Sir Alex Ferguson learns the difficult art of denial

Sir Alex Ferguson - Is he trying to walk away from his mistake?

Sir Alex Ferguson – Is he trying to walk away from his mistake?

There was always that dread moment at school when a particularly hard-line teacher suspected you of doing something wrong.

“It wasn’t me,” you said. “I didn’t do it.” It was as if multiple denials were some kind of incantation that would convince the menacing figure of malevolence of your innocence. It never seemed to work though, no matter how effusive you were in pleading to the contrary. Busted!

It would be wrong to paint the latest version of Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography in such a light, but I have to confess that the addition of chapter 27, ‘United in Transition’, brings those thoughts to mind. A mea culpa it certainly isn’t.

The appointment of David Moyes as manager at Old Trafford following Ferguson’s retirement quickly came to be widely accepted as an anointed succession chosen by the former incumbent. The now infamous banner of Moyes’ profile that read ‘The Chosen One’, long since removed from the Old Trafford stand, perpetuated this idea.

Ferguson now however is at pains – perhaps like the schoolboy I referred to earlier – to make plain to fans that any ‘choosing’ wasn’t down to him. He apparently intends to ‘clear up a few misconceptions’ by using the new chapter to declare that the decision to offer the post to Moyes was led by the Glazers, not him.

He incredulously questions whether ‘people really believe the Glazer family would allow the new manager to be chosen by one person?’

Actually, I think that’s precisely what a good proportion of people do believe. It’s not clear whether Ferguson wants merely to clarify that he didn’t walk into the boardroom one day, with the ill-fated Moyes in tow and declare the arrival of the new manager all and sundry as a done deal, or if he wants to assert he was merely a minor cog in the machine that made the decision.

For the writer at least, both seem to be equally unlikely. Moyes was a man – and manager – who many saw as what could, in modern terminology, be described as ‘Ferguson-lite.’ It was seen as the manager reappointing himself, incarnate in Moyes and Ferguson described Moyes as ‘hardworking and display(ing) great integrity. True, he had not won a trophy during that long reign. But that detail was misleading,’ he said.

Was Moyes Ferguson's chosen one?

Was Moyes Ferguson’s chosen one?

A scenario wherein Joel, Bryan or Avi Glazer, were sufficiently ‘hands on’ with the workings of the Premier League to have selected a manager with minimal Champions League experience, and not a single trophy worthy of the name as ‘their guy’ – without guidance from a man with the depth of experience and nous of Ferguson – is difficult to paint with any conviction.

It’s also interesting to read how the most successful manager in the history of the British game is now positioning himself as a somewhat isolated figure amongst the power-brokers at the club. He claims to have had an even smaller part in the dismissal of Moyes than in his appointment. He describes how when flying back to Manchester from a trip to Aberdeen, he was surprised to see a fellow passenger reading a newspaper carrying a ‘David Moyes to be sacked’ headline.

He further relates that Moyes had texted him but he had not replied as he wasn’t sure how the land lay at the time. It was apparently only after speaking with the club’s chief executive, Ed Woodward that he learned a decision had been made.

If such events are accurate, and there’s nothing to suggest they aren’t, it’s not difficult to see how the influence of the former manager has waned at the club. From being the man who at the very least promoted the cause of his chosen successor, to not even being consulted about dismissing him – is a large tumble in anyone’s currency. Perhaps others at the club do consider themselves responsible for the Moyes appointment and consider Ferguson’s opinions of less value than they once were. This conclusion deepens when the former manager describes the appointment of Louis van Gaal as ‘soon in the frame.’ He does not mention any role he took in approaching the Dutchman.

Manchester United fans reading this may feel it’s a piece attacking their messianic like ex-manager, by throwing a bit of mud hoping some of it sticks. Not a bit of it. No-one should, and I certainly wouldn’t, ever decry the achievements that Sir Alex Ferguson brought to Manchester United. His record may never be bettered. However, just as great players don’t necessarily make great managers, great managers don’t necessarily turn into formidable directors. It’s simply a different skill set. If Ferguson’s diluted role at the club is now along the lines he describes, it may be that his fellow directors have understood this.

All of that said however, Ferguson does nothing to add to his glories if the new chapter of his book is intended to minimise any involvement he had in the appointment of David Moyes. We all get it wrong sometimes – even Sir Alex Ferguson.

(This All Blue Daze article was originally produced for the ‘Offsiderulepodcast’ website).



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