Looking over Sir Alex Ferguson’s CV it’s pretty hard to be anything but full of praise for a manager who’s not only delivered trophy after trophy, but also managed to rebuild, great side after great side.
Pep Guardiola’s decision to quit Barcelona at the very top, simply illustrates how difficult a task it is to reconstruct an ageing side, even one full of superstars. Sir Alex has defied his critics for almost three decades, from the “three years of excuses and its still crap” through to quashing the challenge of the ‘Invincibles’ and the ‘Chelski revolution.’
With twelve league titles, two Champions Leagues, five FA Cups and four league cups plus a cup winner’s cup, and various other trophies, it’s pretty hard to argue with the case for Fergie being the greatest manager of all time.
Yet there is one area where some, including myself, have questioned the great man, a facet of his managerial reign that sometimes isn’t quite at the same level of excellence as the rest. His tactics. That may sound like blasphemy -or at least a bit of spoiled rotten behaviour- and perhaps it is, but only because Sir Alex has raised the expectations so much at United that some of us, dare to be critical when we see areas we know could improve.
Overrall Sir Alex has tactically got it right, far more than he’s got it wrong, of that there can be little doubt. There have been times though when I’m sure I haven’t been alone in thinking “how could he have been so naive?” Chelsea’s victory over Barcelona – well one win and a draw- in the Champions League, like Internazionale’s two years prior, underlined the fact that the Catalans aren’t unbeatable. With the right tactics and admittedly a slice of good fortune Barca can be beaten. Yet in the two finals we’ve played them in we haven’t even made a game of it, let alone looked like winning, with a severe lack of ideas on both how to combat their attacks and how to create our own. I know we scored at Wembley and had them shook up in the first ten minutes in Rome, but were we really ever in those matches? Did we ever truly look like winning? Not really. I’m also fully aware we overcame them in 2008, but I feel they weren’t at quite the same level then and also Carlos Queiroz had a big part in United’s tactics, something Gary Neville has stated in his book ‘Red.’
I know this sounds harsh but my point is that the only real criticism left to level at Fergie is sometimes his tactics fail him and the derby at Old Trafford earlier this season was a case in point. So many mistakes were made during the game that can be attributed to the manager it was without a doubt his worst day at the office. Why was David Silva consistently given so much space? Why did Sir Alex wait twenty minutes after Evans was sent off before bringing on Phil Jones when it was obvious we were struggling? What was the sense in bringing Nani off for Chicharito with Valencia on the bench? The same applied in the FA Cup derby game, yes United won but was bringing Scholes on at 3-1 after six months out and with City suddenly looking dangerous such an inspired move? Why was Welbeck taken off when he was playing so well? I could ask the same question regarding Scholes at Anfield but let’s not turn this into a rant.
Some ABU’s claim Sir Alex’s record of two Champions Leagues after so many titles shows he’s not quite as tactically astute as other top European managers. While I’m not so sure that’s wholly fair, after all the three foreigner rule killed us in the early 90s while we were robbed by a linesman in 2004 and injuries in 2007. There is at least room for debate though, and next Monday’s game gives Sir Alex the perfect opportunity to prove his last few detractors wrong.
If , I’m almost loathe to even think it, City win on Monday, then yet again some people may call into question Sir Alex’s tactics, particularly when it comes to the biggest games of the season.
If United can go to Eastlands, against a fully fit City side that need a win, and come away from the game with something, then I feel Fergie may have just proven once and for all that he’s still capable of outwitting his opponents when he really needs to.
Too harsh or valid points? Answers on a brick through the usual window please :