When an Italian says it’s pasta I check under the sauce to make sure. They are innovators of the smokescreen.
– Sir Alex in all his elements before a big European encounter against Inter Milan.
In his 25th year as manager of a football club of the stature of Man United, Alex Ferguson has never backed down from a fight, always stepped up for a challenge, forever willing to confront his detractors and conquer new heights. His stubbornness and sheer single mindedness to United’s cause has won over each and every United faithful; Man United as a club are indebted to him for life for his unerring dedication to our religion- MUFC. However Fergie has rubbed a major portion of the football world the wrong way. It’s not a secret, least of all a surprise, to see a strong Anti-United contingent around, ABU’s (Anything but United) as they are called in United circles. Success has led to jealousy, hatred, and at times sheer blinkered agendas against Sir Alex; uneasy lies the head that bears the crown, indeed.
Now it would be naive to completely exonerate Ferguson of any blame, as the fiery Scot has often played with the media and done so with contempt. What’s annoying and at times cringe worthy is the media’s attitude of putting down Fergie at each and every opportunity with the customary “the end of Ferguson’s dark dynasty”. The portrayal as the ‘Skeletor’ of the ‘Castle Greyskull’ or Lord Voldemort hovering over Hogwarts is plain unfair; in fact, he is just a football manager doing the best for his football club, accountable to none but the supporters of the Red Army. There is undue scrutiny and unfair criticism at times, with each and every move being dissected by pundits, experts and critics alike.
It’s always said that over the course of the season the refereeing decisions even out; there are days when a team gets the rub of the green, and others when lady luck refuses to shine. Nonetheless it is presumed that Man United get preferential treatment; it is one of the myths of football, and gathers strength with every passing season. There is an inevitable hue and cry every time the United side gets a favourable refereeing call, but the same doesn’t gets reported with identical intensity when the tables are turned. Where’s the bias now, eh?
Ferguson has soldiered on for years, taking criticism with a pinch of salt, turning stones hurled at him into milestones; however, there seems to be no end to the plethora of brickbats coming his way. The pointless charges, the bans, the reprimands keep coming the gaffer’s way; what purpose does it serve anyway?
Recently after the game at the Bridge ended in a United defeat, Sir Alex was asked to give his views on the game which was marred by dodgy refereeing. Ferguson stayed true to character and didn’t mince words:
“The penalty kick was so soft. Deary me. But we played very well. It was a great performance by us. We didn’t deserve that”.
“It was incredible. Even before that he’d done Chicharito off the ball. He’d done him late. Nothing done, the referee’s in front of it. He does Rooney clear as day, (the referee is) six yards from it, he doesn’t do anything. That changed the game.These are decisions that change the game. And he’s going to be refereeing every week.But I’m proud of the players. They’ve endured a lot of decisions against them but they’ve come through it, they’ve done their best. They’ve created good chances.They didn’t deserve that.”
The ever so likeable opposition manager Carlo Ancelotti too described the incident as “lucky”. However Ferguson faces a ban for speaking his mind out after a heart breaking defeat in a crucial moment, in yet another league challenging campaign. What were they expecting to hear remains a mystery; Ferguson spoke what he saw and what he felt, just like the legion of United fans. Now Fergie has been at the helm long enough to remain unperturbed and detached from such accusations, and it is amusing nevertheless to see his detractors try once again and fall flat on their face.
You can either speak up or choose the path of silence. Ferguson, after getting reprimanded, chose the latter. It was already made clear to all and sundry that there won’t be any pre-match or post match sound bites from the horse’s mouth regarding the high profile clash at Merseyside. Nevertheless it was shock and horror(not really!), as the media contrived to put out stories claiming that Ferguson snubbed the media after his team’s Anfield debacle, with the term “sour loser” firmly attached. Damned if you speak, and damned if you don’t!
The amount of press Rooney’s infamous elbow generated almost begs belief, that even Sep Blatter woke up from his slumber to rip the player, not missing a chance to let the much maligned Rooney go unattended. Rooney was wrong; he should have been punished, but the referee saw it and it shouldn’t be the media circus that it became. A week later, Carragher laid into a challenge on Nani which can only be classified as an assault. Ray Wilkins described it as ‘the worst he has seen this season’, but where’s the press now? Adding insult to injury , Nani got shouted at by Liverpool’s captain fantastic to stop play acting, when he could clearly see the obvious pain the Portuguese was under. Luis Nani, United’s most potent attacking threat, will be out for a month during this crucial juncture of the campaign; but it’s still Fergie’s fault, eh?
Ferguson could have gone on and spoken his mind about the ‘Carragher challenge’, and the media would have had a field day, twisting and turning quotes into eye ball catching headlines and getting Ferguson further into the mire. He didn’t though, not because he chickened out, but only to honour the commitment he made on not commenting beforehand. Now the ABU’s can call him spoilsport, but Fergie could hardly care.
The man from Glasgow is anything but determination personified, the flag bearer of the phrase “siege mentality”. It seems the time has come once again for the maestro to play the oldest trick in his armour – creating a ‘World v/s Us’ atmosphere; “the world is against us and everyone wants us down” could be harboured, with an aim to unite players and tough it out. Every game that United win from here on will be met with teeth grinding from Merseyside to North London. Ferguson doesn’t care if he and his club are not liked; there’s no greater symbol of success.
Man United and Sir Alex haven’t exactly had the best few days; the club is hurting right now, and the ABU bandwagon is out in all its glory. In 92’, 95’, 02’, 06’, they have had their say before, only to have their tails firmly put between their legs.
Any United fan with an iota of a doubt regarding Fergie’s ability to handle pressure, or possibly of the opinion that the great man is losing it , should look no further than this season itself. Have a look at the squad the club started with; remember the Wayne Rooney saga, keep in mind Valencia’s horrific injury, and shudder to imagine where we would be in the league with anyone else in charge. This isn’t the time to doubt his genius. On the contrary, this whole season is a testament to his unparalleled ability to make a team more than the sum of its parts.
As far as the rest of the football world goes, the wily old fox will be back soon to his belligerent best. Get ready for another of his famous quotable quotes like the one against ‘Ze Germans’, or the foul mouthed ticking off the press on Juan Seba Veron. But for now “there is no reply to the ignorant other than keeping silent”.