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To The Players' Tribune


“I look back on the last 10 years of my career, and I’ve won the World Cup, the Champions League, La Liga, the Spanish Cup. But 10 years ago, I was almost f***ed. My whole life could have turned out very different if it wasn’t for Sir Alex Ferguson. I arrived at Manchester United a boy, and I left a man. It was a crazy time for me, because I had never been away from home before. I spent my first 17 years growing up in Spain in Barcelona’s youth academy, and it almost felt like I was playing for the local school team or something. I knew everybody there, and I was close to my family. So, to me, football was just fun. I didn’t understand the business side of the game at all. Then I arrived at United, and honestly, it was a complete shock. Sir Alex was phenomenal to me from the very first day. The best managers all have this quality — even when they’re not playing you, and even when they’re hard on you — they make you believe that they really care about you. Sir Alex was like a second father to me. He made me earn it, but eventually he gave me my chance.”