FOX Soccer Exclusive
Free ride over for Man United
I’m sure you must be familiar with these headlines by now…
“Wenger out, Frenchman loses the plot” - “Chelsea in crisis, AVB for the chopping block” - “Dressing room revolt at City, can Mancini handle player mutiny?”
Is it me or does it feel like every other week these three clubs are having their dirty linen aired in public while the respective managers are examined with the vigor and enthusiasm only reserved for the Spanish Inquisition.
If we go back to those headlines though, one name is glaringly absent from the persecuting press and there are no prizes for guessing who it is!
Sir Alex Ferguson has plenty on his hands to arrest an alarming slump. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Sir Alex Ferguson has endured some rocking moments during his 25 years at the helm of Manchester United and survived them all, but I believe that this current spell could be his undoing. So I have to ask: Why are the media in England giving SAF a free ride?
United have some serious problems, but judging by the fawning reaction of the fourth estate after their convincing win against Wolves - for a side with only two wins in their last 13 matches - you’d thought the last two months hadn’t happened and everything was peaches and cream at Old Trafford.
By the way, this two months spell has seen the team humbled on its own turf by the noisy neighbors as well as being held by Basel, Benfica and Newcastle. Then there was the humiliation at the hands of Crystal Palace in the Carling Cup before ultimately being bounced out of the competition that they have been finalists in three of the past four years, the UEFA Champions League.
Any way you look at it, this is a team that is crisis mode in terms of injuries, performances and the most important ingredient in football: belief.
David De Gea still has a lot to prove at Manchester United. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Yes, you can point to the fact that the Red Devils are in second place in the Barclays Premier League and just two points behind City at the top of the table, but they have not played anyone of note since being battered by City on October 23.
It’s as though that purple patch at the beginning of the season was nothing more than a mirage, a false dawn, an echo of the last campaign, yet no-one has seen a headline saying “Fergie must go, United ship is sinking.”
If you truly look at the team from top to bottom with a critical eye there are far more questions than answers and Ferguson has basically refused to address any of the concerns, so I will…
• David de Gea is a serious work in progress and not close to the kind of goalkeeper that will win you titles.
• The Da Silva twins should be embarrassed to collect pay checks. They’re injured so frequently. Even Darren Anderton, the original sick note, feels like his nickname is being stolen.
• Jonny Evans is a liability at the back and his confidence looks shot to pieces after some half-hearted displays. I personally think he’s terrified of Ferguson.
• Rio Ferdinand is a quarter of the player he used to be and seems to spend more time on Twitter and building his social media empire than concentrating on defending.
• Nemanja Vidic is out for the entire season after injuring his knee in Basel.
• Patrice Evra is showing the kind of leadership that had him tossed from the French squad during the South African World Cup. The Frenchman thought last week was the perfect opportunity to call out his teammates for their Champions League exit while stating that the Europa League was almost beneath a player of his quality.
• Anderson, who had been more effective than at any other time in his United career, is out until February.
Wayne Rooney and Nani have failed to hit the heights this season. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
• Darren Fletcher is a good footballer but he’s not Roy Keane - in fact, he’s not even Paul Ince.
• Ashley Young has completely gone off the boil as the initial excitement of playing for the champion has turned into a realization that he has to perform week in, week out, unlike what he had to do at Villa.
• Nani hasn’t had a performance of note since the Arsenal thrashing back in August (no, scoring two against Wolves doesn’t count).
• Wayne Rooney, after starting the season like a man on a mission, has simply stopped scoring against anyone other than tomato cans.
• Javier Hernandez, who is rapidly becoming Ferguson’s lucky rabbit foot, is also out injured for four weeks.
Sir Alex Ferguson is the greatest coach/manager in the history of sports. No one has ever had the amount of success the Scotsman has enjoyed but everything comes to an end one day. Just because he’s endeared himself over the years doesn’t mean that he should get a free ride as his club searches for its new identity.
As Anderson Cooper likes to say, we have to ‘keep ‘em honest’.