Sir Alex Ferguson was asked whether he was concerned about the players’ discipline in tonight’s derby, after crowd trouble flared up last week at Wastelands.
“I think we have enough experience of playing in big games to know that [players must behave],” Ferguson said. “It’s always a key factor. With feisty games over the years, in terms of the competitive level of Liverpool and Leeds games since I’ve been here, the players’ behaviour has always been good. They play within the rules of the game. We’ve never had any issues with big games. It’s going to be a fantastic game, maybe even better than last week’s, but we’re ready for it.”
It clearly is an issue at the moment and has been widely reported in the press, but the manager said it’s not something that he is concerned about.
“I don’t pay any attention to all that,” he continued. “The player behaviour has always been perfect. We have great players who play to the right rules of the game. We have never had any issues in big games. Look at the record. I am not worried about it.”
Fair do’s. Our players didn’t lack discipline last week, with the only really nasty challenge of the match coming from Carlos Tevez on Wes Brown, which our manager believed he deserved sending off for.
United play is massive games every season and this year even had the added experience of playing bitter rivals Leeds in the Cup.
So, why is it that Mick Dennis of The Express has got his knickers in a twist?
As Matt Dickinson of The Times correctly identified yesterday, the comments of Gary Neville ahead of the first derby weren’t in the least bit inflammatory, regardless of Carlos Tevez’s massive overreaction.
Gary Neville makes some sensible comments in a Maltese newspaper, The Times, and, before you know it, Manchester police are on riot alert, braced for mayhem at Old Trafford tomorrow night.
In Tévez’s world, he is the one with right on his side in this escalating feud: the man disrespected. It suits him to paint a picture of a footballer who would have died for United but, cast out, had no choice than to pack up his shooting boots and, like one of Clint Eastwood’s wandering gunslingers, head to the next town.
That is one side of the story, but an entirely self-serving one also peddled by Kia Joorabchian, his representative. Self-serving because it deflects from the fact that the move may have been inspired by other motives, such as the pot of gold on the other side of Manchester.
Jonny Evans even suggested that Tevez’s City team mates couldn’t have given the Argie the full picture, with Tevez still unable to read English.
Yet for some reason, Dennis is very angry with Ferguson for playing down the idea that he needs to instruct his players how they should behave tonight.
It was business as normal for Sir Alex Ferguson. He did what he always does; defended his players from any and every accusation.
Manchester United manager Ferguson brushed aside the suggestion they should be warned to behave sensibly in tonight’s tinderbox Carling Cup semi-final second leg with neighbours City. He seemed affronted by the very idea.
They [the Greater Manchester Police] were dealing with the aftermath of violence at last week’s first leg, and drawing battle lines to try to prevent serious disturbances at tonight’s game. They issued pictures of men who, in the carefully correct jargon, they want to talk to after last week’s disorder; they continued the labyrinthine process of preparing criminal proceedings against some of those already arrested; they held planning and liaison meetings about tonight.
Sir Alex’s protestations that his sainted players never do anything that might provoke trouble would be risible in any circumstances. After all, Gary Neville is a serial offender. But in the context of what the police and his own club’s stewards are facing tonight, the comments are a dereliction of duty. Police were pelted with bottles at the first leg, for heaven’s sake.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending the actions of the fans who were lobbing darts and golf balls at City fans last week. For all the hatred between the two clubs, it would be nice if all of our fans, rather than the vast majority, didn’t behave like yobs when confronted with the songs about Munich. If fans want to go and have a ruck somewhere before or after kick off, that is their look out, but in the ground, amongst straight members, women and kids, it’s bang out of order. But I still can’t understand what the fuck Dennis can link the behaviour of our fans with the behaviour of the players.
The suggestion is that by Ferguson’s belief that our players will conduct themselves in a professional he is undermining the police and encouraging football hooligans. What a load of bollocks. No wonder he appeared affronted, you’re talking about players who have countless trophies, International caps and appearances in the biggest games in the world under their belt. Why on earth should he have to warn them about their behaviour? To connect the two is ludicrous.
But some people will write anything to pay the bills, eh Mick ABU Dennis?