Jose will have to wait for United job - Fergie
Special One must bide time as Scot scotches talk of 'putting on slippers'
Alex Ferguson has given a rare glimpse into his plans for a life of wine, languages and piano lessons after Manchester United, but admits he cannot tell his "great friend" Jose Mourinho when he will vacate the manager's office at Old Trafford.
In a wide-ranging interview with 'La Gazzetta dello Sport', Ferguson, whose United side face Chelsea in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tonight, admits that the death of his father, Alexander, within a year of his own retirement has forged his belief that work should be embraced, rather than avoided, regardless of age.
He maintains that his health will be the central factor in any decision on his managerial future.
"My father retired on his 65th birthday and one year later, he was dead," said Ferguson, who is 70 in December. "The worst thing you can do is put on your slippers. People say things like, 'I've worked for 45 years, I have the right to rest'. Not at all, you have to keep yourself active and in good shape.
"First of all, it will be my health to determine my situation. I will continue as long as I have the energy that I have enjoyed throughout my life.
"Should they (United's owners) say, 'Alex, you're too old now, we feel we need a change,' fine. I've done my bit here and I've had an absolutely fantastic career."
Mourinho, currently managing Real Madrid, has been cited as the leading candidate to succeed Ferguson when he retires at Old Trafford and the former Chelsea manager has admitted a desire to return to the Premier League. But Ferguson claims that he is unable to offer Mourinho any clues as to when he might consider leaving United.
"I am great friends with Jose and we often speak about his future," Ferguson said. "I can understand his desire to come back to England. There is more freedom from media attention for a manager here -- you don't have 'Marca' and the radio programmes at midnight that he gets constantly in Madrid. But it's a difficult one for me to tell him when this position will become available."
Ferguson, whose racehorse What A Friend will run in the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, insists he has enough off-field interests in which to channel his energies once he walks away from football management.
"Not only horse racing. I'll travel as much as possible. I'll read even more history books and I'll study new languages. I did four years of German at school and I've been studying French for years. I could take on Italian. I already know quite a few sentences," he said.
"I've tried to play the piano like my cousin in Canada, who taught himself and is fantastic. I need a tutor, and the time to learn -- I've not got either at the moment."
Ferguson admits he has also developed a serious interest in wine, saying: "I've learnt a lot by reading a books, then by smelling and tasting -- it's quite easy to know some (wines), but the main thing is to know the best vintages and the best houses.
"The best French wines are still the best in the world, but you (Italy) have some fantastic ones. I am a fan of Tignanello Antinori, also Ornellaia, Sassicaia, Brunello di Montalcino.
"I prefer the Tuscan wines, but I also appreciate those from Piedmont. The rest of the world also has some fabulous wines, in Australia (Shiraz Penfolds Grange), Chile (Concha Y Toro Don Melchor), Argentina (Malbec), Napa Valley (Screaming Eagle)."
Ferguson's real obsession revolves solely around his United team, however, and delivering more silverware to Old Trafford.
Wayne Rooney's disciplinary problems, with the forward awaiting the outcome today of his appeal against a two-match ban for swearing into a TV camera at West Ham, are an unwanted distraction, but Ferguson said, prior to the incident, that the player is now showing the maturity that Manchester City's Mario Balotelli has yet to discover.
Ferguson said: "Balotelli is a very emotional boy, like other young players, but Rooney, when he was younger, was like that. He had an explosive nature, so much desire to win and sometimes he overdid it. Now, at 25, he's more mature. But it takes time."
At the other end of the scale, Ryan Giggs (37) and Paul Scholes (36) continue to thrive in Ferguson's first team and the manager insists that the pair remain key figures beyond this season.
"Ryan is exceptional," Ferguson said. "I believe he can play for two more seasons, thanks to the fact he's been a skinny lad all his life. He has succeeded because of a wonderful balance which allows him to avoid physical damage. He very seldom gets kicked out of the game.
"When the time comes when Paul decides to hang up his boots, I'll try to persuade him to sign a contract for another year, and I think he should. Scholes and Giggs are among the top 10 all-time United greats."
Tonight, Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea stand in the way of Ferguson's bid to win a third European Cup as United manager.
Ancelotti is facing an uncertain future at Stamford Bridge, a reality which surprises Ferguson. He said: "It's incredible for Carlo. He won the Double last season. I don't know where all the criticism comes from. You have to dismiss these things. How can Chelsea think of changing such a coach? Carlo is a fantastic guy, a really nice person. As well as lucky!
"Last year, he beat us with an offside goal and last month in London, David Luiz should have been sent off. But all winners have a bit of luck on their side. I just hope luck changes sides for our Champions League clash."
"In the past, I used to tell myself that to win just one trophy (in a season) would be great. But we have the chance to win all three. It's 14 games in two months (if all goes right). At United we are used to this kind of thing (heavy fixture schedule), we can use this experience to our advantage. We can repeat the treble of 1999." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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