Sir Alex Ferguson is an astute manager. Not averse to playing mind-games before crucial big matches, he is as shrewd and as clever as they come. With 26 years of managing one of Europe’s top football clubs, his critics have never had enough to prove anything substantial against him. Silverware gained and regained by Manchester United has left even the most vocal of his rivals tongue-tied.
However, many Manchester United skeptics will point to their reputation (both the team and manager) as being “poor losers”. A brief recount of their manager’s disciplinary record over the last several years may underline their beliefs; the most recent infraction being the Spurs vs. United match a couple of weeks ago, after which the FA sought Ferguson’s clarification over his remarks about match officials in the 2-2 draw. Match officials faced the Scot’s ire not only because the penalty was not given, but because the Man.Utd manager knows that Mancini is hot on his heels, and if he needs to, he needs to up the ante right now.
Premier League watchers will remember the episode in March 2011 when Ferguson was handed a five-match touchline ban for his comments against referee Mark Atkinson in the Chelsea vs. United match, with whom he was unhappy for not sending David Luiz off after he already had been booked earlier in the match.
Much earlier than that, between 1997 and 2005, Ferguson used to regularly take on Arsene Wenger, the Gunners manager in post-match tit-for-tats. Most famously in Jan 2005, Wenger had said about Ferguson “He has lost all sense of reality. He is going out looking for a confrontation, then asking the person he is confronting to apologize”.
With the manner in which United’s city rivals won the League title last season, Ferguson does not want a repeat of any close encounters. He wants to have a clear margin ahead in the points table. He knows that one or two slip-ups in the Premier League now, might again bring Mancini’s team in the reckoning for the title. Football fans should expect the remainder of this season to bring up more such episodes of Ferguson’s rants against match officials and rival team managers. The mind games also should pick up pace should this season be the wily Scot’s last one.