Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Fergie's missed his chance to quit at the top

As Chelsea turn the title race around, United succumb to German efficiency in Europe. Are United prone to mistakes in their haste to win matches? Is Fergie reaching for the pipe and slippers under the weight of the Glazer's debt bubble? Jonny's view:

It was all set fair: Rome, May 2009. A second consecutive Champions League Final. Victory over Barcelona would've confirmed Manchester United as the undisputed greatest on the planet. Well, they'd already mopped up a hattrick of Premier League crowns and claimed the first-ever meaningful World Club Cup.
A third European title beckoned for Sir Alex Ferguson and having drawn level on eighteen with Liverpool as Champions of England, Fergie had fulfilled his promise of "knocking the Reds off their perch".

But Barca outplayed United. With 150 goals and six titles to their name, Messrs. Messi, Henry and Eto'o flicked mud at United's glister.
Then with Cristiano Ronaldo's defection to Madrid confirming Spain's economic and footballing superiority over England, Fergie might've wished for one more heroic 90 minute push from his never-say-die troops against Barca.
That way he could've left: unbowed, undefeated, the Greatest Of All Time.
But his boys lost badly - and like Muhammad Ali, the street fighter doesn't know when to stop.
Eleven months on, Bayern Munich have put paid to United's European bid at quarter-final stage and Chelsea have turned the title race upside down just as United were closing in. They look beatable by a dozen teams in the Premier League: emerging Villa emphatically planted their victory flag in Old Trafford soil, followed up by the ignominy of losing at home to Leeds United, two divisions below them.

Far from being the man in control, the hairdryer has a lower voltage. Sentiment's playing a role in some of his selections.
That the much-decorated Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are still figuring isn't the Fergie of five years ago. No, back then they would've been on the Slow Boats to Everton, Newcastle and alike.
As much as Giggs still plays well, realistically he's not even a player that Spurs, Villa or Man City would race to sign. Scholes? wonderful servant but nowhere near the level required.
At the back, their squad's threadbare. Were Carrick and Fletcher really used as makeshift defenders? suddenly United's squad seemed no deeper than Stoke or Bolton's.
So the Govanator's missed his chance to quit at the very, very pinnacle of the game - or has he?
There's one way he can bow out with head held high. To go hell for leather for the Premier League title. A fourth consecutive trophy in the Old Trafford cabinet and a nineteenth in all to surpass Liverpool, would mark Fergie as the King of Kings in management. But after Chelsea, it's a Big If.


  1. I think he may hang up his boots sooner than you think

  2. Totally agree. Fergie may now go out by being remembered for his rants rather than his genius. Mind you I also think Wenger should go upstairs.

  3. what are your views on Jermaine Beckford, Jonny? Will he stay or go in January? I'm scared stiff.

  4. Richard, he came to the attention of everyone at United. He showed he can play in the Premier League. It may pay Leeds to repel offers in January, try and hold onto him to May and earn promotion. Then cash in.

  5. I actually think that this is a blessing in disguise...no fixture congestion and a focus on UCL, Premiership and League Cup...

  6. Great blog, Jonny. Fergie still obviously has the hunger and will keep setting himself new targets. I wonder how much longer he can or will go on for.

  7. Leeds have 3 options - get him to sign a new contract, sell him in the transfer window or see him walk on a free at the end of the season when his contract expires. Leeds will not be able to "cash in" as JB is over 24 years old.

    Given the money Leeds earned yesterday plus the likely TV revenue from the 4th round Spurs tie I reckon Leeds will turn down any bids under £2m and hope they can persuade him to sign a new contract if and when they get promoted - or win the Cup!

  8. I agree - But you just never know when to go!! Man U are very poor this year - as are Liverpool and Chelskin arent much better. Its Arsenals league!

  9. Tend to agree. One of the most frustrating things about his team selection has been the sheer sentimentality, and persisting with a Gary Neville that now can't even tackle a league one player perhaps indicates he's mellowing somewhat

    Scholes to a lesser degree because more often than not he can cut it, and on occasion is still up there with the world's best passers for range and accuracy.

    His hunger is to be commended, but it is also a hindrance for us because nobody can shift him until he decides to pack it in, but I do think he's going a bit soft sometimes.

  10. If you’re in a job that you enjoy, are clearly good at, and have the respect of those around you, it is very, very hard to walk away.
    There is never a GOOD time to leave, but there is often a RIGHT time.
    This can apply to any walk of life.
    Terry Wogan had the right idea. He left the Radio 2 breakfast show with audience figures still strong, and with his millions of fans wanting him to stay.
    No matter how good you are, and however much you enjoy it, if you stay in any job for too long it’s very likely that eventually something will start to go badly wrong and you’ll leave under a cloud. Just ask Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair.
    Football is no exception. Brian Clough should’ve left Nottingham Forest several years before he did. The magic started to fade when his right-hand man, Peter Taylor left. As the 80s and early 90s progressed, Clough’s behaviour went from eccentric to downright baffling, and a quite brilliant career in management came to a sad end.
    Bill Shankly tried to un-resign after he’d left Liverpool, and even began watching training sessions after Bob Paisley took over. The players called Shankly “Boss” and Paisley “Bob”. Coach Ronnie Moran has said things started to get a bit awkward for a while, as Shanks was still hanging around.
    Kevin Keegan has said that Shankly should’ve been given a place on the board upon his retirement, but I disagree. When you leave a job like that, you should make a clean break, and allow your successor the space he needs to do things his way without interference.
    Yes, I know Alex Ferguson and Sir Matt Busby got along very well at Old Trafford, but there was a gap of many years between Busby leaving and Fergie taking over.
    For this reason, when Sir Alex does eventually retire, I think he should make a complete exit from Old Trafford. No place on the board, no ‘job upstairs’. I don’t think he should even be seen at matches for several years.
    Whoever takes over needs the space to do things his way, and make his own mistakes without the greatest manager in the history of the club watching his every move.
    Sadly, I think the time has now passed for Sir Alex to have his fairytale ending. Even if they win the league this season, I will still maintain that this is easily the weakest Manchester United side I’ve seen for at least a decade. Their defence is fragile. Their midfield is one injury away from looking shaky. The whole team relies too heavily on Wayne Rooney. Paul Scholes isn’t the player he was, and although I still like Ryan Giggs, he cannot play in every game, and even when he does play, it’s rarely for the full 90 minutes.
    I hope for his sake that Sir Alex manages to pick up a decent trophy this season. Either way, I think he should make a swift exit in May.
    I understand his reasons for clinging on so long. He clearly wakes up in the morning full of energy and looking forward to another day on the training ground. Life at a slower pace must be very daunting after living like this for so long.
    But he’s done it all, and has nothing to prove. The only way left for him to travel is down. Nobody is trying to push him just yet, but the time is surely very near for him to jump at his own accord.

  11. So Beckford has just put in a transfer request. Is he an idiot or what? He could go on a Bosman at the end of the season and keep all the transfer money for himself but upping his salary. I don't consider myself particularly stupid but i cannot fathom this out. Is he being an idiot or am i?

  12. What is so important about quitting at the top ? Is he still effective ? Is he still the best manager around ? Is he still replenishing and rebuilding the squad, and still being very competitive? Yes to all. If he was in Liverpools position with a failing team and morale, it may be a more valid issue.

  13. Great provocative article. Reports of United's demise are greatly exaggerated. Jonny - I wage you a bottle of malt that United still win the Premiership.


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