Remember Mads Timm? Nobody would blame you if you answered "no"; at least, not for his footballing contributions. He was a Manchester United youth player who made precisely one substitute appearance for the first team, a ten-minute cameo in a 3-0 loss to Maccabi Haifa in the 2002-03 Champions League group stage. (Also playing in that game: Felipe Ricardo and Daniel Nardiello.)
More memorable, perhaps, was his arrest, conviction and imprisonment for dangerous driving. In January 2004, he and teammate Callum Flanagan indulged themselves in an impromptu road race after training, which only ended when Flanagan crashed into a Ford Fiesta, injuring the driver. Flanagan was sacked by the club, and though Timm was kept on, he was eventually released in 2006. He returned to Denmark with Odense and is currently player-coach at Kerteminde Boldklub.
More relevantly to our interests here, he has a book out — Red Devil — about his time at United, a chapter of which has been serialised by Danish newspaper BT. And while we don't speak an awful lot of Danish, our loyal friend Mr G. Translate renders the headline thus:
Danish talent was Alex Ferguson's anger to make: Your fucking idiot
It's all worth a look, but the most intriguing allegation come when Timm appears to allege that Ferguson favoured those youth players who engaged his son, Jason Ferguson, as their agent. After being first told to prepare to join the first team for a Champions League game against Basel, then told that he needn't bother, Timm recalls:
... a few days after I found out that my competitor in the attack on U-teams, Danny Webber, had signed a contract with Alex Ferguson's son, Jason, who had set up as a football agent. At the same time Webber extended by United. It was an open secret on the training that both Alex Ferguson and son had made a good deal, and that Webber had to be rewarded with a place on the bench in a Champions League match. Webber had otherwise not played particularly well for a long time, and I was way ahead of him in the internal competition for places.
Which is quite the allegation (and we stress allegation). Otherwise, Timm's accounts of Ferguson's methods are quite familiar: he was a fairly hands-off coach, particularly with the kids; he was a charismatic, ruthless control freak; he wasn't overly keen on his young players buying big, powerful cars. Interestingly, Timm claims that Ferguson used his own status as both carrot and stick.
When we trained with the youth teams, he came in between past and pulled a few of us aside. Then he talked a little about the weather, a fight he had seen on television or the food in the canteen. It was a clean setup, a reward for players who had done well. And a way to create envy, so the rest of the team took more together. Everyone would like to be one of them, Alex Ferguson chatted with, and I can even sign that it was a great feeling.
Equally uncomfortable was also standing and looking at, outside of the good company. It felt like a member of Jehovah's Witnesses who had received blood and now expelled from the pack. Ferguson's impact on people was so great that the coaches will automatically put a little distance from them, he had cast, and gave more attention to those he had pointed out. I tried both several times.
To stress: these quotes are translated by Google, so there may be wrinkles of meaning or implication missing. We have no idea if the book's coming out in English, but for anybody in Denmark, it'll be released on Wednesday.