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 Red11 REDitorial

Published: 15 MAY 2006

by John Ryan

Alex Ferguson used to be a God in all our eyes. Now I'm no longer sure that is the case.

Since delivering his first trophy to the Old Trafford faithful sixteen years ago, Ferguson's tireless work rate and motivational skills, brought a series of trophies to the cabinet at headquarters. We've lapped it up, sung his name at will and praised him beyond belief. I wonder did a point come where Fergie believed he alone was responsible for the re-birth of Manchester United?

The latest scandal (and that is what it is) involving Ruud Van Nistelrooy is another chink in the armour of Ferguson. Whatever the reasons, Ferguson wants him out and is now looking for black marks against Ruud to leak to the media. My own hunch is that after the Glazers added the cost of Van der Saar, Evra & Vidic to their massive £540M debt, Fergie has been told he has to sell before he can buy. I think he's looked at whom he can offload for the most cash and Ruud is the victim. A Keane replacement is a must for long-term success and for us to catch Chelsea, but at what cost is this seemingly non-existent person going to arrive?

We've seen it before time & again. When a player out-lives his usefulness or blots his copybook he's shown the door. Ince signed his own death warrant by trying to pick the team V Ipswich in March 1995. Hughes was allowed join Chelsea after Ferguson landed Cole while Kanchelskis' murky financial dealings saw him off-loaded to Goodison. Stam wrote a book which Ferguson didn't like so popped his clogs off to Lazio and Beckham found himself frozen out so that Ole Solskjaer could be converted into a winger. As for Roy Keane? Well you don't get shown the exit door in more dramatic fashion than our midfield warrior was. Now the Sun & Star are tripping over themselves with puns like 'Van drives off' as they delight in trying to break the exclusive on Ruud leaving.

Some of the exits above I would agree with (It was the right time for Hughes to leave even though it broke my heart and allowing Ince to go was definitely the correct decision) but others leave a lot to be desired. We had no obvious replacements for Stam or Beckham and paid the price. We lost six of our first fifteen premiership games in the 2001-2002 season after Stam departed and for all his wing wizardry and ball skills, Christiano Ronaldo lacks two things Beckham had in abundance [WINDOWS-1252?]– The ability to put the ball on the head or foot of any player from any part of the field and a work rate that protected any full back he played in front of. At 21 Ronaldo has a great future ahead of him. As Beckham turned 21 he was helping United to our second double.

Red Issue described Ferguson's tactics in trying to offload Ruud as 'dabbling in the black arts'. For too long now we've seen Fergie doing this sort of stuff while ignoring the pleas of players like Keane to halt the decline in standards. Contrast this effort to sell Ruud with Wenger's sale of Vieira last summer. Wenger's only comment was that he felt it was good business to obtain £14M for a 29 year old player. When Vieira returned to Highbury in Juventus Black & White stripes he & his old boss exchanged a quick handshake, but you sensed they would be at ease talking to each other after the game. I don't think the same could be said of Keane or Van Nistelrooy with Ferguson.

My fear is that Alex Ferguson now thinks he is bigger than Manchester United. In truth nobody is. With all these high profile player sales in the past and continuing 'success', Ferguson, in my opinion, now thinks he does not have anyone to answer to. His difficult relationship with the media and sometimes-embarrassing stance on certain situations (the doctorate he wrote on Arsenal's behaviour at Old Trafford in 2003 & sent to the FA in Soho square) taint the genius that helped to build this great club from 1986 to 2003. But the flaws in his character are more prevalent now than ever. When asked if he was worried about the Glazer's £540M debt, he replied 'why should I worry?' Well that response makes me worry as it gave me the impression that if Old Trafford goes into meltdown like Leeds did, Fergie will retire to the golf course or to race meetings leaving people like us, the fans who love the club to see our memories torn apart, our hearts broken. When journalists recently asked about FC United Ferguson refused to talk to them. Had he just said 'well done' and acknowledged their existence he could have won back a little bit of respect & popularity. But it wasn't to be.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy sums up everything good & bad about Alex Ferguson. While Ruud had only played in the Dutch league & was untried anywhere else, Ferguson did spot the finishing power of a superb player and even waited for a year after injury, to finally land him. Fergie changed our formation to play with Ruud. It was meant to make us more potent and although the players didn't like the new formation, it brought us within a whisker of the 2002 Champions League final. Long-term Ferguson's perseverance with this formation proved catastrophic. 2002 aside United's Champions League record since Ruud's arrival & the formation change, got progressively worse. Finally in December 2005 first round elimination & even the failure to reach the trapdoor of the UEFA cup finally woke up Fergie to see that his formation was not working in Europe and had allowed the other sides to catch up at home too. The problem was it took him four and a half years to spot this. At any other club he would have been lucky to get one year. While I firmly believe we were England's top side in the 2002/2003 season two things aided us: Beckham's seemingly endless number of assists or crosses that led to United goals and Giggs playing just off Ruud to net 12 goals for himself & help Ruud notch 44. Then Beckham signed for Madrid and Giggs was returned to the left wing. If it's not broken [WINDOWS-1252?]………….

When he retires, Fergie will be remembered as an absolute legend. There is no question about that. I've never thought him a tactical genius - In my mind's eye I can still see that Charlton FA Cup game in 1994 when Schmeichel got sent off and Fergie rushed to take off Hughes, only for Brian Kidd to stop him & have a chat. Five minutes into the second half Hughes had put us 1-0 up as the withdrawn Paul Parker was having his shower. Fergie has always needed a trusty lieutenant as his number two. That said it is most definite in my lifetime that I've not seen anyone do a better management job anywhere in world football than Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford. Now, the summer of 2006 brings the World Cup & puts Ruud in the shop window. Apparently Ruud reduced Ronaldo to tears in training with an unfortunate choice of words. I wonder would any of the players of 94 like Hughes, Cantona, Keane, Ince, Schmeichel or Bruce have been reduced to tears? More likely a dust up would have ensued with everyone going for a pint afterwards & just getting on with it.

Everyone makes mistakes. Just like Ince, Stam, Beckham & Ruud, Fergie has made mistakes. The difference is, it looks like nobody is going to show Fergie the door.

Thanks, John Ryan

Copyright © 2006 Red11. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission of the author.

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