Sir Alex Ferguson was famed for his ‘hairdryer treatment’ – and Dwight Yorke felt the full force of it after falling asleep in the middle of the pitch at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium.
Manchester United headed to Australia as champions of Europe and England after completing a historic treble during their all-conquering 1998/99 campaign.
Yorke had more than played his part – finishing as the Premier League’s joint top scorer as United reclaimed the title, while also netting crucial strikes against Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Juventus on the way to Champions League glory.
But that didn’t protect him from Ferguson’s wrath after he fell asleep stretching during a United training session following a heavy night out in Sydney.
Team-mate Nicky Butt described it as “the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in football” – but the gaffer wasn’t laughing when news got back to him of Yorke’s antics.
Legendary manager Ferguson missed the Australian leg of United’s tour that summer as he was receiving his knighthood from the Queen – meaning Steve McClaren was left in charge.
And Red Devils stars took full advantage, ignoring curfews and rolling back into their hotels as late as four or five in the morning, as Butt and Andy Cole recalled in an interview with FourFourTwo.
It was after one such night that Yorke fell asleep during training – with his team-mates leaving him to it before giving him a soaking to wake him up.
“We were stretching on the pitch, then I heard someone snoring,” Butt said in the interview back in 2011.
“It was Yorkey. He’d fallen asleep. We were all giggling, but no one woke him up. He was fast asleep, but he was still sat up. After four or five minutes of stretching we got up to jog, leaving Yorkey asleep in the middle of the field.”
Cole recounted how he tried to help his “comatose” strike partner.
“I was shouting, ‘Yorkey! Yorkey! Yorkey!’,” he said. “He made a bit of a noise as if he’d heard us, but he was comatose.
Butt recalled how a furious Ferguson then met up with the squad as they moved on to Hong Kong – and the manager went ballistic.
“Yorkey snoozing in the middle of the Olympic Stadium remains the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in football,” said Butt. “The story got back to the manager, who came out to meet us a few days later in Hong Kong. He went nuts.”
The Trinidad & Tobago striker gave his own recollection of the incident – saying he lay down to stretch after starting to feel dizzy, and inadvertently dropped off into the land of nod.
“I’m lucky that I don’t get hangovers,” said Yorke. “But after 20 minutes my head was starting to spin.
“I was relieved when we started to do some stretches and thought I’d take the opportunity of lying down for a minute to stretch.
“Big mistake. Within two seconds I was fast asleep. The next thing I knew I was being drenched with water and I woke to find the lads killing themselves with laughter.”
Yorke, now 49, would win another two Premier League titles with United before joining Blackburn in 2002.
He signed for Birmingham in 2004 – and was back in Australia less than a year later as he switched to Sydney FC, before ending his career back in the UK with a three-year spell at Sunderland.
Do you want an exclusive pre-season preview of YOUR club – both in your inbox and through your letterbox? Head over here to find out more and secure your copy.