Sir Alex made me shut down my website!
Former Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre outlines Sir Alex Ferguson’s high standards in the latest episode of the UTD Podcast.
The 44-year-old Frenchman played for the Reds on 361 occasions during his nine-year stay at the club between 1999 and 2008.
Silvestre joined United in 1999 from Italian giants Internazionale and revealed on his episode that making the switch to Old Trafford was an 'easy choice'.
After leaving the Reds to join Arsenal in 2008, the defender had stints with Werder Bremen, Portland Timbers and Chennaiyin FC, before retiring in 2014.
Since his retirement, the Frenchman has explored pathways as a director of football and carried out punditry work. Most recently, the Silvestre was part of the United team for the Legends of the North fixture against Liverpool.
As you will hear when you listen to Silvestre’s episode of the UTD Podcast - available now in the United App – he explains how Sir Alex’s control and expectations of his players helped the Reds cope with the emergence of online media and the scrutiny that came with it.
“I think [social media] affects you,” said Mikael. “Everybody says I’m not reading it, but you have to, and you are just curious to know what people think about you. It’s important to not be obsessed by it, which is difficult to assess when you are a player when you are just turning 20, playing first-team football and you are under a lot of scrutiny.
“Yourself, your performance, [and] your private life is exposed, so I think it would have been tough [for me]. But the fact that I was settled with my wife [helped] and I think also the manager was a good policeman in that respect. In a good way. I use this word because at my time we just started the players to have our own website, so I was tempted to do it, so I did. Someone was running a page for me.
“In the beginning, we would do interviews after every game so, about I don’t know, 10 questions after every game. On the phone, someone would write down and then we’d post it on the website the day after, probably. But then it started being picked up by the tabloids, you know the papers, and when it was translated then the boss could read it. And with some of them, he wasn’t happy at all. You know, when you say, ‘I don’t think we performed well,’ he thought that only he could say that.
“So for me, it was my interview on my website and then it was on the back page of the paper, so I got the hairdryer twice. So I shut down the website straight away after that!”
Silvestre reveals that this wasn’t the only time that he was told off by Sir Alex and outlines the occasions when he received ‘the hairdryer.’
“I can remember two, yes. Two over nine years, it’s OK, right?
“[The first one] was my second home game, recovering the ball from midfield position, like 40 metres from our goal. I carried on, on the right side, lost possession and then they equalised.
“The other one was at Watford away, I lost a one v one against Ashley Young, and he crossed, and they scored for the equaliser. Yes, I think we scored first. I scored first. But still, it doesn’t matter if you score or whatever performance you do, with the gaffer if you make a mistake you’re going to hear about it."
He added: “I never argued back. You just sit and you want to go into your shoes. To be as little, as small as possible!”
The Frenchman also shares his initial thoughts when he came into United’s dressing room, and how English attitudes towards preparations differed from what he was used to during his time in France and Italy.
“Because I came from Italy and from France, football for them [United’s Mancunians] was more of a game than the rest of us, than the Europeans. So they come, they get changed, they train, they train hard, they’re having fun. They are having a lot of fun, and then they go [home].
“For me, it was: I go, I’m at work. In France it is that mentality, in Italy, it is a different level. It’s really like you are going to work. When you go to work, you dress like you’re going to work. You prepare for your work. You arrive early for your work. You arrive on time for your work. You eat healthy, you sleep. You do a lot of stretching; you do a lot of extra work to perform as best as possible.
“I was shocked at [how] laidback [it was]. The guys were so laidback and [I thought] ‘they won the Treble preparing like this?’ Eating chips, drinking coke, ketchup. It’s impossible in Italy. It’s impossible. I was so glad I joined earlier and didn’t spend 10 years in Italy, where you train twice, three times a day. It was fantastic, it was very good. It was refreshing.”
Listen to the Mikael Silvestre UTD Podcast now in the United App.