Sir Alex Ferguson clearly put a few Chelsea noses out of joint with his recent comments about their ageing squad. Whilst Scolari managed to resist taking the bait, Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris couldn’t help himself.
He launched a scathing attack on our boss, claiming that Ferguson was ‘talking out of his backside’. Clearly Harris missed the RoM stats to back up Fergie’s point, otherwise he would have known it was him talking bollocks.
Sir Alex Ferguson simply questioned how far their ageing team could go, without major upheaval, particularly in comparison to United. The average age of our top three goalscorers in the league last season was 22.6 years old, whereas Chelsea’s stands at 30.3 years old for their top three scorers. The average age of the four players with the most assists at United is 22.3 years old, in contrast to Chelsea’s average age of 27 years old.
Harris seems to have let this go over his head and got on the defensive without much consideration for what Fergie was actually saying. Now let’s look at his argument, piece by piece…
“I think he was talking out of his backside to be truthful,” Harris said. “Did he say that when Chelsea beat them 2-1 in the league and came within a coat of paint of winning the Champions League?”
Well there’s a quality jibe…for a kid on the playground possibly. Let’s get in the fact that Chelsea beat United at Stamford Bridge eh? Christ, City had a better record against United than Chelsea did last season, what does one match count for? Had Chelsea managed to beat us at Old Trafford, then they would have won the league. But they didn’t. They lost.
In regards to the Champions League, aside from the fact it doesn’t matter how close you come to winning unless you actually win, Ferguson isn’t having a pop at the standard of Chelsea’s current squad, rather questioning how much more they have to give. Chelsea came 2nd to United in the Premiership and the Champions League, and next season, these players who weren’t good enough to beat United, will be a year older, and therefore less likely to pose a threat.
“Some of the United players are getting on, like (Paul) Scholes, Giggsy (Ryan Giggs) and the goalkeeper (Edwin van der Sar). Sides that win things normally have experienced players.”
Certainly, there needs to be experience in the squad, that is undeniable, but it is an issue if your most influential, match-winning players, are in their 30s. Ryan Giggs is the best example of useful experience in the squad, but someone not relied upon anymore. He rarely started towards the end of the season, with younger alternatives, Nani and Park, taking his place in the team. However, he made useful contributions from the bench, such as the goal against Wigan on the final day of the season and the penalty he scored in the Champions League final.
Whilst United still include these more experienced players, we have already adapted to reacpling them. Anderson (20) is ready to fill Scholes’ boots, Nani’s (21) there for Giggs, and Ben Foster (25) for Van der Sar.
Who do Chelsea have to replace their ageing players? They have just signed another 30-year-old midfielder in Deco to add to Ballack and Lampard. Up front, Chelsea have 30-year-old Drogba, 31-year-old Shevchenko, 29-year-olds Nicolas Anelka and Claudio Pizarro, with the only lease of life up front coming from the soon to be 23-year-old Salomon Kalou.
“Chelsea have players around 30 like Ballack, Drogba and Lampard but not many are well into the 30s, and my old manager Tommy Docherty told me you didn’t reach your peak until you are 30 years of age. Those players are at the top level and I’m sure they will do that for the next few years to come.”‘
Players reach their peak at 30? Maybe that was the case 40-years-ago, when Harris was having a chinwag with his gaffer, but it certainly isn’t the case now. If we look at some of the most recent best players in the World, according to the FIFA award, we can see that the best players in the World tend to be in their 20s, not their 30s. Kaka (25), Cannavaro (33), Ronaldinho (24 and 25), Zidane (26, 28 and 31), Ronaldo (20, 21 and 26), Figo (28 and 29), Rivaldo (27), George Weah (29) and Romario (28). Over the past 15 years, the best player in the World has been 30-years-old or older on just 2 occasions.
“If you go through this supposedly ageing side, they’ve got a young goalkeeper, John Terry is 27, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and a few others that can come in.”
The average age of the four players he could think of as examples to counter balance this ‘ageing side’ argument is 25-years-old. Hardly spring chickens. The problem is, Harris is fighting a losing battle, because the fact of the matter is Chelsea have just two established first team players under the age of 25, in Mikel and Kalou.
Ferguson 1 – 0 Harris