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Former Man Utd player reveals he had 'no idea' who Sir Alex Ferguson was when he joined the club

Chris Byfield

| Last updated 

Former Man Utd player reveals he had 'no idea' who Sir Alex Ferguson was when he joined the club

A former Manchester United player revealed he had “no idea” who Sir Alex Ferguson was when he joined the club.

John O’Kane was a member of United’s famous FA Youth Cup-winning side, alongside some of football’s biggest names.

Indeed, he broke into the United first team alongside the class of 92, which boasted David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers.

However, O’Kane admitted that upon signing for United he had never heard of Ferguson, who went on to become the game’s most decorated manager.


Speaking to the Athletic O’Kane admitted: “I had no idea who Alex Ferguson was.

“People were saying to me, ‘Manchester United! Biggest club in the world! You’ve got to sign for them!’.

“I was like, ‘Oh right’. I had no idea. I was just a kid who played on the street and played for a local team. I didn’t know anything about football. I just played it.”

O’Kane on the class of 92


The defender, who would only go on to make seven first-team appearances for the Old Trafford club, was one of the academy’s most highly-rated players.

O’Kane said: “I was as good as any of them. Obviously not Giggsy (Ryan Giggs) because he was a freak, but I could hold my own with anyone.

“I always knew Becks would make it. We were in digs together so I knew what his mentality was like.



“He was a born winner. But Scholesy (Paul Scholes) at that point was really small. I’m not saying he wasn’t good, but he didn’t stand out for the first two years.

“He was a tiny, scruffy little thing, like a park player. He was never fit and his work rate wasn’t great.

“And then I remember an A team game against Liverpool where something just clicked with him — and wow, what a player.

Gary (Neville) wasn’t that good at 15, 16, 17. You could see the determination and the fire in him, but he wasn’t technically good.


“He knew he wasn’t as good technically as the rest of us in that team, but he worked on his game and I admire him for that. He had that different side. That mental side. I didn’t have that.”

O’Kane on Autism

Speaking to the Athletic, O’Kane laid bare his experience as a professional footballer with autism.

He explained: “I wasn’t wired to be like those lads who just lived and breathed football.


“It just wasn’t in me to do it. I knew I was a good player, but it’s the other side, a mixture of the mental and the body.

“It’s hard trying to control your body and tell it, ‘Don’t do that’. It makes you want to do it more.

“Nobody knew the struggles I had to live with just to try to control myself and train every day at the biggest club in the world.

“I’d try to hold it in, but I had so much to think about apart from just playing football. It was a massive strain.”

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Football, Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville

Chris Byfield
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