Tag Archives: ferguson

What’s Happened to Manchester United?

The manager: It seems almost inconceivable now, but nine months ago the media loved David Moyes. David Moyes believes Manchester United need to sign 'one or two' playersFourFourTwo published a fawning profile. Columnists praised him for guiding Everton to fifth place. And in a fit of enthusiasm, an Israeli newspaper erroneously claimed he was Jewish.

Since then, it has become increasingly clear that for all his accomplishments at Goodison Park – and I’m not convinced there were quite as many as some people think – Moyes is neither charismatic enough to inspire a dressing room full of bloated egos nor courageous enough to put his best attacking players in the same XI. Rooney, Januzaj, van Persie, and Mata would probably form a dangerous, flexible attacking unit, but Moyes, whose Everton team won plenty of games but never threatened to entertain anybody, isn’t interested.

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Ferguson’s Mistake

Flipping through FourFourTwo’s Top 100 Players list, I kept thinking about Manchester United’s pogbamidfield. The list is pretty much a catalogue of players United should have signed or shouldn’t have sold. It was hard not to notice that Tom Cleverley and Marouane Fellaini hadn’t made the cut. And that Michael Carrick languished in the mid-70s. And that in 64th place, making his first appearance on the annual list, was Paul Pogba.

Here’s the thing about Pogba: People knew he was going to be good. It’s not as if he flopped, Zoran Tosic-style; left Old Trafford; and then suddenly turned into the best midfielder in Serie A. United sold Pogba because he had started to believe his own hype, or at least his agent had, and Alex Ferguson wouldn’t meet his salary demands. Unlike Ravel Morrison, who has played brilliantly for West Ham this season, Pogba wasn’t lazy, or volatile, or even an alleged sex offender. He just happened to consider himself the next Patrick Vieira. Pogba signed for Juventus about a year and a half ago and has since proved that a) he may well be better than Vieira; and b) Ferguson shouldn’t have been so stingy.

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When Sackings Work

Last January, two days after Southampton’s impressive 2-2 draw away to Chelsea, club chairman Nicola pochettinoCortese sacked Nigel Adkins, the physio-turned-manager who had guided Southampton from League One all the way to the Premier League. Cortese immediately unveiled Adkins’ replacement: Mauricio Pochettino, a young, talented former Espanyol coach who didn’t speak a word of English. “Far-fetched was how the Premier League appeared then to Saints,” lamented Daily Mail columnist Michael Walker, referring to Southampton’s years in the lower divisions. “Far-fetched is how Adkins’ dismissal appears now.”

Walker wasn’t the only critic of Cortese’s decision – Southampton was on a six-game unbeaten streak at the time, and many pundits, including Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier, who said that Cortese had “a bit of an ego problem,” feared that Adkins’ departure would Unsettle The Dressing Room.

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Angry and Confused: Why Wayne Rooney Should Join Chelsea

Wayne Rooney didn’t play in last Sunday’s Community Shield; he had injured his shoulder just a couple of daysrooney chelsea before kickoff. That must have been pretty disappointing. In July, Rooney pulled out of Manchester United’s pre-season tour; he had injured his hamstring just a couple of days before United’s first match.

Before this summer’s 11th-hour injuries, Rooney had clashed with Sir Alex Ferguson over “playing time,” a highly charged, somewhat misleading phrase that can probably be taken to mean “prostitutes, cigarettes, cow metaphors, New Year’s dinners, and Robin van Persie.” In the past month, Chelsea has submitted two bids for Rooney, offering cash and (according to early reports) Juan Mata. Jose Mourinho recently described Chelsea’s summer transfer policy as “Rooney or bust.”

But David Moyes would likely argue that it’s irrelevant whether Rooney has systematically faked injuries in a rebellious effort to force a transfer to Chelsea, because no matter what Rooney does, United isn’t going to sell.

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Ninety Minutes From The Sack

Last week, Manchester United unveiled a statue of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Bronze-Fergie’s hands are di matteofolded across bronze-Fergie’s chest, and while bronze-Fergie seems to be missing flesh-Fergie’s legendary watch, the sculptor looks to have done a pretty accurate job. Ferguson has coached United for more than 25 years. In that time, ten Liverpool managers have come and gone. Among the top English clubs (sorry, Everton), only Arsenal has a coach whose longevity rivals Sir Alex’s, and even he trails Fergie by a decade.

Ferguson is the last survivor of a dying era. Last month, Mark Hughes of Queens Park Rangers and Roberto Di Matteo of Chelsea were both fired after less than a year at their respective clubs. Hughes’ sacking came after a disappointing start to QPR’s season, but Chelsea won the Champions League earlier this year, and, at the time of Di Matteo’s dismissal, was only four points off the top of the Premier League. The team was also playing attractive football, which, for Chelsea – a club whose blunt, bullying, borderline-racist players[1] have been intimidating the West Broms of this world for about seven years – is not so much highly unusual as highly suspicious.

At least 90 percent of Di Matteo’s downfall had more to do with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and his bizarre, illogical management than it did with Di Matteo himself. Abramovich is an entertainingly shady Russian billionaire whose penchant for firing managers who probably don’t deserve to be fired has turned him into a bit of a cartoon enemy. There are probably lots of kind, humble Chelsea supporters who are deeply ashamed of their inability to hate Abramovich, and who spend at least a couple of minutes each day pondering this moral failure[2]. Without Ambramovich, Chelsea wouldn’t fire managers on a regular basis: his bizarre egomania forces the sackings, and his billions fund the big severance checks that departing managers take with them as a sort of consolation prize[3]. But remove Ambramovich from the equation, and Chelsea is a mid-table team. The Stamford Bridge faithful is obligated to love him.

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700 Games Later

Last Saturday, Manchester United beat Wigan 4-0 in a run-of-the-mill Premier League game. Wigan are a small, slightly bizarre club from the north of England. Manchester United also play in the north, but they have more Azerbaijani fans than Wigan do season-ticket holders. This is football, the most monetized sport around, and Manchester United were playing at home. Wigan never had a prayer.

What made this game worth watching, what made it Saturday’s most endearing match – especially in contrast to John Terry’s return to Loftus Road, Anton Ferdinand’s childish non-handshake, and the dismal 0-0 draw that followed – was the shy-looking redhead who opened the scoring (a tap-in) and the almost-40-year-old whose darting runs and incisive dribbling troubled the Wigan defense all afternoon. If you don’t know where I’m going with this – if the names Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, or, as they’re commonly referred to, “giggsandscholes” (one syllable), don’t ring a bell – then either you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years or you don’t have cable. (Which is worse? I’ll leave that for you to decide.)

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Fallen Star: The Decline of Federico Macheda

Federico Macheda took just 25 minutes to become a legend. His goal against Aston Villa in April 2009 was the cathartic explosion that propelled Manchester United to their 18th league title, equaling Liverpool’s long-standing record and answering what now seems a very ill advised banner. This being Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United, the goal came in stoppage time, completed a comeback and obscured what was otherwise a worryingly poor performance.

Conventional wisdom holds that Macheda’s strike – which, if you’re like me, you watch on YouTube about 25 times a day – confirmed that United’s youth system had life after Giggs and Scholes and that Ferguson wasn’t turning into a big-spending, modern football capitalist after all. Although this view is prominent on Manchester United forums, it is more than slightly dubious: Federico Macheda is not in fact a Manchester native. (Yeah, I know: I was fooled, too).

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Balotelli Is Starting To Define The New City

While failed bathroom experimentation may have condemned his pyrotechnic career to the realms of lazy humor, Mario Balotelli’s footballing talent has finally found the greenery most conducive to its belated blossoming.

The frown so intrinsically linked with his controversial endeavor failed to disappear, but in this culmination of careful improvement Balotelli showed that he’s more than just a troublesome ornament.

After years of almost constant indignation, it was easy to sympathize with the forward’s celebratory message. “Why always me?” read his undershirt – revealed just after the first of six Manchester City goals.

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Retrospective: The Week That Destroyed A Season

When the bards sing of deeds gone by or poets write in remembrance, memory is always airbrushed. As an eager, fresh-faced boy desperate to fill my mind’s expanse of blankness, I noticed, interested, the holes in Manchester United’s rich history. The period for instance that some call the 1970s, is one afforded only a cursory sentence or two in all the unofficial accounts I read, seemingly, football hadn’t happened between around the time George Best lifted the European Cup and the day Ron Atkinson cleaned out his office.

What with decades disappearing, to misplace a week might seem a trifling matter, but here I seek to preserve one of the worst. Observed through the lens of glories since, the first seven days of April 2010 lose poignancy – victory’s narcotic effect blurring our understanding of what it means to lose. Pain, all too happily sedated.

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The weather was nice, early Spring temperatures in Germany complementing early spring moods in Manchester – moods dictated by a script long since memorized.

Adjustment had been an overarching theme that year. The departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez kicked off a period of change. In came Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen, as a goalscoring burden of titanic proportions shifted onto the shoulders of Wayne Rooney.

Read more at Man Utd 24.

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Berbatov Is Forever Consigned To Under Appreciation

According to legend, Berbatov’s Mancunian adventure started unconventionally – under a blanket in the back of Ferguson’s car, as he was speedily whisked away from the admiring hands of Manchester City. 

In years hence though, all has been predictable. The daily abuse, the cheap cracks and descriptors starting with “l” are functions of a society inherently against footballers in the mold of Dimitar Berbatov.

Despite standing at six foot two, the Bulgarian hardly intimidates. His stature is slightly offset by a permanent slump of the shoulders and furrowing of the brow, two characteristics most manifest in times of struggle. And for Berbatov, struggle is never far away.

Quite apart from the expectation automatically applied to all Manchester United front players – especially ones that cost in excess of thirty million pounds – Berbatov is the subject of a special kind of scrutiny. There is an unshakable feeling among commentators and journalists alike that his case deserves questioning of an intensity normally only applied to England managers, brothel frequenters and John Terry.

To see Berbatov play is for many to have triggered a sort of righteous indignation, anger at an individual so distinctly different from the Premier League’s proletariat masses. The haughty exterior, hair band (until it was shorn a couple seasons ago) and deceptive, almost arrogant movement, all made great copy throughout each season of supposed under performance.

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