By Alex Netherton & Andi Thomas
Another weekend where the inevitable suicide attempt was quickly discovered, and so another Monday where the round-up is successfully submitted before the deadline. Speaking of inevitability, Manchester United managed, yet again, to go behind. There’s only so many times that this can happen before the luck runs out, people argue. And they would be right. The first Premier League game against Everton, for example, or the game against against Norwich the previous weekend. It’s not often you can legitimately question Alex Ferguson’s judgement after a 3-1 victory, but this is undeniably now a plausible case. United might be better off without him.
In the past, whether you agree with his decisions on transfers, Ferguson could be relied upon to settle on an effective balance to the side, if not a consistent first eleven (the team that beat John Terry’s Chelsea in the Champions League had not started a game together before that match, for example). Now, though, the teams he sends out are out-of-kilter and inexplicably misguided. Given how little Ferguson takes charge of training these days, if he can no longer be trusted to carry out his main responsibility of picking a first eleven to a reasonable standard, then it’s time for him to be replaced.
It’s not just an irrational love for one particular player. The damning case is that there are so many incorrect decisions that it appears that his general perspective on football is shot.
Let’s consider the most egregious mistake Ferguson and possibly humanity has ever made, Ashley Young. A relentless cheat in Beats headphones, putting the cock into cocksure, his only real talent is in defining spinelessness. Some players are accused of going missing in big games, Ashley Young just goes missing in most of them. Yet, when fit, he can almost always find himself preferred to the infinitely more talented Luis Nani and the infinitely more reliable Antonio Valencia. Fans detest him with good reason, and yet it’s Nani who’s the most likely to see the exit sign. His presence on the pitch guarantees the absence of the crucial parts of the male body: brain, spinal column and balls. Enough of this sick filth.
Young is not alone in being unreasonably tolerated. Demonstrably, since at least 2009, Ryan Giggs has not been the man to start a game of modern Association Football. While his brain has never had much to it, his experience was once a way of controlling a game in its final half hour, with the occasional crucial intervention. To start a game with Giggs, apparently as slow in his feet as he is now in his head, invites pressure from the off. From a man who refuses to invest in his midfield, this stubbornness now more resembles self-harm. When meagre resources are wilfully ignored, it’s time for somebody else to have a crack. Either he resolves to stop giving teams a head start, or he gives someone else a chance to fix it.
Paul Scholes, another veteran, is suffering. His weakness is not necessarily his fading body, but a growing inconsistency. Dominant against Liverpool, he struggled against QPR: a reversal of expectation. When you have Tom Cleverley—capable of a reasonably good performance for a full match—and an Anderson who seems to be improving with every appearance, and you cannot ignore them in favour of geriatricos. United’s team sheets are the definition of insanity: the repetition of the same actions expecting a different outcome.
It’s not just Scholes, Giggs, Young, Nani, Valencia, Cleverley and Anderson where Ferguson is harming the midfield. His best midfielder, Michael Carrick, is being run into the ground. While Patrice Evra suffered from never being given a break in his United career, it appears the same is now happening to Carrick. Last week, in a dead game against Galatasaray, Ferguson chose to play him at centre-back. Did he insult Sir Alex’s wife or something? And by doing the same to Rafael, it appears that the manager is intent on provoking a new defensive injury crisis just as Phil Jones and Chris Smalling make their way back from injuries. Injuries, which as is now the Manchester United style, have dragged on almost interminably, and which Ferguson appears to have done nothing to fix, except for saying, ‘I’m not sure what the problem is.’ Oh, alright then, Alex.
There are problems at the back: David de Gea is being treated like a ginger-headed stepchild and could be forgiven for going back to his homeland where he’d not be insulted by covering for Anders Lindegaard. De Gea is clearly one of the most talented young goalkeepers in the world, and is treated as an understudy. Patrice Evra is back to something like his real self, but the cover that has been desperately needed for the past four years is a sick joke. Manchester United are doing incredibly well at finding new revenue streams, but it appears the latest one is a raffle, the prize being the chance to play for Manchester United. This year, it appears it was won by Alexander Buttner.
In two years, Manchester United will have a squad without Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic will probably be gone too. Robin Van Persie will no longer be at his remarkable peak, and Nani will be impressing at a club where he is trusted. It makes sense that a new manager is given a chance to start the repairs now, rather than indulge Ferguson any longer.
Of course, this won’t happen. In return for his enthusiastic and shameful backing for the Glazers, Ferguson can more or less choose his exit date, as a gaggle of mall owners bleed an institution dry and supporters look on like hapless victims. Alex Ferguson might have overseen the creation of Manchester United as modern football’s greatest brand – alongside Barcelona and Real Madrid – but his dedication to his ego could well lead to its ultimate destruction.
Elsewhere, charisma black hole Rafael Benitez took charge of Chelsea for his first game as manager, drawing 0-0 with Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City. It took him two days, but Rafael Benitez’s Chelsea have managed to reintroduce ‘shit on a stick’ back into football’s lexicon. A more depressing, dull use of millions of pounds you will not see until the next series of Treme. Chelsea fans have been criticised for failing to support their new manager, but they have no responsibility to back this jazz. At one point, football used to be fun. Now we are presented with debt-laden, oligarch’s playthings, and there is nothing to show for all the money and debt except a devotion to functional, grim and grinding soccerball.