Sir Alex Ferguson’s shadow still looms large over Manchester United. When former player and treble winner Dwight Yorke landed in Dubai this week, on a DHL tour of the Premier League trophy, every other answer seemed to contain a reference to the legenadary Scot. On top of that, free copies of the boss’s new autobiography were being given out on every table.
Ferguson was the man who presided over Yorke’s best years as a player, but even he found it hard to rein in his star striker.
The Tobagan was known for enjoying a night out and had a number of high-profile flings, even going as far as to say that he chose that lifestyle over another season of trophy hoarding at Manchester United.
A brilliant goalscorer, Yorke was often as big a headache for the managers he played for, as he was troublesome for the defenders he played against. Funny then that he plans to put himself in the position of his old mentors and deal with the sort of problems that he used to create.
“It’s no secret I want to stay in football, I was fortunate to play for such a great club. Football has been a big part of my life, and I do want to be a manager, so if that opportunity comes along...”
'Opportunity' is the important word there. It will be interesting to see how many show themselves. Yorke is currently on course to be a fully-qualified manager by the end of this year, but how much will his reputation stand in his way – not to mention English football’s shamefully poor record of employing black managers.
Despite being known for his laid back approach, Yorke appears dead set on getting a top job and almost scoffs when it is suggested that he’d probably have to prove himself in a lower division before harbouring dreams of taking over a major club. He is more worried about getting a second chance if he fails the first time.
“You see now someone like Clarence Seedorf (getting the AC Milan job with no experience). I think I won’t have too many opportunities if I become a manager, I won’t get three or four chances, I think it would be a one-off. I have to do what I did my entire career which is go into something and make it happen.
“So when I take that job or when the job presents itself, it has to be the right one that will prepare me for the future. I won’t be able to come back if I fail.
“That’s why you have to choose your job, the one that you think gives you the best chance of being successful; you’re not going to take it for taking-it’s sake.
“That’s where I’m at, the job I’m looking for is one that would be substantial and give me the best opportunity to get the best out of players and get them to a certain standard. I won’t be jumping into anything just for the sake of it. It has to be the right one.”
Yorke’s old boss Fergie probably always felt that his star striker didn’t listen to him enough. But the former striker didn’t have the blinkers on when he turned up for training every morning. Yorke studied Ferguson’s methods and witnessed first hand what motivational techniques he used to get the best out of his players.
For Yorke, taking Fergie’s man management lessons was the biggest key for him.“There are so many things you can learn from Sir Alex. In his day he really fought and gave young players the opportunity to come through.
“I think the game is slightly different now, it’s all about man management of players. Yes, it is doing some coaching on the training field. But at the end of the day, it’s convincing big players to perform week in week out with big wages, that’s the challenge for you as a manager.
“I have just come out of football, only four years ago, so I have seen things from the 80s to 2009. So, I’ve been in the dressing room for a long time and seen the changes each decade and it is all about managing players, convincing them.
“It’s about keeping them in the team and speaking to guys who are very wealthy and keeping them inspired, making sure they are training and playing, and the ones that are not happy, how to keep a balanced dressing room. That’s where the challenge really lies.
“From the outside it looks very difficult and intangible, but when you have a manager that just drives you, you just keep looking over your shoulder and you learn.
“I remember scoring a hat-trick once and I was dropped the next game. And I thought “where did that come from? But it was because I simply didn’t train properly during the week and Sir Alex picked up on that and picked someone else who had been better than me in training.
“The last game has gone so that has nothing to do with playing the next game. That’s why Sir Alex was really good. That’s the stick.
“Training was like a game every time you turned up. You’re playing for your position whoever you are. Sure, there were a couple of players who maybe were exceptional and played no matter what, but in my position I had Teddy [Sheringham] and Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] and [Andy] Cole breathing down my neck 24/7, so you had to be constantly there and if you’re not on your game or training up to scratch then you won’t get a game. It forced you to keep pushing.”
Yorke clearly feels he is ready. It’s also fair to note that he wouldn’t be the first troublesome striker to turn from poacher to gamekeeper, with a certain Glaswegian a particular case in point.
Could Yorke ever follow in his old boss’s footsteps? Can anyone?
“Nobody’s going to come close to him.”
Top five career highlights
March 1990 - Making an impression
After impressing for a local side in the West Indies during an Aston Villa pre-season tour, Yorke is given a contract and makes his debut in a 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace.
March 1996 - Taste of silverware
Yorke led Aston Villa to triumph in the League Cup, netting in a 3-0 win over Leeds United
August 1998 - On the move
The striker signed for Manchester United for £12.6 million, enraging Villa fans and manager John Gregory.
May 1999 - Treble glory
Yorke plays an integral part in United’s treble season, including their incredible 2-1 Champions League final win.
March 2006 - Down Under
Yorke bags an A League title with Sydney FC in Australia.