Anorak News | Losing The Plot

Losing The Plot

by | 16th, September 2002

‘BY all accounts, Sir Alex Ferguson is very charming company away from football. It is a pity that the same cannot be said of the Manchester United manager when it comes to his day job.

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His defence of David Beckham at the weekend, coming so soon after a similar whitewash on Roy Keane, has done Fergie no favour at all. Worse, it threatens to make one of the most successful managers in British footballing history into a figure of fun.

For those who didn’t see the Ferguson interview, his first reaction to news that video replays suggested that Beckham had elbowed Lee Bowyer in the face was a blanket denial. ”We don’t have players who do that sort of thing,” he said – clearly forgetting that Roy Keane was sent off against Blackburn a couple of weeks ago for exactly that offence.

On that occasion, Ferguson had first tried to claim that his captain’s challenge was ”innocuous” until TV replays showed that it was anything but.

Having been caught out once, you would have assumed that Ferguson would have been wary of jumping so fully to the defence of one of his players.

He could easily have employed Arsene Wenger’s tactics and said he hadn’t seen the incident. In the end, Ferguson did allow some room for manoeuvre by saying he would be ”very surprised” if the England skipper had used his elbow.

Well, there is no doubt that that is what happened, although whether any action will be taken against Beckham is another matter. Only referee Jeff Winter, who gave a free kick at the time for what he described as a ”clumsy challenge”, can ask the FA panel to review the incident. And we all know how much referees like to admit they were wrong.

The whole thing is part of a deeper malaise at Old Trafford, as what should have been the end of a remarkable career descends into petulance.

With three defeats already this season, United already lie six points behind champions Arsenal. But, what is more, there is little sign of the qualities that have seen them dominate the Premiership since its inception.

And at the same time, we are seeing the worst side of Ferguson’s character. Loyalty to one’s players is admirable; a blanket refusal to accept that one of them could be at fault is not.

Single-minded competitiveness has become stubbornness – in particular the refusal to admit that the signing Juan Sebastian Veron has not worked out.

It is a pity, because whatever you think of United, Ferguson’s managerial career deserves a better end.

Posted: 16th, September 2002 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink