When Sir Alex Ferguson cited “knocking Liverpool off their fucking perch” as his greatest challenge, he confirmed what we already knew, that his feelings towards the dippers resembled that of the fanbase. Hate is the word that springs to mind. As United manager, Ferguson only had to endure seeing Liverpool lift the title twice, back in 1988 and 1990, which I’m sure was painful enough. Since then, Liverpool have watched United lift the trophy an impressive nine times.
Before last season, there had been plenty of talk concerning ‘United in decline’. Sir Alex Ferguson had apparently lost the plot and should have left back in 2002 when he announced he was going to retire. He wouldn’t be able to reinstate them as Champions and it would be less humiliating for the manager and the club if he just left quietly. In November 2005, The Guardian printed an article entitled “Who is to blame for United’s decline?”, where journalists and former players got to offer up their opinion on where it all started going so wrong for United. Paul Hince from the MEN wrote, “the cracks are so wide that not even a manager with Ferguson’s motivational skills can paper over them. If Fergie can arrest this shocking and alarming slump it will rank with anything he’s achieved in all his years at the club.”
The talk of decline first arose in 2001 astonishingly, when United were lifting the Premiership title for the third year running. They had been beaten in the European Cup quarter finals for the second year running, and in light of the massive success we’d achieved just two seasons before, the press actually had the nerve to claim we were in decline. I suppose if they were expecting Trebles every season, then yes, we were in decline!
However, it was Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier who stood up for United, in the week that saw Liverpool reach the UEFA Cup final, marching on to the Micky Mouse treble. “It is not my belief that United are declining,” he said. “Just because you are out of the quarter-finals of a major European competition, it doesn’t mean your team is on the way down. I don’t think we are even close to being in Manchester United’s shadow, yet. When you are 20 points behind them and they are already champions it gives you a lot to think about. We are not even within reach of being in their shadow yet. We need to improve a lot more to catch up with them in the Premier League. But hopefully the battle with them for the league title will be closer next season.” Next season, eh Houllier? That’ll be their year.
Well, it appears as though Fergie believes one good turn deserves another, and has now offered his support to Liverpool. Of course he isn’t claiming we’re not even close to being in Liverpool’s shadow, that would be preposterous, but has offered his backing to the under fire Liverpool manager.
The Yank owners confessed in recent weeks that they had been trying to talk Klinsmann in to taking the post as Liverpool manager, which will certainly not leave Rafa best pleased. When Ferguson was asked about the situation, he said Rafa would likely feel upset and alone. “That sort of thing can be very upsetting for a manager,” Fergie said. “As a manager, there are quite a few moments in every week when you are very much on your own and people don’t want to knock on your door because they think you’re busy all the time, but you can be sitting there twiddling your thumbs. You can fill your time by phoning other managers and doing other things, but there is a lot of time spent on your own and, in moments like that, Rafa must feel very alone.” Not content at leaving it there, Ferguson went on to talk about how different things were at Manchester United. “But I’ve been very fortunate at United because I have had good directors – people like Bobby Charlton and Martin Edwards – who always supported me very well. At big clubs, however, it is paramount that the board shows its class.”
Whilst we also have American owners who have plunged us in to debt, there can be not a great deal of criticism directed towards the Glazers for their public image. They keep out of the press, rarely commenting on us, and are happy to fade in to the background. In contrast, Liverpool’s American owner, Hicks, can’t see to keep out of the spotlight. The club’s dirty laundry has been aired in public several times over the past few months, bringing embarrassment to the club.
However, things took a turn for the worst today. If even Alex Ferguson is showing pity for Liverpool, they really must be in a bad way!
After all their chants of “USA!” and the American flags they brought to Old Trafford in light of the Glazer takeover, how entertaining are you finding Liverpool being screwed over by their Yank owners?
To mark the anniversary of United winning the Treble with a team that had academy products at the core, Made in Manchester is available for just £3 for today only. Some of the best football writers take a player each, from Sir Bobby Charlton to Ryan Giggs, George Best to David Beckham, Duncan Edwards to Paul Scholes, and many more, with 30 articles in total. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.