In an interview with Yahoo! Sport, Sir Alex Ferguson gave his views about Robin van Persie in comparison to the Manchester United great Eric Cantona, Barcelona’s style of play, the January transfer window, his socialist roots and finally his admiration for Jimmy Reid.
Take a look:
Q: Sir Matt Busby used to say that if Manchester United were within six points of the lead at Christmas then they would go on to win the league, and the tradition of enjoying a strong second half to the season has continued under your management. Handily you are top of the league at the moment, but does the new team you have constructed have that potential too?
A: Most of them have got experience of the second half of the season. Sometimes it has been good and sometimes it has been disappointing but we are always there.
I think that is a key part of what Sir Matt was saying as we are always still there and challenging in the second half of the season.
Q: You said when you signed Robin van Persie that you hoped he would be a catalyst in the same way that Eric Cantona once was. Four months after his arrival, do you think he is having that kind of transformative impact?
A: He has got a similar profile to Eric in terms of age and maturity. He had a great spell at Arsenal so there is no issue with him needing to settle into the Premier League. He came from one big club to another big club and he is an established international.
All these things in his profile suited us perfectly.
Q: It was said that when Cantona came here it made all the other players raise their level, is that something you can see happening with Van Persie also?
A: I think it is happening, the attacking aspect of our game has definitely improved and of course he has weighed in with 14 goals so far.
Chicharito has got nine goals, Rooney has seven I think and we have scored around 43 goals as team, which is quite a high amount for this time of year.
Q: Lots of teams are moving to a one striker system and Spain don’t play with any striker at all. You still seem committed to having a core of genuine goalscorers at the club, why is this?
A: It is only really Barcelona that play without a striker all the rest play with a striker. I only played with one striker at Aberdeen and that was 30 years ago. It can give you more attacking options than when you play two strikers as you can have several points of attack.
It has been in the game for quite a while now but Barcelona are different because of the way they operate with possession of the ball. They try to string teams out but eventually they have get in the box at some point and normally that is through Messi.
Q: Even as many teams move to a one-striker system – or none at all in Spain’s case – you clearly still value having a collection of genuine goalscorers. Is that a legacy of the treble win in 1999 and how do your current options compare to Yorke, Cole, Solskjaer and Sheringham?
A: The comparison is the numbers, having four strikers is a definite advantage. The four we had in 99’, Yorke, Cole, Solskjaer and Sheringham were fantastic. They never really complained about being left out as long as felt they were making a contribution and that year we won the treble which made them easier to manage.
Hopefully that will apply itself again because if we are winning they will all need to contribute – there is no question about that.
Q: You once said there’s no value in the January transfer market, but are there areas of the team you will seek to strengthen in the New Year?
A: No, the January transfer market has never been the best transfer market and that has been proven over the years with very few big transfers happening. All the big transfers happen in the summer.
Q: When we talked to you last season, you mentioned your admiration for the Glasgow trade unionist Jimmy Reid – how important have your socialist roots been in shaping you and your approach to management?
A: It has been fundamental I was brought up in socialist background and both of my parents were socialist. My father worked in the shipyards, I went into engineering and went into a trade union then. I think that coming from that area definitely encourages involvement in the respect because everyone is working class.
Jimmy Reid lived about a mile away from me, as he was from Govan also. I used to remember Jimmy walking to the library every day with a pile of books under his arm. He wasn’t into football the way many were as we would all be playing football or cuing up to play.
Jimmy was absorbed in his education and it proved to be a great education because he proved to be a very intelligent guy.
Read part two of this interview here.
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