Posts Tagged ‘Sir Alex Ferguson’

Why we should learn from the scoff as Sir Alex’s position is questioned

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

It was extremists of course and not something that we should give too much attention to but a tiny, tiny number of Manchester United fans believe that Sir Alex Ferguson should no longer be the manager at Old Trafford and are using the 4-1 defeat by Liverpool as proof of this.

They are not to be taken seriously of course and United will end the season with silverware that most clubs only dream of but nevertheless there is this tiny group who vocalise their point of view.

So far, so glorious democracy and freedom of speech however things become more troubling when those putting forward such curious points of view are echoed elsewhere.

Management Ferguson style is the long game and the gap between the Scot coming down from Aberdeen to becoming the legend of the dug out that he is now has been reported on elsewhere not only at Old Trafford but also in Scotland.

The accepted wisdom of the management of Sir Alex Ferguson is that time is the governing factor of success be it time to build, time to rebuild or time to augment the good into the great.

United’s European record before the treble is – in retrospect – cast as building for the glory of May 1999.

Yet throughout football managers are given the tiniest slither of the patience that Old Trafford gave Ferguson in those early years which he hardly even needs to draw on even after a home humiliation by one’s bitterest rivals. If anyone has enough in the bank to get over a 4-1 defeat it is Ferguson.

We should all scoff at those who say one defeat should force a re-evaluation of the manager at Old Trafford and perhaps we should all scoff when we hear similar at our own clubs.

After all Rafa Benitez has had his critics at Liverpool but he emerged victorious this week with eight goals against Real Madrid and The Red Devils while he rotate-a-manager at St James’ Park Newcastle sees them hover over the drop zone. Sticking with managers makes good sense in principal and in practice.

Perhaps we should all take the same policy of scoff when our managers position are questioned within a year or two or appointment. Perhaps we should act with the same incredulity as those hearing that the Knight of the Realm should no longer be at the helm at Old Trafford act.

We do not though. Up and down the land managers are sacked with a patience that would have sacked Ferguson at Pittodire or Old Trafford and it is taken as a part of the game, a thing of football, rather than an act of poor macro management by a club.

In football though we have a world where we are told we should not question what is handed down to us from the clubs we say we support but increasingly adopt an attitude of lords to our vassals.

It is in this atmosphere that with a straight face the manager of Chelsea can criticise another club for spending immorally not a year since the exit of £31m curio Andriy Shevchenko.

Football supporters should laugh at Guus Hiddink for his hypocrisy as they do at those who say that Ferguson should not be Manchester United manager and they should laugh too when they hear similar subjects to scoff at at their own clubs.

Money in football seduces all including its critics

Monday, January 26th, 2009

The transfer window remains open for a week and in that week it is expected that Manchester City will add to the parade of signing – a bloke called Nigel who they could have had for a tenth of the price and Craig Bellemy – as they prepare for next season’s assault on the Champions League places an ascension to which is already assumed in some quarters with the talk being of who from the top four – Arsenal it seems to be feared – will lose a foothold that would be taken by the men from Maine Road.

Certainly yesterday’s 1-1 draw between Liverpool and Everton is seen as something of a last rites but I would suggest that Manchester City could have limitless money and they will still not finish above either Merseyside club until they are able to put in place the kind of systems that both have behind the scenes.

There is a correlation between clubs that keep managers, the build slowly, that do the right thing and success and Liverpool’s attempts to win the league this season may end up the same as Manchester United’s attempt to win the last Football League title which was acquiesced to Leeds United but should Benitez’s side capitulate they may be – looking back with hindsight as we do on 1991/1992 – judged in the same way as the gradual improvement of Ferguson’s side. Few talk about how Old Trafford blew the League and those who do are shown to the trophy room as proof of the long game being played.

Everton – and the rise of Aston Villa as a footballing force and the decline of Chelsea under the merry-go-round system of management – show that lashing money at a team is not a path to success yet the fear amongst those who worry about money having overtaken football has it that the rise of Manchester City is assured because of this.

I’m not sure how signing Robinho and Kaka would have differ from signing Teves and Mascherano in trying to guarantee a top four finish. The two Argentines are proof that good footballers need to be in the right surroundings to make a difference and parachuting them into chaos and expecting the two alone to produce results is no solution. West Ham are nowhere as close to Everton to the hallowed ground of Champions League football, Aston Villa are a tauntingly similarly coloured speck on their horizons and while the talk is of expensive Brazilians Villa pick up Emile Heskey for £3.5m and trundle on towards their goals.

Chelsea – so often held up as the example of reckless spending – built a side slowly into a top quarter finisher under Claudio Ranieri which was taken on to become Premiership champions and many would argue that the wheels came off that wagon when Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko signed and disparity in the dressing room began. A look at the Midlander’s dressing room and the balance therein suggests that Heskey has more chance of making a fist of things at his new club than Shevchenko did at Stamford Bridge.

All of which is to further heap praise on the hair to Clough – Martin O’Neill – and suggest that if Manchester City were really keen to make a difference to the club then they would be looking not at getting the best players they could but the best manager. Someone who could turn a team of strugglers into someone who can compete with the best and from that level stake a claim for a place in the elite of English football. With 2-1 and 1-0 wins over Manchester United last season and a top half finish with a team that had finished four points off relegation the season before one might think that perhaps City had that manager in place in Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Not that this is a suggestion that money should be allowed to flow unfettered into football – controls are badly needed at all levels – but rather a statement that not only can money not buy one love but it also makes a pretty poor show of getting you a good football team when compared to finding the right man to lead your team and sticking with him as evidence on both the red and the blue halves of Manchester.

Certainly it would be harder to argue – Robinho and all – that Mark Hughes’s side is not further away from those lofty aims as they splash out more money in January than Eriksson’s was this time last year and that for missing out on the League in May 1992 someone other than Sir Alex should have been given the keys to the Old Trafford war chest.

Mickey Rourke has the real skills needed to be a Premiership manager

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Chelsea’s Luiz Felipe Scolari finds his job under threat and already eyes scan and ears prick up on the lookout for a successor to the small one who watches those in the North West play what is referred to in the press as mind games.

Scolari’s opinion on Manchester United, Liverpool and the title race is almost unimportant – as is Arsene Wengers and Martin O’Neill – as these big too trade punches in the sparring. Sparring is the sort of word that Sky would use to describe this war of words that had broken out between Anfield and Old Trafford. They would use “War of words” too.

Perhaps though the rest of the country – those without a stake in corporate football – would describe the banter between Sir Alx and Rafa Benitez as boring. There is very little of interest in what seems to be a playground style spat the start of which is lost in history and the meaning of which is a moot point.

At the start of May the title will be decided and before then the two clubs will meet and while there is some interest in dynamics between the two managers and two camps the majority of the time the impression left is of a squabble between the over privilege. The two managers come off with all the grace and charm of Prince Harry and the whole divide between the two seems paper thin if viewed from any distance. From the distance of The Valley it must seem tiny indeed.

It could be different of course. One call between the two camps and an agreement to let the best team win in good grace could be struck but doing so would deny the Red Top types endless column inches repeating the undignified squabble. Those same Red Top types could also play a part in removing this squalid part of our game by preferring to report on matches played rather than the reactions to those games but that seems unlikely to occur.

So what we are left with is this pre-fight mudslinging which would be better suited to the pantomime of Hulk Hogan and the WWF rather than top flight British football which is rendered undignified but these men and their supposed mind games. Grown men acting upset, offended, mortified with each other and vowing victory.

So when Chelsea do start looking for a new manager perhaps they should stop the pretence and try hire someone who has the proper training to do that job – Mickey Rourke maybe?