Referees will wake up this morning a little less afraid. They will be able to return their watches to Greenwich Mean Time, as opposed to Fergie Time.
Sir Alex stepped down from management – at home at least – yesterday. There are those who bang on about the emotional rollercoaster of a day. I dunno, but Fergie’s a ‘man’s man’ (as I think Mark Lawrenson put it, ironically in his ‘man’s woman’s’ voice) and the tears didn’t come as far as I could tell. And frankly you want a bit of that on days like these, just to remind you that the bloke has a soul to go with all that fierce determination and repressed fury.Then again, his speech, ad-libbed, proved where his heart is. His valedictory remark, reminding the fans that he got three and a half years’ grace at OT before he won owt and that therefore they need to get behind the new man, was characteristic of the good, nay great side of Ferguson.
Those of us that have gritted our teeth while he won every other Premier League for the last 26 years could point to his darker side: the intimidation of officials, the concept that still defies particle physicists‘ explanation of Fergie Time, the mind games that worked on everyone save for Mourinho. And the black rants into the faces of timid young millionaires as if he were a drill sergeant in An Officer And A Gentleman (actually most of us quite like him for that last bit).The flip side is that young managers will tell you he’s always ready with advice if it’s wanted. And Robin van Persie told the world that he was a very nice man. I know, that surprised me too. What’s not in doubt is that he is the greatest manager of my lifetime. And that is simply because he reinvented his team many times over, rebuilt it around the talent available. And he never let anyone, Beckham, Keane, and now were he to stay, Rooney, get bigger than the club.
Not only that but, like them or not, Manchester United teams always had one saving grace under Fergie – they were good to watch.There is a certain vanity, mixed with good sense, in appointing a successor who is very much in the same mould: another Glaswegian obsessive with a relentless work ethic and a ceaseless drive. David Moyes won nothing at Everton – except love, admiration and enormous loyalty and those three things are way more important than tin-pots and gongs.
The reception Ferguson received was pretty well matched at Goodison. And apart from a shared distaste for Liverpool Football Club you can’t imagine any Toffees welcoming his departure down the M62. Eleven years at a trophyless club is as rare these days as a Tony Hibbert piledriver.So Moyes moves in on July 1st, and presumably some time before that he will be working out where he’d like Wayne Rooney to just bugger off to. Ferguson has fended off questions about the Toxteth Top-Weave, but hasn’t been slow in mentioning that the bloke’s an asset when he’s on top form… ergo, he’s been a bit crap this season.
If I were Moyes I’d be asking bidders to form a queue. You don’t want to start a new (and enormous) job which an old problem. And Rooney is just that. ‘Blue til I Die?’ Chelsea will be encouraged.
Perhaps Rooney might be able to team up with the sveltest fat man in England, Frank Lampard. This weekend Lampard became Chelsea’s top scorer – although, those that fell to get him the penalties, plus his partner in crime Rick O’Shea should be getting a share of the credit too. Lampard is a model pro mind you. Anyone who wants to insist that the lad got where he is today cos of family connections or good fortune just needs to get their heads checked.Certainly Lamps might be able to teach Wazza the values of looking after himself, and not going into silly strops when the manager keeps putting you on the bench. (Although you’d have thought Rooney might have learnt that from Giggs – or the mighty Scholes.)
But despite all the celebrations and bon voyages the main shining beacon of light over the weekend was Wigan Athletic. I said in the last blog that romance was dead. It is. Wigan will go down. But they will do so as Cup-holders after utterly outplaying a bunch of self-interested mercenary millionaires. Mancini will walk because quite frankly the team – the best at his disposal on the day – played like they couldn’t give a shit – not for him, not for the fans.
Roberto, still for all the world looking like a photograph from a Mediterranean barbershop window, will be gone before the end of the week. Look, Signor, a man doesn’t put two squillion billion pounds into a club so that they can finish 2nd in the league and 2nd in the Cup. At a time when the bloke across time is stepping down after TWENTY-SIX YEARS, do you really think you’re going to get as many as three? I mean where will that lead?
Indeed if you have untold wealth and fancy a football club as your latest toy you now have two distinct models to follow, potential owners. There’s the Old Trafford one – stick to the same bloke, trust is judgement, build an academy, bring players through, spend big but judicious amounts of money on proven quality players. Or there’s the Stamford Bridge way – make every door a revolving one, give every chair an ejector button, force proven crocks upon the management, appoint caretakers, interims, part-timers, buy anyone who might be any good and when push comes to shove and things aren’t quite working out, fire someone.
Rafa Benitez, I’ve never much cared for you but you deserve a bloody medal for obstinacy this season. He’s after a new job now – look out Everton…