Man United: Sir Alex Ferguson handed trial to 18-year-old who knocked on his door

  • Rob Swan
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In the eyes of many, Sir Alex Ferguson was a rather scary individual.

His players feared him - including the likes of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, who played under the Manchester United legend for years - as did some referees and journalists.

Fergie had a ruthless streak, there’s no doubt about that. However, there was another slightly softer side to the greatest football manager of all time.

One man who found this out first-hand is Max Lonsdale, who took it upon himself to knock on Ferguson’s door and ask for a trial.

Aged 18 at the time, the youngster had just been released by Macclesfield but wasn’t about to let that setback deter him from chasing his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

“I knew I could play at a higher level and I couldn't stop thinking about United,” Lonsdale told the Daily Mail in 2011. “I posted DVDs to other clubs but got nowhere, so I just thought, ‘Right, I'm going to do it differently with United. I'm going straight to Sir Alex’.

"Don't ask me where that came from. I've no idea. I'm normally quite shy, but something inside triggered it. I suppose I wanted it so badly, I just thought you've got to do whatever it takes."

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You have to admire the lad’s bravery. Lonsdale lived close to Ferguson and knocked on the United manager’s door.

Sir Alex was away on a golfing break but his wife, Cathy, took in a CV and a highlights DVD. She told the teenager to come back the next day.

And so he did.

“I think he was expecting me because the gates just opened without a word from inside,” Lonsdale continued. “As I began to walk down the drive, the front door opened and there was Sir Alex.

“I’ll never forget that moment. He just stood there, in front of the step, with his hands on his hips, watching me.

“I think he was a bit sceptical at first, but once he realised I was genuine and deadly serious about wanting to play for United, he was great.

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“He took me round to the patio and we sat there and chatted for about 15 minutes. To be honest, it's difficult recalling exactly how the conversation went because I had all these things I wanted to say to him, but they all came out wrong.

“It all sounded great when I practised it but face-to-face nerves got the better of me. It didn't come out right at all. It was all a bit daunting, but, equally, I knew he always had time for young players and liked people showing some guts.”

Ferguson praised the youngster’s bravery and promised to watch the DVD footage.

“Sure enough, one of the first things he said was, ‘You've got tremendous courage coming here like this. I respect that’,” Lonsdale added.

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“I told him I really believed I could play at the highest level and he asked me about my style of play, how old I was and whether I had any history of injuries.

“I said I was a left-footed midfield player who liked being on the ball, passing it around and taking people on.

“It was clear he was a bit taken aback by the whole thing. You could just tell from his facial expression no-one had ever knocked on his door before and asked for a chance but, to be fair, he took a genuine interest and said he would look at the DVD.”

Lonsdale was subsequently invited to United’s training ground and went on to train alongside stars including Darren Fletcher and Danny Welbeck during a trial that lasted more than four weeks.

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Despite his best efforts, though, Lonsdale failed to secure a contract with the Red Devils.

"[Sir Alex] was one of the last people I saw on my final day at Carrington,” he added. “I was in the area where the players have lunch and he made a point of coming over to shake hands and wish me all the best.

“He also said I'd always be welcome to go back and train with them and that the door would never be closed.”

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What an incredible story, though.

It’s an experience that Lonsdale will remember for the rest of his life, all thanks to Ferguson.

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