person I could be.
“Paul, you are not f**king Maradona!”
With someone like Sir Alex, you look at him as a God and you see him as indestructible.
When you have that realisation that one of your heroes is actually human, and something like this could happen to them, it sent a total shock to my system.
I’ve been looking back on all the incredible times I’ve had with him, sometimes good, sometimes bad. From winning trophies, to being on the receiving end of a massive telling off or a hairdryer treatment.
All of the rants and raves, you start reflecting on it and it dawns on you what an enormous part of your life he is.
One memory that always sticks out to me is playing Norwich at Carrow Road, and they were challengers for the title at the time. We won 3-0, in fact we won it with ease. I thought I’d had a blinder of a game.
But, we get to the end of the match and we’re all celebrating when Fergie comes in furious. I kept saying, ‘Boss, what’s your problem? We won!’ and he screamed at me, saying: ‘Paul, you are not f**king Maradona! You just get the ball and pass it to the best players.’
Put it this way – we didn’t speak for two weeks. Not even a good morning or goodbye.
We made up during a game of head tennis, and he was refereeing and intentionally said that I hit the ball out to wind me up.
Then he goes to me: ‘Incey, don’t mess with the gaffer!’ And of course, I was howling laughing, and all was forgiven. He was trying to teach me a lesson about not letting my ego get too big.
He cared about me and the other players like we were sons, like we were a part of his family. I remember, when I first started he asked if I had a girlfriend?
When I said yes, he was pleased. He wanted us all to be the best we could be, and always respectful.
His advice and guidance, I’ve taken that on throughout the rest of my personal life. I’ve passed it onto young players, too.
When you look at other players he’s managed who have since gone onto management, Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce and Mark Hughes, I know for a fact they will have all taken Fergie’s advice and given it to their players now.
He has a legacy like no one else.