Write Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson Off At Your Peril

The word on the street is that Fergie’s Empire is crumbling and the Blue Moon of Manchester City is on the brink of eclipsing their rival’s long-held supremacy. Pundits talk of the dawn of a new era and the end of another. They have questioned for how long United could realistically hold out against the spending power of their cross-city rivals. For the Old Trafford faithful there is an air of a grim inevitability around City’s (almost) guaranteed title triumph this Sunday. Ever since the Sheiks arrived in late-summer of 2008, the Blues have been edging ever closer, creeping up the league season on season. Sir Alex has held back the flood waters for as long as humanely possible, but when the levee’s break on May 13th and the Premier League trophy heads to the Ehtiad, a new period of dominance seems all most assured.

Let’s not speak to soon in banishing Fergie, Wazza and United to the dustbin of football history and look a little closer at these seasons achievements in isolation. With one round of fixtures left to go the two sides are, for all intense and purposes, neck and neck. There results on the pitch have been largely similar, if maybe not their overall style of play. City have a slightly better goal difference and have put United to the sword in both their league fixtures this season. That aside, the Reds have stuck in there, churning out result after result up until their inexplicable end-of-season choke. Given the experience in the side it is hard to believe fathom the collapse at Wigan and Everton that have cost United a 20th crown. From a position of supreme authority a little over a month ago they contrived to blow it with one hand already firmly grasped on the trophy. However, they were not trailing by 30 points and scrapping for Champions League qualification like some other former members of the ‘Big Four.’ This was a title that City, despite all their quality, had no right to win, given the standings after their defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates.

If the unthinkable happens and City do slip up at home to QPR and United win at Sunderland, Ferguson will be hailed as a genius, once again outfoxing the young pretenders. If City do as is expected and win the game, the media will print the reverse. It is most likely that the title will be decided on goal difference with both teams finishing on eighty-nine. This is a point’s tally that would have seen City or United win the league in four out of the last five seasons. Whichever team comes up short it would be harsh to brand either as underachievers or failures in any way, especially for United who have faced much tougher obstacles this season.

I accept that this United is a shadow of some of the great sides that Fergie has produced; the 94’ vintage, the treble side and the 07/08 team that won in Moscow. The majority of the latter are still knocking around, minus Ronaldo, but age and injury has caught up with Scholes, Giggs, Ferdinand and Fletcher. On top of that, Edwin Van der Sar and Gary Neville retired last year and the captain, Nemanja Vidic has spent most of the season on the treatment table. Other experienced heads such as John O’Shea and Wes Brown have been shown the door without ceremony. These players have been replaced by an influx of young and improving players who have shown considerable promise; Jones, Smalling, De Gea, Rafael/Fabio, Cleverly, Wellbeck, Chicharito et al. The likes of Liverpool and Chelsea have attempted or are currently attempting this policy of squad evolution; buying players with potential who can develop within the fabric of the club. Whilst their league form has suffered from this overhaul, United have managed to keep the ship afloat, grinding out victories in big games, still maintaining the same spirit.

Let us not forget that Chelsea arrived on a wave of extravagant spending and won back-to-back titles, indicating a new footballing dynasty had arrived. We all know that things did not quite work out the way Abramovich planned. As Mourinho made off with the silverware, Fergie rebuilt, allowing the likes of Beckham, Van Nistelrooy and Keane to leave in favour of the Rooney and Ronaldo. This policy took time but United remained competitive whilst still steadily progressing. Chelsea persisted with a policy of short-termism that saw fluctuating levels of performance as United returned to the top of the tree. Ferguson has proven that he can cope with periods of transition and come back stronger. To sustain a championship challenge with a squad made up largely of exciting prospects and rickety old campaigners (and one world class player in Rooney) is an incredible achievement. He has pushed City all the way and arguably should already be champions with one game to go.

The great fear for all United fans is hovering spectre of Old Father Time. The Scot cannot go on forever and when he finally shuffles off to become Club President in a few years the spirit that sustains the club and the team may well die out. With Ferguson at the helm, Manchester United will continue to evolve and challenge for honors. City can spend another 100 million in the summer and I still expect it to be close next season. By rights, a squad with the quality, class and experience of the Citizens should dominate the Premier League for the next decade but football is about more than names on a team sheet. It is about guts, self-belief and a ferocious appetite for success, something Fergie and United still have in spades.

25 thoughts on “Write Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson Off At Your Peril”

      1. I was waiting for that response! It’s got nothing to do with me writing an article on Liverpool… I wouldn’t expect people to sit and read an article written purely on the team I support. If I wrote one on Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal for example then it’d be a different story if it was unbiased. The problem is that your articles are generally engaging and I enjoy reading those and commenting, having some banter etc but these amateur and wholly pointless articles that you publish from the amateur journo wannabe crew are getting more and more. I like the editors articles on sites like this; if I wanted to read a pointless fan-centric piece I’d go down the local uni and crash in on the journalism room.

        1. Paul, we have a mix of articles. Some are from writers about their favorite teams. Others are not.

          I don’t expect everyone to like all of the articles, but I’m sure many readers would enjoy this one. Otherwise I wouldn’t post it.

          The Gaffer

          1. I understand what you’re saying but I still think you should express more editorial control… less is quite often more. You’ve got a good thing going here and it’d be a shame to see it lose its edge.

            1. Thanks Paul. Obviously we disagree on this one, though. No one else is complaining about this article.

              The Gaffer

          1. Great article. A nice overview of his thoughts on the season. Out of curiosity I clicked on the authors name and it says he’s a Spurs fan. We need more people like that on here who can openly state who they support but still write a piece that leaves you wanting more instead of sending you into a coma because of how one-sided or self centred they are, all about their team and how amazing they are… sensationalist headlines for some of these articles tell me straight away I shouldn’t read them but I can’t help myself lol

            Just thinking, that authors a Spurs fan… it’s not you is it?! haha 😉

          2. LOL..No it’s not me, although i will be submitting a story to them soon. I just thought it was really good take, they are a good blog and getting better, We have all disagreed with each other vigorously on here, but thats the point right? I have a view. so do you, and we move on to the next topic.

            I do whole heartedly agree with your take on the articles at epltalk and as I have stated the apparent lack of discernment…They do have a good thing here but it is loosing its appeal.
            eg… http://epltalk.com/vote-for-the-best-of-the-2011-12-english-premier-league-season-42373#comment-124168

            Looks like Blackpool will play West Sham barring a blitz from Birmingham–the rain is brutal on the surface

        1. You know it’s funny you have people calling other people idiots over trivial things in other posts, you have banter back and forth OFF topic in others yet I’ve never seen you threaten to banish these people like you did me – why is that?

          Did my comment about not listening or agreeing with a podcast do it? The people who have personally attacked me that I’ve responded unfriendly to – could they be your friends or something like that? I just don’t get it? I come to the site all the time along with others I’ve put on to your blog, leave comments pertaining to the article but it’s me you want block from the site. I can’t disagree with someone or give them some of the same chitter chat back? If you would be so kind could you please explain the inconsistency in your views/policies?

          1. Nonsense, having an intelligent discussion is fine. I’m not always going to agree with all of the readers, and vice-versa. But your attacks have been personal on other readers.

            Your comment about not listening or agreeing with the podcast had nothing to do with it (I can’t remember the comment anyway).

            You’re more than welcome to leave comments as long as you don’t engage in personal attacks. What you were doing was not “chit chat.”

            The Gaffer

          2. Agree to disagree.

            You’re under the belief that I started these personal attacks, I didn’t. I’m just better at responding. However since neither of the posters in question could intelligently respond to my first question or reply that was specific to the topic I won’t waste my time engaging them. That should keep you happy and me out of EPLTALK limbo.

  1. “This was a title that City, despite all their quality, had no right to win, given the standings after their defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates.”

    Not a City fan or United hater, but that’s a bit of nonsense, to say the least. City hung in there and continued to grind it out, absolutely refusing to fold up the tent. United seem to have lost their nerve under the pressure……..and City “had no right to win” the title?

    I guess they forgot to asked United’s permission.

    1. City “had no right to win” the title. By that rationale United may have lost the title then, meaning that perhaps Fergie’s empire is crumbling.

      As an aside Guy get The Gaffer to pass on my email address, I may have something you could be interested in from this side of the pond given your predeliction for the underdog.

  2. Couple of thoughts / questions…..

    When Alex does go, then what? it’ll be like when kenny left Anfield the 1st time. Same for the arse, when the whinger does go, the days of a manager at the larger clubs stayong for more than 5 years are numbered, Chelsea and man City are the new mold of epl, big money, instant success or your out. Arsenal have given whinger 7 seasons of no silverware, but that is only because of the consistency of a top 4 position and the ucl qualification, what happens if the arse loose and spurs and newcastle win? will the whinger keep his job?

  3. 1 – SAF needs to spend this summer. With the team and injuries he had to work with this year he deserves respect.

    2 – SAF is solid, he can only do so much with what’s available.

    3 – In reference to Man City, paid mercenaries do NOT create dynasties – they just keep moving on to the next big deal.

  4. Sheikh Mansour is taking all the steps necessary to create a dynasty at City. His ownership approach while similar to Abromavich in regards to paying high fees for top players, is vastly different when it comes to how he runs the everything else as an owner. Mansour is trying to make City the Barcelona of England and is investing hundreds of millions in a state of the art academy and training center across the street from the Etihad. He has stated that his goal is to have a homegrown squad by 2025. Mansour also doesn’t meddle with managers, Abromavich goes through them with ease. Mansour fired Hughes only to place his own man (Mancini) in the helm and has complete faith in Mancini. He even came out and guaranteed him the job for next season when it looked like City were going to come in 2nd.

    Sir Alex Ferguson has done a great job of dealing with adversaries throughout the years but he is fighting a completely different monster in City. He battled off Arsenal and Chelsea when ownership gave him the financial power to do whatever he wanted. The Glazer family is keeping Fergie on a budget and the results are showing themselves. United will have around 40 million to spend in the transfer market this summer. They need to make improvements but also outspend teams for players they are interested in. I can see Arsenal, City, Chelsea, and Liverpool all splashing upwards of 50 million pounds this summer. United need to splash the cash in order to improve a squad that lacks championship quality. This season was one of Fergie’s greatest managing jobs as a young, inexperienced, and undermanned United squad dominated the league and are in a position to possibly win the title on the final day. On paper United shouldn’t be here and their form in all cup competitions show how talented they truly are, it was Fergie who gave his players the confidence to succeed in the Premier League. These results may cause United management to lie to themselves and believe that only a few adjustments to compete for silverware. The truth is as long as the other clubs spend big money, United will fall behind. There is only so much Fergie can do without a strong financial backing that the Glazers refuse to provide.

    1. Of course the empire is crumbling. If city win the league this week on goal difference like I expect it means the Two titles we lost in the last 4 season will be by a combined 1 POINT, how can we ever make up such a gap on the leaders. When we start falling 30+ points behind the champions then it’s time to worry.

  5. As long as Fergie is at the helm at United the Glazers will give him money to buy players he wants. Even if it means going into debt more. The problem is going to come about when Fergie leaves. The owners will bring in a manager they will have more control over. That’s when United might crumble. While Fergie is still around United will always be a force and will be in the thick of the title race.

    City have the resources to stay competetive and add stability to the club which is always required if you want to stay at the top. I don’t see City suddenly becoming poor and that means for the foreseeable future they will be a force to reckon with. Especially if they win the title this year.

  6. I think that while Fergie has obviously done remarkably well with the squad he has this season, a few things have to be taken into account before giving him too much credit:

    1. United were out of all competitions except the league very early this year. So for the first time in a long while, United were only playing one game a week – hence the limited squad wasn’t as big a factor. Imagine if Park had been forced to play more!

    2. Fergie did indeed make do with a limited squad – but some of the blame for that has to fall on his shoulders. The club clearly knew something about Fletcher’s condition, and Anderson and Cleverley have never managed more than a couple months of fitness in a row. In the past few years United have lost Scholes, Hargreaves, Gibson, O’Shea and not replaced them (except Scholes). Not necessarily amazing players, but at least midfielders.

    3. In almost all of the major defeats of the season, one can point the finger quite easily at Fergie gambling with team selection. The City lineup last week was an utter travesty – the kind of thing that a Benitez or an AVB would have been torn apart for. Most United fans knew they’d lost before that team stepped foot on the pitch. When Park plays this year, United lose 80% of the time. When Park and Giggs both play, they lose 100% of the time. Similarly, the lineup against Ajax and Bilbao were odd, and of course the Blackburn home game was shocking.

    4. This season was supposedly about transition and youth. And to be fair, both Danny Welbeck and David De Gea have both clearly settled into a level of quality that is good enough for United. However, Fergie never gave Pogba a chance, barely used the twins, and never gave Jones or Smalling a proper run in the team. It’s genuinely hard to tell if these young players are truly good enough, and that hasn’t changed.

    All of that taken into account, the largest achievement has to be his handling of injuries. The latest stat I’ve seen which is slightly out of date was that United first team players had missed 268 matches in the league, while City’s had missed 50. That’s perhaps an even more telling statistic than any wages or transfer spending.

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