In one of my recent articles, I made a plea to Manchester United fans to stop panicking and to wait till Ferguson gets back to Old Trafford next week.
The feedback I got from that article, and from this second article as well (not to mention the comments I’ve been reading and hearing for the past two years) has raised a question that I think should be seriously addressed:
Has the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United’s manager had a negative impact on Man Utd’s performances on the pitch over the last three seasons?
Roy Keane was spot on when he said that Manchester United players had “lost their hunger” to win. It is inexplicable to see the team do all the hard work and then fall at the final hurdle (draws against Sunderland and Boro towards the end of the last season are just one such example) time and time again. Part of it has been blamed on United’s success on the pitch in recent years and the comfort that brings with it, but considering that we’ve won just 1 Premiership title in the last 5 years and that apart from Neville, Scholes, Giggs and Solskjaer no one else has been through the glory years, you realise that it’s not the players that have suddenly gone soft – we just don’t have the fighters that we need.
There’s no Keano to drive us forward from the midfield. Giggs and Neville are getting old and cannot win matches on their own. Same goes for Scholes and Solskjaer. There’s no Beckham to change the game through a brilliant free kick, or Neville and Butt to hold the fort when the crap hits the fans.
Two of our best players, Ferdinand and Ronaldo, seem to function only when put under extreme pressure or up against a massive challenge. Same goes for Ruud van Nistelrooy.
All we have is Rooney, but Rooney is special and will fight for anything.
In short, the old guard is being phased out, but the new recruits – the Playstation generation if you will – don’t have the fight in them.
And that’s where the problem lies, and that’s why Ferguson has to take responsibility for the slide:
The class of ’92 and other players part of the 90s team were always highly motivated – they were trained that way. New players coming in were bent into shape by Ferguson, and by 2001 (when we won our third consecutive title) Manchester United and Alex Ferguson were one of the most respected team and manager across the world.
But the motivation is no longer there. Ferguson, who has been responsible (and has been so successful) at building team spirit and creating a fighting, win-or-die mentality, has not done his job in that department. His bustup with Beckham, his arguments with Keano over how ‘soft’ the new kids were, Keano’s departure, and Nistelrooy’s ‘lack of motivation’ are problems that land at Ferguson’s feet.
For a manager known for his ruthlessness Ferguson’s attachment to Giggs, Scholes and Solskjaer is a testament to his preference for fighters in the squad. Maybe it’s time now that he takes it upon himself to kick the new crop around a bit and get them properly motivated for the new season.
Otherwise the disappointment of the last three years will continue for another season. And no one – not the Glazers, not the fans – will accept such results.