Oliver Holt, the journalist for The Mirror who has won Sports Writer of the Year on two occasions, is believed to be a bitter blue. The Manchester man started his career at the Liverpool Echo and has spouted rubbish about United ever since. His write ups on United, particularly during the 2005 period, when apparently we were “in decline” like Liverpool after the 1980s, have irked me tremendously.

Like most United fans, blinded by their love for the club, I couldn’t help but think that the image of our team portrayed by the media was different to reality. We weren’t great but surely it wasn’t all over for Sir Alex Ferguson and United?

In the summer of 2006, preceding the season United won the league for the first time since 2003, Oliver Holt showed little respect for our manager.

If United want to muster more of a challenge to Chelsea next season, the last person – after Wayne Rooney – that they should be selling is van Nistelrooy. Selling him would be a huge step backwards and a massive blow to the club. Does Ferguson seriously expect anyone else to believe that the injury-prone Louis Saha is a better bet next season than a goal machine like van Nistelrooy. If he does, then his judgement is waning faster than everybody thought. Ferguson thinks there is no need to buy a new forward when he rids himself of Ruud van Nistelrooy. The theory is that he will be OK with Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Alan Smith and Giuseppe Rossi. Which is fine, apart from the fact that Rooney’s got a dodgy temperament, Saha’s injury prone, Solskjaer’s played seven league games in the past three years, Smith has never been a natural goalscorer and Rossi’s not ready.

Wayne Rooney scored 23 goals, Louis Saha scored 15 goals, Solskjaer scored 11 goals, and United finished 6 points ahead of Chelsea, scoring 19 more goals than them.

A few months later, with United standing top of the table and Ferguson about to celebrate his 20th year in charge, Holt had more to say about our manager.

Next Monday, Sir Alex Ferguson will celebrate 20 years in charge of Manchester United. In some ways, I’d like to join in the accompanying orgy of back-slapping and misty-eyed remembrance. But I can’t. I’m happy to acknowledge that after Bob Paisley and Brian Clough, Ferguson has been one of the most successful and brilliant managers in English football history. But like celebrating his pal Tony Blair’s 10 years as prime minister next May, Fergie’s anniversary amounts to nothing more than a lazy and meaningless ballyhoo for a man who has stayed on too long. Whatever United go on to achieve this season or in seasons to come, nothing changes the fact that Ferguson should have quit in 2002 when he said he was going to quit. But then, depending on what you want to believe, his nerve failed him, his wife got to him or he found out how much Sven Goran Eriksson was going to be earning as his replacement. And so he made one of the worst and weakest decisions of his life and decided to stay on. In the four years that have elapsed since, his legacy has been irrevocably tarnished…The European dynasty Ferguson vowed to found never materialised. The win in the Nou Camp in 1999 was a one-hit wonder.

When I read these write ups from the journos across the broadsheets and tabloids, I hoped one day we could see them forced to eat their words. I desperately wanted United to bring back the glory days and leave these bitter journalists red-faced.

In the six years since Ferguson went back on his decision to retire in 2002, United have won 3 league titles, 1 European Cup, 1 FA Cup and 1 League Cup. Has Holt got the balls to comment on the fact he said that Fergie’s tenure at United had been “irrevocably tarnished”? Is he man enough to admit he was mistaken in saying that it was wrong for Fergie to stay on and it didn’t matter what United went on to achieve after 2002? What do you think…

“If there’s one thing Ferguson doesn’t need to worry about any more, it’s the applause,” said Holt in Friday’s paper. “It’ll never die out. Not for him. Not now. Because on Thursday, he erased the last quibble about his greatness as a manager by winning the Champions League for a second time. There weren’t many doubts anyway. He has led Manchester United to 10 Premier League titles and established himself as the leading British manager of his generation.”

Weren’t many doubts? Oliver Holt was the biggest doubter of them all.

“Most great managers win trophies in concentrated bursts,” he continued. “Brian Clough won his European Cups in 1979 and 1980. Bob Paisley won his in 1977, 1978 and 1981. But Ferguson has spread his triumphs over nine years. What does that say about him? It says that he’s a relentless man. That he never rests. That he never stops striving for self-improvement. That he craves success. It also says that he loves the game. That he lives and breathes it. And that he is not afraid of change. That he has the ruthlessness required to keep on winning.”

Wow. How someone could be so glaringly hypocritical amazes me.

You know when you’ve been down the pub and you’ve had a few too many? You’ll slur your way in to some argument you didn’t want to get in to, but by the time you realise you’re talking bollocks, you’re already in too deep. You can’t back down now, so you’ll keep going, digging a deeper hole to try and get yourself out of in countless future sober occasions. However, no matter how hard you try to play down your once die hard assertions, you’ll have people there all too happy to remind you of the nonsense you were talking. You have to take the shame of claiming Djemba-Djemba could have been a great player or that you wouldn’t want Cesc Fabregas at United even if he came on a free…

However, in Oliver Holt’s world, where he spouts out nonsense followed by more ABU nonsense, he seems to think he can spend ten minutes writing out some generic, eulogy-esque, arse kissing drivel, and pretend like he hasn’t slated Sir Alex Ferguson time and again. Pretend he didn’t say that Fergie was capable of just a one hit wonder in Europe. Pretend he didn’t say that it was irrelevant what Fergie won after 2002 because he’d stayed on too long.

Well Fergie and his supporters got the last laugh on this one, even if Holt is too spineless to admit he’s one of the doubters we’re all laughing at.

Numquam Moribimur




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