Bet now with totesport - Free £25 bet!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

From RN 90, 2002

Just as a couple of post work pints on a Friday with an empty stomach can lead to an outbreak of talking crap and undue moaning to those within earshot, so the same can happen after a few trophies. I mean is it really fair for Reds to join the ABU clamour that this season is in tatters after just three league defeats? Are they such glory hunters that all those who have questioned Fergie this season and say that this team is as bad as one from the 80s really think that Becks, Giggs, Scholes, Barthez, Rio et al in any shape or form compare to their cousins of two decades ago and that a manager who has won the lot is on a par with Dave bloody Sexton?

United we stand, divided we fall after all.

The last time the verbal drill of the moaners could be heard as loudly as this was back in the summer of '95, when a sizeable amount of Reds seemed more intent on questioning Fergie over the selling of Hughes and company than giving
him the benefit of the doubt and seeing - with the arrival of Becks and co - what he had in mind. We all know what happened next but where there was some justification to protests about the manager back in the dark days of the 80s, in '95 there was no such excuse. He'd already given us all our dreams and more. We should remember he's the greatest club manager ever when some know-nowt United fan slags him off in the pub. That's why Fergie is managing United and the know-nowt is sitting at the bar on his own talking shite and dribbling into his beer. Smelling of BO.

Hindsight of course is a glorious ability, but it wasn't as if Fergie was hiding back in '95 as he went out of his way to counter the critics as he explained his vision for a new, younger side. Coming across some wonderful newspaper clippings of the time, when the "you can't win anything with kids" brigade were growing in number after some fans had created a summer of discontent, Fergie gave his most detailed reasons for selling the three players in an interview with the Independent, published on the very day - 19th August 1995 - of a distinct turning point in our recent history. 3-0 down at Villa Park and the moaning in the stands had started in earnest. Only for Becks to come up with a wonder strike which consolidated an impressive all round 2nd half display by the team which suddenly had people looking at the positives from the game. United had decided it was best that Fergie come out fighting and give as many interviews explaining his reasons.

The paper writes that: "Now his ability to manage this huge club is being queried. Though he is busy, he does not look
under pressure". And here is how Fergie set out his stall: "Manchester United will always be news, you have to accept that attention. Just because three players have left, the tabloids have made it into an end of the world situation. I do not feel threatened, why should I?". He does say he "would never have let Keith Gillespie go if I had known what was going to happen". This is perhaps Fergie's only view from the time which has altered since, privately he now admits he wasn't Manchester United material. Those that were so quick to vent their anger - though the infamous 53% of United fans voting that Fergie should go in a MEN poll (the paper has never recovered credence within United since) must surely be down to Bitter Blues seizing a rare opportunity to get one over us - saw over the course of time that it was right to get rid of the disruptive 'Big time Charlie' and the egotistical Kanchelskis. Indeed Fergie says here about Andrei: "I just scratch my head
with him. Money has something to do with it. if you are going to get over a million pounds for leaving the club there must be a temptation. Supporters might not understand that, but not everyone is a United supporter. The world has changed. Money is important to professional footballers".

There is obviously vindication for Fergie here as you only need to count (if you've got a spare two hours) the number of clubs that Kanchelskis has played for since to realise what Andrei's driving ambition was though his style of play is still sorely missed by subsequent United sides. Fergie obviously doesn't need defending but those that ever doubt the man with a plan should remember why he sold Ince. "It was a decision which I felt was in the best interests of the club. I have great faith in the young players and I think Nicky Butt is going to be an outstanding player. I felt we needed to change the direction of the club, otherwise we might end up having to sell Nicky. He is 20 years of age and he is ambitious. He would only go along with the situation for so long. He is a local boy and he wants to play for United. I think everyone recognises it is a great club but, being local, it means something more. I had to give him his chance".

Amongst the frenzy of names put forward that summer to come in to replace the departing three, and appease a desperate support, was Paul Gascoigne. "Bringing in Gascoigne would have interfered with giving the young players a chance". Fergie saw in Scholes, just 20, "a similar player to Cantona in many areas". "If we are going to win the league we need them all performing". The search for a right sided midfielder was a problem back then. "I am looking for a right sided midfield player but it is difficult". Fergie admitted that: "We have a weakness, but it is not about quality, it is about numbers and big game experience"

It is worth remembering the summer of 1995 and where it led us to, not least just nine months later against a bunch of cream wearing suited fairies. Those that criticise Fergie now, who whisper that he is past it and should move on, have such short memories that they fail to realise that he, and we, have seen it all before. He knows there are problems now. As he knew then that "we needed to change the direction of the club" so he will realise the same is required now, perhaps with even bigger names having to leave than we saw seven years ago. If the current side needs to be torn apart who better to manage it? Fergie or a new bloke with no understanding of United or the players that will remain? "I have made decisions about which people say 'What has he done that for? But they do not know all the circumstances. I do not make decisions for myself. If I did that I could make it an easy life and just let things drift along, but I am looking for more".

The Independent said Fergie would "relish this challenge" but wondered where the "transitional season would lead us." Fergie's ethos back in '95 was "about penetration - producing passing that matters, one-twos, that kind of thing. It is all about imagination". Perhaps the current team, scared to shoot at times, should remember that. It is a great time capsule to go over old clippings. And to see how dramatically some relationships can change. As Fergie recently played up Mark Hughes' chances to replace him, eight years ago he talked of the probability that "in 3 of 4 years time I will not want to work at the same level of input as now and it will be time to hand over to a younger man. It could be that Brian Kidd
will be the one to succeed me. He's doing a fantastic job now; but in years to come he might be ready to step into the top job". Let time take its course, Kiddo suggest that we sign John Hartson much to Fergie's dismay as they fall out not long after, such that David O'Leary describes Fergie and Kiddo bumping into each other at Leeds 18 months ago. "Alex came into the coach's room for a drink while Brian was in the shower. When he emerged you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. Alex just kept on talking and he never blinked an eye as Brian walked by. I thought it was a sad way for two men to behave after all they had shared."

But as years pass, we've always had Kevin Keegan for the entertainment factor. Long before he started drooling 'I luv it' at invisible Fergies in the lens of a tv camera he thought about Newcastle's prospects in '95. "We intend to be the best in England and then become one of the biggest in Europe." He also thought that Notts Forest "could force their way into the title fight" and "surprise" a few people. They certainly did that - they were relegated.

Words can always come back to you haunt you though. Your very own verbal Devon Loch preserved in print eternally for all to see. Arsene Wenger said in mid-September, just before a spate of five defeats in six games that: "It's not impossible for Arsenal to go through the season unbeaten and I can't see why it's shocking to say that". Which season was he on about though?! Enough. So those who question whether Fergie regrets staying on for another three years, I only need to say...1995. Je ne regrette rien - as Eric might tell Sir Alex over a glass of vino.

Lee Sharpe's book now in paperback, just £3.99!


Post a Comment

<< Home