SIR Alex Ferguson’s praise is reserved for a deserving few, most obviously Paul Scholes, Carlos Queiroz and Ryan Giggs. But a more surprising recipient of his unqualified admiration is Henrik Larsson, despite only spending two months at Manchester United.
It wasn’t so much the autumn of Larsson’s career but the winter, coming after his seven years at Celtic and a spell at Barcelona, yet Ferguson describes the Swede as “a real aristocrat”. Ferguson reveals in his new book that he wanted Larsson while he was still at Celtic. “I could have signed him earlier,” he writes. “I was ready to make the bid when he was at Celtic but Dermot Desmond, Celtic’s majority shareholder, rang me and said, ‘You’ve let me down, Alex, you’ve got tons of players, we need him.’ ”
Larsson’s impact, on loan from Helsingborgs in 2007, was immediate. “On arrival at United, he seemed a bit of a cult figure with our players. They would say his name in awed tones. For a man of 35, his receptiveness to information on the coaching side was amazing. At every session he was rapt. He wanted to listen to Carlos, the tactics lectures; he was into every nuance of what we did. In training he was superb: his movement, his positional play. His three goals for us were no measure of his contribution.
“In his last game in our colours at Middlesbrough, we were winning 2-1 and Henrik went back to play in midfield and ran his balls off. On his return to the dressing-room, all the players stood up and applauded him, and the staff joined in. It takes some player to make that kind of impact in two months..”