The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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No Longer Infallible

It’s obvious to anyone who follows football that Sir Alex, in his hubris, has finally caused Man U to implode. You can’t blame this on the American owners or the players. It is Ferguson himself who must accept responsibility for continuing with a roster and staff who were not up to competing with Arsenal or a resurgent Chelsea and Liverpool. That he managed to leverage his players this long and this far is a measure of his genius, but it would have been better had he taken a more objective view of the competition.

It’s not a bad way to end things. Let’s hope he does. His antics this year are not unlike those of a mad King Lear blinded by his own sense of self-importance. To me, withdrawing players from the club who sacked his son as manager was the low point and showed how terrifyingly petty he can be.

You are not infallible, Sir Alex. You no longer make purses out of sows’ ears. You’ll be lucky to finish in the top four. Get used to it.

March 8, 2011   Comments Off on No Longer Infallible

Poor Arsène

It was nice to see how effectively Alex Ferguson organized and inspired his troops to stifle Arsenal in their 1 – 0 victory at home. It was pleasurable because Arsène Wenger makes such a lovely figure when frustrated. Something about being French, I guess. Such faces of anguished disgust. It has been said that when managing in France he once stopped the bus after a loss so that he could get out and throw up.

It was remarkably easy for United. Put Park on Nasri, let Ferdinand and Vidic out jump and outfox Chamakh, clog the passing lanes in the box, and counterattack with Rooney as point man, exploiting the gaps and holes in the Arsenal defense. It was United’s best performance of the year. Odd that few pundits enjoyed it. I found it enthralling—a boxing contest between two evenly matched opponents where one is wilier than the other and prevails through skill and intelligence. But then I’m a fan.

December 16, 2010   Comments Off on Poor Arsène

Drinking on the Cheap

Watching Bébé (Tiago Manuel Dias Correia) play for United against Wolves was truly a weird sight. Ferguson’s opposite number Mick McCarthy (who sometimes seems like a character from a Samuel Beckett play) [“…one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them…”] would never have put the Portugese on the field. None of his crosses came anywhere near the box. Watching him was surreal—as if he had won a contest (Your Chance to Play with United) and was guaranteed 40 minutes on the pitch. The fact is Bébé could not play for most English second division teams. I’m not sure even Cambridge would take him. No MLS team would have him, except on a developmental squad.

So what gives?

It’s vintage Alex Ferguson, of course, thinking he can transform a raw talent into a Premier League regular. The man is bonkers sometimes. I think he really believes he can create a player through sheer strength of will. Sort of like the Henry Higgins of football. It was embarrassing for the lad, though. You could see it on his face. His stricken expression made me sink into my seat.

Of course, Sir Alex is also the supreme politician. It’s fun watching him support United’s American owners, claiming he doesn’t need new players, that his current group are more than adequate. There’s a place for the old genius in some political appointment in Europe after he retires from football. Ambassador to France? It would be the perfect spot for him. Then he can drink all the claret he wants on the cheap.

November 10, 2010   Comments Off on Drinking on the Cheap

Manchester United

Man U were masterful at Porto, playing in the more conservative Continental style Ferguson adopts in important European matches. It was a relief after the dip in form of recent weeks. The other good news (if you’re a United fan) is that Christiano Ronaldo is back scoring goals in important matches. Love him or hate him (a Mancunian I met in Barcelona referred to him as a “grease ball”), he makes Berbatov and Rooney seem ordinary. Anderson (pictured), Carrick, and Evra all had fine games. Only Scholes and Nani seemed a bit out of place when they emerged from the substitutes bench. (By the way, I saw the game on Russian television, which was a gas. Now I know how to pronounce Berbatov’s name properly.)

I’m looking forward to the FA Cup match this weekend. Everton are very difficult to break down, but I think Rooney, Tevez, or Ronaldo will find a way. Go Big Red! Oh wait. That’s the Nebraska football team’s slogan. Let’s make that, Go Red Devils!

April 17, 2009   Comments Off on Manchester United

Sir Alex

Alex Ferguson is amazing. He deserves his knighthood. Like everyone else, I doubted him at the beginning of the season. The team was shambles, without coherence or cohesion. I figured it was time for Roy Keane to step in (big laugh that). What I didn’t understand, but appreciate now, is that Sir Alex is very patient as a manager (well, up to a point). He understands that players and whole teams lose form and that it takes time to find it again. His confidence in himself and his players allows this to happen. It’s what greatness is, I think—this very accurate sense of what you can accomplish as a person and the patience and fortitude to see it through.

January 16, 2009   Comments Off on Sir Alex