Nothing if not forthright in his own defence, he always stood up to Ferguson when it seemed appropriate but, contrary to popular belief, these two plain speakers never let disagreement fester into feud. "We didn’t fall out once in four years," Sheringham said. "I found him to be hard but fair, and I like that in a manager. You know exactly where you stand.
"There were a couple of times when I stepped out of line, and he came down on me like a ton of bricks. It felt harsh at the time, but I accepted it, and I can’t fault him for it now."
By his own admission, his form tailed off towards the end of last season, but he was not alone in that. "The first half of the season was exceptional. We wanted to win everything again, and we went at it all guns blazing. After all, it’s what you’re at Manchester United for — to win everything. Effectively, we’d won the League by January, and that mucked us up because we didn’t have to produce our best form to stay on top.
"Look at last Sunday, and the Charity Shield. United were behind, and I don’t think there’s any better sight than Man United chasing a game. They were awesome in the second half, when their backs were against the wall and they really needed to pull it out. Last season we didn’t have to do that, and for the great players up there it became too easy. Some would be trying at certain times and others would be feeling, ‘Oh, we don’t need to do it today’.
"I really feel that’s what messed us up. We had an outstanding team, and if we’d been on a motivational roll, like we were in the Treble-winning season, when we had to stay on top of our game every week, it would have brought more out of us against Bayern, when we really needed it. Instead, we were trying to save ourselves for the big games, and I know my form dipped because of it."
Ferguson wanted him to stay on again, and told him so at Christmas. "He said the board would be offering me a new contract, but they didn’t. He kept saying, ‘Have they spoken to you yet? No? They will do’. I was happy with that, knowing he wanted me to stay, but in the meantime things were changing at Spurs, and there was speculation that I would be coming back.
"United were always going to offer me another 12 months, but they didn’t get around to it until my last six weeks there, and the more Tottenham became a possibility, the more I liked the idea. Eventually, United offered me more money to stay, but by that time I’d decided to come back."
It had been a wrench to leave the biggest, most successful club in the country. "I spoke to people like Steve Bruce, who said to me, ‘Don’t ever leave United, it will always be such a big step down’. But when Steve left he went to Birmingham, and it was a big shock for him and a big change in standards and styles. I looked at my situation and thought, ‘Tottenham is a step down’ — I’m not slagging Spurs off by saying that, because everybody knows it — ‘but it’s a short step’. I know there’s a lot of quality here, and coming back appealed to me." He had been particularly impressed with Darren Anderton ("It’s lovely to team up with him again"), Gus Poyet ("He’s been very good in pre-season") and Sergei Rebrov as a potential strike partner ("He is looking sharp").
The principles and objectives laid down by Hoddle were both pleasing and realistic. "Tottenham are moving, or at least looking to move, in the right direction again. The ambition is back, and that’s what I want to be part of. I’m very optimistic. They say never go back, but this feels like a new club and a new start. It’s not like before.
"The aim is to get into Europe. Everybody is of the view that we need to do that through our League position. If a cup run comes along, fine, but we want to be qualifying for Europe through consistent performances in the League."
Was he not worried that the downward move might spell the end of his international career, revived by that memorable goal against Mexico in May? Sven-Göran Eriksson has made plain his preference for players whose skills are being refined in the Champions League, which would appear to disadvantage, if not disqualify, Sheringham from one last hurrah in the World Cup.
"That did occur to me," he said. "I still want to play for England. But there’s plenty of opportunity to impress in the Premier League. If I was 23 and coming here from Man United, then perhaps he (Eriksson) would have a point, but he knows what I can do, what sort of player I am, and if I’m scoring goals for Tottenham, then I hope that will edge me in." After last Wednesday, it should.
MAIL ON SUNDAY
The word in football
Joe Melling's column suggests that Glenn Hoddle will offer £6million for Southampton defender Dean Richards.
The Mirror's gossip column links up with Leeds defender Michael Duberry.
Saturday August 18
Hod full of hope
Hod: Give me two years and then judge me
Hand of Hod is a Spur
The tabloids go with Glenn talking about being back in the big time at Spurs as the season kicks-off. John Dillon's article in the Mirror reads as follows:
GLENN HODDLE faces his latest moment of truth today when his career as Tottenham's boss kicks off for real.
There have been more of those for Hoddle these past few, turbulent years than for just about anyone else in football.
As Spurs appear in the shape he has fashioned for the first time, he admits this is his real re-entry into the big-time after his spectacular fall from grace as England manager.
The fag-end of last season at White Hart Lane was no more than an itchy waiting game. His ten months in charge of Southampton was just a first, low-key period of rehabilitation.
Now, the purchase of big names like Teddy Sheringham and Gus Poyet in place and a five-year plan for glory worked out, the new crusade begins against Aston Villa at White Hart Lane this afternoon. Hoddle said: "I think that today I'm properly back at the top level
"This is the restart. It's great to be at a club like this, a club I've loved all my life. It's a massive challenge, one I'm working on with my head and my heart.
"After England, I never thought that was it. But I thought I needed a little spell out to recharge.
"Now I find myself sitting here as manager of Tottenham, about to go into my first season and I'm excited about it. The back end of last season here was always going to be difficult and it would be tough to be judged on that. So the job starts now. And then, I would say, two years down the line will be the pivotal season."
There are those in Southampton still unhappy that he walked out on them for Spurs last April after they had offered him his first chance of a comeback.
Just as there will always be an intense debate over whether Hoddle should have lost his job as England boss in February, 1999 over his unconventional spiritual beliefs. Hoddle wisely now steers clear of such matters in public.
It is just that Tottenham fans, starved of major success for so long, cannot help referring to him as The Messiah or as The Prodigal Son, returned to make them great again.
Hoddle added: "With the players I've brought in I've got a picture in my mind about how I want the team to play. I'm slowly getting there, although there's a long way to go.
"I want to be successful, and that's becoming harder and harder with the five clubs that will be going for the championship - or should be with the money they've spent.
"It's going to make it very difficult for us, but with a lot of hard work the ambitions are to pinch one of those positions. Whether that's this season or next season remains to be seen. But I want to see a progression and to see us back in Europe.
"That's where this club should be, and if we can get back in Europe I think we'll be able to entice better, younger players. Europe is an important task."
]. He wanted the strikers to run the channels more, and that hasn’t been my game since my Millwall days."