It's not gone too well for Manchester United over the last couple of weeks, will their manager be able to keep his head?
Any time Alex Ferguson gets involved in what we like to call mind games he tends to emerge victorious. He is known as the master. The well-documented way he cracked Kevin Keegan up and the way he provoked Rafael Benitez to go on his 'fact' rant live on in our memories and stand as testament to his psychological genius. He has taken down opponent after opponent with his cunning and guile and his verbal sparring with Arsene Wenger has proven highly-entertaining. However, as glorious as his career has been it has not gone all his way.
On Monday the pressure got to him when he kicked off on the referee over an innocuous Nigel DeJong challenge and we saw something unusual – Fergie losing the plot. This is not the first time he has seemingly lost his mind, so here are a few more incidents that he might want to forget.
To start with the obvious would be to start with
. Ferguson is legendary for berating players when he isn't happy with their performance, and he has become synonymous with the 'hairdryer' method of using his famous temper to provoke a positive reaction. This seems to have been very successful often, and you can look at second-half turnarounds such as against Tottenham to see that he is a man that has such command over his dressing room that he can use fear of a bollocking to get results. This time though, it went slightly awry. Following an FA Cup defeat against Arsenal back in 2003, Fergie lost his temper and kicked out at a boot, which went flying across the room and hit David Beckham square in the face. He was sporting a nice cut for a while afterwards and the papers had a field day.
In 1996 Manchester United faced a Southampton team inspired by the genial Matt LeTissier. The reds found themselves defeated 6-3, a heavy defeat by their standards and a memorable loss. It was a lost that was made all the more memorable by the fact that after the game, the gaffer came out with the bonkers excuse that they lost because the grey shirts they were wearing blended into the crowd, and they were unable to see each other. The shirt was retired after 5 games and United went onto to win the league.The old camouflage excuse stands out as one of the more memorable times Fergie has gone close to losing it.
I can understand why a manager might not be enamoured with the press. Let's face it, journalists have got a fantastic knack of getting under people's skin. The tactless boob that
made last week resulted in him becoming an instant hate figure, and constantly we see journalists getting roasted by managers – Joe Kinnear being a prime example of this. Alex Ferguson though managed to go beyond a roasting. In 2004 the BBC got his goat by asking alleging his son had been up to mischief in his role as an agent. Fergie responded by placing a wall of silence between himself and the BBC, in a feud that pitted two of the nation's institutions against one another and that lasted for 7 years.
Finally, a mention for Juan Sebastion Veron is in order. In 2001 Manchester United had what was probably the best midfield in the world. They had Ryan Giggs on the left, the formidable duo of Scholes and Keane in the middle and phenomenon David Beckham on the right. In buying Veron Ferguson managed to break up the best midfield in the world. But further than that we can see he bought a few more players that were even more useless than Veron. Eric Djemba-Djemba springs to mind, as does the goalkeeper Taibi who lasted just 4 games before he was dropped for being useless. However, perhaps the biggest gaffe he has made has been in buying Portuguese Bebe, apparently without even seeing him play.
Time will tell who has won the mind games this time around, but in Alex Ferguson we have a manager who comes up with the goods and often in a classy manner Sometimes, though, he can lose the plot in an equally entertaining way.
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