In defence of Ferguson



Boxing Day 1989, Villa Park.  Not much Christmas cheer; another defeat, another dreadful performance and real anger on the away terraces.  Predictably, the final whistle was greeted with a cacophony of jeers and boos, but as the players troop off towards the tunnel the fans find one voice and one target.  The noise is deafening: ‘F*ck off Fergie, f*ck off Fergie …’

More the 20 years ago the protest came as no surprise.  Two weeks earlier United fan Pete Molyneux had unfurled a banner in the empty Scoreboard End seats waving ‘ta-ra’ to Alex Ferguson for ‘three years of excuses’.  Only months earlier Ferguson had disappeared under his own duvet after Manchester City hammered the Reds 5-1 at Maine Road.  No wonder when former players, TV pundits and just about everyone else lined Ferguson up for criticism. Even so, the lowest point was to come later at Villa Park.

Ferguson had already revealed his pain in the wake of derby defeat in a revealing interview for the Sunday Times.  Speaking of feeling like a “criminal” because he had “let down the supporters,” Ferguson admitted that “at Manchester United you become one of them, you think like a supporter, suffer like a supporter.”  When those supporters rose up against him at Villa, Ferguson’s suffering was complete.

Boxing Day 1989 is long gone.  Yet, the new season approaches with unrest in the seats, anger on the internet, and Ferguson once more at the centre of it all.  In recent weeks United’s proposed Initial Public Offering (IPO) has placed the Scot in the spotlight, with accusations that the 70-year-old may benefit from the ‘2012 Equity Incentive Award Plan’, which will grant share options to selected senior employees and executives of the club.

Ferguson moved fast to clarify his position in relation to the proposed IPO, claiming that he does “not receive any payments, directly or indirectly” from the IPO. But the controversy was not solely a matter of money.  Some things matter more.

“I’m speaking out because I do not want a situation to develop whereby the media and other parties create a rift, however small, between myself and any Manchester United fan,” added Ferguson. “I’ve spent 25 years of my life pushing this club forward and not only could I have not done it without those fans, I do it for them.”

Some supporters are suspicious of Ferguson’s defence.  Some have separated man from manager, rejecting the idea that Ferguson thinks and suffers like a supporter, while accusing the Scot of treachery.  Others erase the image of Ferguson on the back of a motorbike touring Paris looking for Eric Cantona, while considering the manager’s motives more sordid. Both will describe that night in the Nou Camp as the highlight of their lives

It is easy to understand why many are attracted to this interpretation; there is no doubt Fergie is difficult to like at times.  The manager’s recently publicised views on “wee pockets” of militant United supporters misrepresenting the truth, and shouting down the “majority of the real fans” who look at the Glazers ownership in a more positive light, was simply outrageous.  While appreciating Ferguson’s position as an employee of the Glazers family, the manager’s interpretation was still hard to swallow.

Yet, there is another side to Ferguson that still commands immense personal and professional respect.  The manager’s days of supplementing respect with a healthy dose of fear are probably over, but Ferguson continues to drive those around him with an obsession and desire that are undiminished.   Sir Alex is consumed by the game; the same man who played for Dunfermline on his wedding day, and then went training the following morning.

The game is nothing without its public.  United’s supporters are not simply an audience to be entertained (or not), and then forgotten until the next match.  The manager’s involvement with United’s fans has become a cornerstone of his life.  Perhaps his personality makes that involvement difficult at times – Ferguson’s commitment is absolute, but so too are his demands.

Perhaps supporters have been equally unforgiving too.  Despite Ferguson’s achievements, which have transformed fandom at Old Trafford beyond previous imagination, the Scot has always attracted criticism from within.

Does that mean supporters should appreciate the manager while rejecting the man? Only the Glazers would benefit from such a rift.  Flawed Ferguson may be, but he cares every bit as much about the club, its traditions and future as supporters do. And he does so in the poisonous atmosphere of Glazer ownership, globalisation, the IPOs and all the commercial aspects that have become inseparable from the modern game.

Perhaps it is not yet time to party like it’s 1989.

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Comments

  1. despicable says:

    Was there internet in 1989?

    “Boxing Day 1989 is long gone. Yet, the new season approaches with unrest in the seats, anger on the internet,”

  2. Damian Garside says:

    I love it how people talk about Fergie as though time has stood still, he hasn’t changed and he still has the power and can instil the drive in his players that he could when he was younger. We have been seeing very little if that drive in our players of late and less and less clarity of pupiose in the man himself. Maybe this is the year he proves me wrong. If it isn’t it probably won’t be his happiest and most memorable at the helm.

  3. I was yesterday at Game against Hannover and i was amazed how passionate the fans in a friendly match , that counts for nothing. They kept singing for more than an hour after the match. Even at 1-3 they were an equal and match for the Home fans. I understand Sir Alex when he says ,i do it for the fans. There’s absolutely no chance, that Fergie doesn’t see our problems in Midfield and i’m pretty sure he’s trying his best to sort it out. the only thing that i’m not understanding , is why have so little action in the market when the fucking Glazers support the club entirely.We have missed on so many great players due to different reasons but there are players who won’t cost a fortune and are available like Dembele and Sahin

    • ForeverRed says:

      TK99 – I wish I shared your confidence that Fergie’s doing his best to sort out our midfield problems. Unless all the talk of Moura and van Perisie are an elaborate smokescreen, I see no evidence that Fergie acknowledges the problem most of us perceive, never mind is doing anything about it. I will gleefully retract this assessment if we see Martinez, Sahin or the like in a Utd shirt next season.

  4. Please give the man a break, he has tried so desperately to please the fans despite the ups and downs he has faced in his time at utd. Its been a tough break for the man with all the unsuccessful transfers and all, but we know he still wants the best for the club. What the media and some fans simply want from him is to openly critisize the Glazers which in my own opinion is uncalled for; “he dare not bite the hands that feed him”. Ferguson has continuously proved his doubters and critics wrong on uncountable number of times, this season will likely be one of those also. He is still passionate and loves the competition, lets stand by him and achieve our common goal, winning trophies.

    • That’s not true Brown
      Nobody’s asked him to openly criticise the Glazers.
      But Ferguson has voiced his support for them on numerous occasions without ever being asked about it, whilst criticising supporters who have an opinion about the owners.
      So yes, Fergie is a great manager, perhaps the greatest. But that does not make him immune to criticism.

  5. ForeverRed says:

    What I find strange in all of this is that Fergie has nothing more to prove in the league – he’s already eclipsed Liverpool’s record. For a man so driven it is odd to me that he has not set his sights on Champions league in bigger way, which is where LFC still have the upper hand on us. After 2 footballing lessons from Barca and last year’s humiliating campaign, has he given up hope of reaching that standard again? It seems to me that our leader rarely if ever talks about European ambitions these days, appearing to accept that a scrap for a top 3 league finish is the extent of expectations.Don’t get me wrong, this is all relative (to the high benchmark he has set), but I find it strange that the man with so much drive is not seemingly gunning for an assault on the biggest prize again to end his career on a high. If internal circumstances at the club are preventing this, why stay? On the other hand, he has spent good money on players that won’t get us to the next level ( e.g. Young, Jones), at least in the short term, so I don’t entirely get the argument that we’re in a complete financial straight jacket, regardless of our general distaste for the current ownership /model. To me it is the lack of transparency that envelops so much of our club’s operations these days, and the constant contradictions that are particularly galling.

  6. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    This article is bollocks!!!

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  7. Haha…when I read the report, i was keen to look at the comments, particularly from A.B. A short one but still with 3 exclamation marks. It was made for you man.
    I suppose you were happy when City took the shield last night Mr.Bedoya.

  8. Elliot Paige says:

    I would feel no animosity towards Sir Fergie if he would keep his mouth shut, firmly shut about matters concerning the owners or fans and he concentrated solely on on field activities.

  9. Sitesired says:

    Over the years ive seen these internal battles fans ,management ,club ,owners . Lets be honest we have known highs and lows .But, still we are the team everyone wants to beat . Why are we doing it to ourselves ? The lessons are in our history . Our club , manager and team . Need us Now .

    • Damian Garside says:

      And it looks like one of the moments we will have to rally round will be our first match against City, who seemed to be really up for it yesterday, ready firing on all cylinders.

      It is to be hoped, however, that for this match, when we will e desperate for revenge, Fergie is adventurous enough to picks a team who have the wherewithal to beat them, and not go for a defensive strategy primary in order to contain their attacking threats, and thus boring the life out of us.

  10. Damian Garside says:

    Re my previous posting. The acid test: if Fergie does choose a defensive lineup and therefore defensive tactics in our first match against City and you defend his doing this, saying they are a dangerous team and we need to try and sneak a 1-0 win failing which a 0-0 draw will suit us quite well, then you have SO lost the plot that it’s no longer worth having a conversation with you for the entire future history of Manchester United Football Club (sorry, the MANU brand).

  11. Quite clearly Fergie has been hamstrung by Glazernomics for some time now. Yes he thinks the current transfer market and the wages the likes of City pay to be outrageous but at the same time he must envy the Mancini’s and Di Matteo’s of this world who can lure all and sundry to their clubs no matter what the cost and without, seemingly, batting an eyelid. One can only hope the UEFA Finanical Fair Play Rules, if indeed they are ever to be effective, will put a curb on all this.

    Meanwhile Fergie has kept this club competitve, so far anyway, through his own managerial genius. The Glazers rely on him totally to keep things going on a much smaller budget than a number of the competitors both at home and in Europe. However, the Glazers must be highly concerned about the day when Fergie retires that they won’t be able to attract an appropriate replacement for the same reason that Fergie battles to attract the games top players. I mean which top manager, and I mean a top manager, not the likes of David Moyes, who has had success at the highest level, will be willing to become Fergie’s successor when funds for players are limited.

    Meanwhile Fergie is essentially an employee of the Glazers and to that end nobody in their right mind should expect him to speak out against them even if he wanted to. What’s more if the Glazers decided to give him a chunk of the IPO shares – so bloody what? He deserves them!

  12. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:
  13. BiscuitBarrell says:

    Commenter said:

    Meanwhile Fergie is essentially an employee of the Glazers and to that end nobody in their right mind should expect him to speak out against them even if he wanted to. What’s more if the Glazers decided to give him a chunk of the IPO shares – so bloody what? He deserves them!

    The problem is , what does he deserve it for? The Glazers have hardly shown themselves to be philanthropists. They’re under no contractual obligation to give him shares. In fact they might even consider the recompense of £6m a year to be sufficient. If he were to receive millions of pounds via shares, you might reflect on how that might have pursuaded Ferguson that the takeover, operating on a shoestring, selling Ronaldo and shafting the fans were all a good idea. Or perhaps the Glazers really like Ferguson as a person. Yes, my mistake that must be it.

    • What I meant was as a reward for doing an excellent job notwithstanding Glazernomics. The Glazer plan would not work without Fergie and that’s going to be a problem for them if he retires (very likely) before the debt is paid off or substantially reduced. Having said that, it is absurd that a club with the stature of United, which has to play second fiddle on the issue of player resources to the likes of far less stature like City, Chelsea and indeed PSG for that matter. Fergie can do nothing about the Glazers except walk out and where would that leave the team and us the fans?

  14. BiscuitBarrell says:

    Commenter said:
    What I meant was as a reward for doing an excellent job notwithstanding Glazernomics. The Glazer plan would not work without Fergie and that’s going to be a problem for them if he retires (very likely) before the debt is paid off or substantially reduced. Having said that, it is absurd that a club with the stature of United, which has to play second fiddle on the issue of player resources to the likes of far less stature like City, Chelsea and indeed PSG for that matter. Fergie can do nothing about the Glazers except walk out and where would that leave the team and us the fans?

    Again I would repeat, why would the Glazers pay him anything above his salary? That’s his payment for running the team. These are hard nosed business men, why would they potentially give him millions of dollars golden handshake when they don’t have to?
    Ferguson should have stood up to them when they took over, when they brought out the ACS, when they sold Ronaldo, when they raised ticket prices year on year (despite assurances to the contrary on takeover) and when they annually reduced the transfer expenditure to the Champions League equivalent of pocket money. Ferguson’s a rich man, he could get a job anywhere else in the world, or retire and never have to work again. Where would it leave us? Well as you say the Glazers are dependent on his genius for this plan to work, so we’d be one step closer to them leaving. I’d personally sacrifice premier league football for the glazers out, fan representation, some brakes on ticket prices and a return to an atmosphere at the ground. I started supporting the team when it’d been 14 years since they’d won the league – and it was another 12 before they won it again. I look back on those 12 years a lot more fondly than the last 7.

  15. I agree they probably wouldn’t but that’s not the point. Had they awarded Fergie some shares, and that is what the speculation was all about, then it would have been understandable given what he has done for them and indeed for us in view of the prevailing circumstances (ie keeping the club competitive with comparatively limited resources). Although Fergie was indirectly involved in the advent of the Glazers, through getting his erstwhile friends the Coolmore gang involved as shareholders, once in there was nothing he or we as fans could do about the Glazers – barring a total or meaningful boycott which the majority were not prepared to get involved in. We can only hope that the Glazers sell out sooner rather than later to a new owner with plenty of cash in order to run the club as befitting its status as one of the great sporting institutions in the world. It is possible, though, that the Financial Fair Play Rules may see the end of rich owners ploughing whatever they want into their clubs. Either that or the rich owners see the end of the FFP!!

  16. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Financial fair play would be the best thing for a club like United, if it was owned by proper football people and not self serving worms.
    The idea that you can only spend what you earn puts united in very select company and, the Bitters in the bargain bins.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  17. BiscuitBarrell says:

    Commenter said:
    Had they awarded Fergie some shares, and that is what the speculation was all about, then it would have been understandable given what he has done for them and indeed for us in view of the prevailing circumstances (ie keeping the club competitive with comparatively limited resources).

    This is where we differ. What I don’t understand (perhaps you know better) is why they would give him shares when they contractually didn’t have to. Whether he deserves it or not for on-field performance is a different debate.

  18. BiscuitBarrell says:

    Commenter said:
    there was nothing he or we as fans could do about the Glazers

    Again no-one likes the business model, no-one liked it 7 years ago, there were mass protests, rumour had it that Ferguson wasn’t happy about the takeover. Then all of a sudden it was all OK with SAF. Yet here we are 7 years on – £500m and counting leeched out of the club, the lowest net spend of our peers, many traditional supporters driven from the club and reportedly (I’ve not been for 3 years) the worst atmosphere in living memory. Ferguson admits the tension threatens to drive a wedge between him and the fans, yet still he doesn’t criticise the owners. Now you’re trying to argue that SAF is a victim of circumstance, stuck between his loyalty to the fans and his integrity to protect the club. It doesn’t wash. There’s nothing about this situation that wasn’t predicted 7 years ago, it’s bad, it’s getting worse and the only man who’s got enough leverage to unite all the fans won’t do anything about it. My interpretation (for what it’s worth) is he’s quite happy with the situation, and financial recompense may have a lot to do with it.

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