The man has always come across as arrogant, but given his successes, that's his prerogative. Maybe his continual success over a prolonged period entitles his inbuilt confidence to give way to arrogance. I'm being as kind as possible to him here, but, it seems to me that his arrogance has, at last for City, proved to be his major downfall. He must have underestimated City, and over estimated his team’s ability in equal measure, as that, born only of arrogance, can be the only explanation for his team selection for Sunday’s derby.
Fergie, and all of football, should have known that we had the best defensive record in the Premier league last season, and, having both strengthened and got off to a great start in this one, there has been a grudging but spreading acceptance by the football world at large that we are the ‘real deal.’ There were no grounds to expect us to be any worse than last season, and certainly a more formidable proposition than Liverpool the week before, yet, he chose a lightweight team of attackers, having bolstered his midfield at Anfield the week previously.
Stranger still, Fergie usually likes a match up of 4-5-1 in the big games, but evidently believed his own hype that we were still nothing more than noisy neighbours. Maybe it was 4-5-1. I thought it was 4-4-2, but with Rooney floating about freely, it’s difficult to be sure. It makes no difference for my purposes anyhow . He misguidedly expected a more defensive set up from City, which was evidenced by his pre match interview when – in his own words, when asked about City’s attacking team, he said that he couldn’t have anticipated that. ‘… Imagine, City trying to attack in our backyard – we’ll murder them…’ were no doubt his arrogant thoughts as he sent his team out to meet their doom.
He made a positive decision pre match to leave out Vidic, Park and the man who up until Sunday was being viewed by United fans as the best player since Tom Cleverly, namely Phil Jones – an £18million signing who, only the week before, had been his trump card at Anfield as a ‘holding’ midfield player. After all, he is so good, he can play anywhere. Well, whatever the merits and shortcomings of those 3 excluded players, there are few who would deny that they collectively would be stronger than the hapless Johnny Evans, Anderson and - perm any one from - Nani, Young or Welbeck.
What an utterly terrible team selection that was. Thank you, Sir Alex, for an over estimation of the ability of Young, Anderson and Nani. Also, Fletcher at his best of 2 years ago might well have been worthy of his place, but, having had only a handful of games in 9/10 months (similar to Ferdinand when you think of it), anyone with a fantasy football team could have predicted that a team of such lightweights would be no match for City’s thoroughbred midfield, in particular.
A United team shorn of Vander Sar, Neville, Scholes, Giggs, Vidic and Park has much to make up, and much to prove. They appear to have believed the media hype following the surrender of points by Arsenal and Spurs - 2 pathetic early season performances from North London teams at their weakest - and Fergie was negligent in failing to address the shortcomings evident in his own team which were there for all to see against Norwich, Benfica, Basle and Chelsea, all of whom should have emerged from Old Trafford with a bigger points haul. Indeed, he was fortunate to escape from Anfield with a point, and even more fortunate to get the season off to a win with 3 points at West Brom on the first day of the season. Surely, he cannot be blind to what the rest of us see?
So what made him think that, against the country’s strongest team, he could win with such a team of lightweights, some of which had no great match fitness behind them (Ferdinand and Fletcher)? Arrogance is the answer, plus a lack of respect for the opposition, and a belief in the media legend that is Manchester United and the might of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Thank you Sir Alex, so, so much! You completely underestimated City and Mancini. You failed to appreciate that we would play to our strengths and field our strongest team, and, in the end, it was men against boys. We were up against an immature keeper – almost childlike in appearance and timidity, with no ability to marshall the defence in front of him. Hard to believe really that he is the Premier League’s most expensive goalkeeper – maybe one day, we’ll see the reason why - perhaps when he matures into a man. In front of him, Rio Ferdinand, now looking very outdated, and with no strong centre back alongside to make him look good anymore – just a hapless Johnny Evans, about whom I need say nothing. Moving upwards stood Anderson and Fletcher, neither of which has ever looked top quality unless other lights were shining brightly around them.
Finally, leading the line, Danny Welbeck – a star at Sunderland perhaps, and hyped up to glory since his return to the fold at O.T.– so much so as to fool the likes of Capello, who picked him for England, seeing as he’s the media’s new Man United darling; the next big thing to come up through the ranks at Old Trafford since, err, (you guessed it!) Tom Cleverly. The harsh fact is that, nice boy and willing runner that he is, football-wise, Welbeck has nothing special about him whatsoever.
There you have it – De Gea, Ferdy, Evans, Anderson, Fletcher and Welbeck; a spine about as strong as lace. Poor old Wayne Rooney – his next transfer request can’t be far away, I reckon. Absolutely taken to the cleaners by City; they are so far away from matching Barcelona that the distance cannot be measured. Yet that was Fergie’s target. Now it’s back to the drawing board for Scotland’s finest, I’m afraid.
To cap it all though on Sunday was the absence of Fergie from the touchline to instruct, cajole and bark at his players in whatever way, and to intimidate the opposition and the ref by his sheer presence, as he has done for the best part of 20 years. That was markedly absent. Nice to see Mancini go hunting him for a handshake at the final whistle, when Sir Alex deigned to leave his chair at long last. And later, we had a new post match entertainment feature – he lambasted his players for their gung-ho approach at trying to retieve the game. Imagine that – Fergie, who has told the world countless times that the United way is to attack, now bemoans his team’s failure to go on the back foot – specifically criticising Ferdinand and Evra for it. Well, I never!
He should have been praising the inadequate bunch of wasters who did their level best against a far superior team of artisans. Whilst he sat in his red cushioned throne, with his arms crossed and a face like thunder, his second rate team selection were danced dizzy by Silva and Co. Goodness knows what the red hordes in Devon, Essex and Herts made of it all. Fergie sent the team out unprepared for the blue firestorm, and, as they became engulfed, his arrogance prevented him from changing things adequately – he could have gone defensive for a while before we scored the second goal, so as to regroup, but, no – not the great Man United. But in the end, when they had been well and truly stuffed, it was all the players’ fault for being gung-ho!
Fergie hey!? Bloody hell!