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Fergie on Rory McIlroy: 'He's without doubt the most gifted golfer that I've seen'

The legendary manager also heaped praise on Paul McGinley’s Ryder Cup ‘brilliant’ plan.

SIR ALEX FERGUSON has said Rory McIlroy is the most gifted golfer he’s ever seen.

Speaking to Clare Balding in a lengthy Christmas Day interview on BT Sport, the legendary Manchester United manager spoke in-depth about his role with the European Ryder Cup team earlier this year.

“There are geniuses in life and Rory produces shots that he shouldn’t try. He’s got the ability to do it and sometimes they don’t come off but his imagination is such that he can do these shots. And when they come off you say to yourself ‘How did he do that?’ and he’s got that in his locker. He’s an exceptional, exceptional player. He’s without doubt, I think, the most gifted golfer that I’ve seen. And he’s got the personality too. And he’s a United fan as well – that helps.”

Source: Press Association/YouTube

Ferguson also described captain Paul McGinley’s preparation and strategy as ‘ brilliant’ and admitted to having been involved with the European group for twelve months before the competition began in late September.

“When Paul came to see me over a year ago, his detail and the plan he’d mapped out was fantastic, it was brilliant. I was delighted and honoured they asked me to participate in it. And we kept it quiet, we really did. Until maybe a few days before but this had been going on for a year. And we made sure it was going to be right.”

FergieMcG Source: Mike Egerton/PA Wire/Press Association Images

In the wide-ranging interview, Ferguson inevitably told some stories of his time as Manchester United manager and spoke of sharing his customary glass of wine with opposing managers after a game. But he had an issue with one high-profile Premier League team.

Chelsea? I had to speak with (Roman) Ambramovich. I told him ‘It’s paint-stripper you’re giving me here’.”

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Ferguson also spoke of the time his post-match ritual led to a comical practical joke involving Sam Allardyce.

“It was my birthday and he brought me a really nice bottle and wrapped it up in Christmas paper. The kit manager came along and said ‘The gaffer brought that for you for your birthday’. I took it but I put a bottle of Ribena in the wrapping paper instead and wrapped it up again. Big Sam came into the office after the game and I said ‘Thanks very much for the wine – I’m going to open it’. And he said ‘No, no, no. You take it home. It’s for you’. I said, ‘Nah, I want to share it with you, Sam’. So I take off the paper and I say ‘What’s this?’ He got off that seat and he sprinted through the door screaming for the kit manager! By the time he got back, I had it opened up and poured a couple of glasses. It was hilarious.”

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - West Ham United v Manchester United - Upton Park Ferguson caught Sam Allardyce out when they met for a post-game drink a couple of years ago. Source: Nick Potts/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Quizzed on Manchester United’s current campaign, Ferguson said that when Louis van Gaal has a full squad to work with, performances will improve.

He also offered a glowing assessment of a player he brought to the club in 2011.

“The one that’s most pleasing to me is David de Gea. When we bought him as a kid, he was frail, skinny but he had ability. He’s got special talents and that’s showing now. I’m really pleased for that kid, I really am.”

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Eoin O'Callaghan

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