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Is Alex Ferguson A Nut?

One of the EPL Talk visitors, Charles Kerr, has emailed an excellent question about English Premier League managers. Rather than answer the question myself, I thought I’d let you, the reader, review it and offer your own expertise by answering the question (just click on the ‘comments’ link below).

Here’s the email and the question:

I’m a new, but passionately rabid, fan of the EPL and Championship League and as I become immersed in the sport I have question that seem difficult to google answers for. Your podcast interview with Oliver Tse answered many of my questions related to EPL TV coverage in the US (sorry to see him phasing out football for poker…) and based on that interview and your various EPL sites, I figure you must know everything about the sport.

Anyway, here’s the question I posted to some soccer buddies:

The day after Manchester United dusted Roma 7-1 at home in their Championship League quarter-final match, I saw Manchester’s coach, Sir Alex Ferguson, in the stands watching the game between their next opponents, AC Milan and Bayern Munich. The game was played in Munich (a bit closer than Milan) and I assume Manchester United has a private plane, but still, Ferguson’s 65 years old and with travel time, traffic, etc. etc. I would think watching this game live must have taken 8-10 hours of his time. Personally, if I were Ferguson, I’d take a nap instead and watch it on tape….I can’t imagine a professional American basketball, football, baseball coach doing something similar. So my question is, is this unusual? Or is soccer such a full field game that Ferguson really gets significantly more out of scouting a team live instead of on tape?Or, is the question the one of filming / video rights? Do European teams share footage with other teams like they do in US professional and college sports? If Manchester had a cameraman up in the top seats (or I suppose, a blimp) filming the game would they get in trouble? Has a team ever been penalized for illegally filming a game?

So is Ferguson a nut, or is this typical of high level EPL and European football coaches? Is it a rights issue?

Thanks for any help or light you can shed on the issue….

We look forward to reading your responses.

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  1. The Gaffer

    May 13, 2007 at 6:44 am


    Looks like the EPL Talk readers answered your question. I knew they would!

    Just a few additional comments:

    1. Most of the clubs in the Premiership use software called ProZone (reviewed in the EPL Talk Magazine, issue 2 I believe). The software allows teams to view a smorgasbord of stats.

    2. But often, seeing a match in person is better. Fergie probably wanted to see the way how AC Milan lined up with his own eyes. Plus, as previously mentioned, he was probably scouting Owen Hargreaves.

    Excellent questions. Other readers, feel free to e-mail your football-related questions to thegaffer[AT]epltalk[dot]com and I can post them here for other readers to respond.

    The Gaffer

  2. Anonymous

    May 11, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    I used to shoot and manage coaching video for an American college football team. We shot independently from the TV cameras, who tended to shoot a bit tighter than we would (we would keep all 22 players in the shot no matter what happened) in order for the coaches to see the spacing and tactics better.

    I don’t know if they do something similar in the Premiership but the matches I’ve seen on TV would almost be shot too tightly for some coaches. Being in person would be the best way to see everything if a suitable video were not available.

  3. Anonymous

    May 11, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Anonymous…you pissy Brit, maybe all the stupid f****** yanks, like the Glazers, should take their American dollars away from the a**hole-of-the earth known as Manchester, and let someone like Roman come in.

  4. Anonymous

    May 11, 2007 at 11:36 am

    Man united (scum) are not MANCHESTER.

  5. BillEShears

    May 11, 2007 at 10:03 am

    I think that there are arguments to be made for Ferguson being a bit batty (see goal celebrations). However, I don’t think traveling to watch the other Champions League Match was one of them.

    I think most other managers do the same or similar. Jose Mourinho traveled to Eastern Europe at a midweek to check out a stadium where Chelsea would be playing a CL match. Arsene Wenger goes to everything…even Brazil friendlies. A Monday match in the Premiership will usually have quite a few other managers at it. So I don’t think that it is necessarily out of the ordinary.

    Even if he is a bit crazy, it is hard to argue with the results he puts up.

  6. riocharlie

    May 11, 2007 at 8:58 am

    I suspect he was taping up Hargraeves, and if you had to live in Manchester youd take any and every chance to get on a plane and get outta there.

  7. Anonymous

    May 11, 2007 at 8:27 am

    Yeah, the Gaffer has the patience of a saint.

    Fergie’s backroom team will have gone through all the tapes/analyses of Milan’s play & tactics. No doubt he was there in the flesh to spot something that might make the difference. Didn’t work this time.


  8. Joe Ginto

    May 11, 2007 at 8:15 am

    Gaffer, you’re the best. Love your approach.

    I have thought the same thing myself about live scouting for games. More important than just ‘seeing the game live’ though, I think, is getting a chance to talk to different players/coaches/contacts in the area.

    Do professional teams employ much in the way of advance scouting like american baseball and football teams do?

  9. The Gaffer

    May 11, 2007 at 8:05 am

    Please refrain from swearing and idiotic comments otherwise I’ll need to turn the anonymous posting off.

    The gentleman has a valid question. So if you have an appropriate response, please post it.

    The Gaffer

  10. Anonymous

    May 11, 2007 at 6:48 am

    …you gotta be kidding me…

  11. Anonymous

    May 11, 2007 at 6:41 am

    That’s harsh. You will burn in hell. I know because I’m God… mortal.

  12. Anonymous

    May 11, 2007 at 6:19 am

    stupid fucking yank

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