UK & Ireland Football

Sir Alex Ferguson: Fall out with this particular pensioner at your peril

Football Food For Thought RSS / / 13 January 2009 / Leave a Comment

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Dan Fitch talks us through Sir Alex Ferguson's spats with the likes of Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid and more recently, Rafa Benitez.

If you were to have a right go at most old age pensioners, people would say that you were a bully. But when the pensioner in question is Sir Alex Ferguson, then it's generally accepted that he can look after himself.

Because Sir Alex gets into feuds with the same sort of alarming regularity, as Prince Harry is accused of racism. The latest in the long line of managers to fancy their chances against Fergie, is Liverpool's Rafa Benitez.

Rafa's attack on Ferguson, came as something of a surprise. The Liverpool boss comes across as over-serious, stubborn and uncommunicative: basically your nightmare vision of your future father-in-law. More than anything he comes across as the sort of person that plans everything.

If you asked him, he'd probably know what pair of socks he's going to be wearing on Thursday. If you asked me the same question, I could at best hazard a guess: probably the ones that I wore on Wednesday.

Which makes his attack even stranger, because you can imagine Benitez sitting on his list of complaints and waiting for the right time to go public. At least Keegan had the excuse of being a man who is about as emotionally stable as a menopausal woman who can't find her chocolate.

If Benitez's complaints about United putting pressure on referees, were intended to put them off their stride going into their clash with Chelsea, it backfired badly. Ronaldo's goal may have been disallowed by Howard Webb, but when you score from the resulting retaken corner and trot off as comfortable 3-0 winners, you can live with that sort of inconvenience.

I can't imagine that Ferguson was anything but amused by Benitez's outburst, especially as it implied that the Liverpool manager might be cracking under the pressure of the title race, in the same way that Keegan did. Manchester United are the [1.87] favourites to win the Premier League, ahead of Liverpool at [4.4].

Fergie has never really had a go at Benitez and I don't expect him to start now. The United supremo is at his most comfortable when making indirect criticisms of his rivals. Having lit the torch paper, he waits for the inevitable explosion.

His digs as Liverpool this season have included noting his surprise that so much money was paid for Robbie Keane and questioning whether the Anfield outfit would get nervous in the second half of the season.

The only manager to really get under Ferguson's skin has been Arsene Wenger. A volley of insults have flown back and forth over the years, though they seem to have called a diplomatic truce for the time being. In 1997, when Wenger complained that league programme had been designed to help United, Ferguson hit back: "He's a novice and should keep his opinions to Japanese football."

Then there was the 'pizzagate' incident. After United had put an end to Arsenal's 49 match unbeaten run, a row broke out in the tunnel, in which a slice of pizza was thrown at Sir Alex. Ferguson accused Wenger of physically threatening him, having run into the tunnel with his hands raised and reportedly said "'What do you want to do about it?'"

What I think really got under Ferguson's skin, was the media image of Wenger as some kind of intellectual, professor figure. Newspaper profiles of Ferguson however, tended to focus on his legendary temper, rather then his intelligence.

Ferguson is actually very well rounded intellectually, for someone that has spent all his life in football. His interests include literature, politics and fine wine, whereas Wenger concedes that his obsession with football has left no time for any other interests.

The current truce is probably only in place because it is some years since Arsenal mounted a proper challenge for the title. The Gunners are now a distant [40.0] to win the Premier League.

Ferguson's biggest spat of late has been with Real Madrid, who handled their interest in signing Ronaldo so badly, that they have ruined diplomatic relations between the clubs. When Ferguson recently jibed that he wouldn't sell Real Madrid 'a virus', he did so knowing that no one leaves United without his say so.

There will be the chance for Fergie to go head to head with another of his old adversaries, when Mourinho's Inter Milan face United in the Champions League. Manchester United are [7.2] to retain their title, with Inter priced at [10.0].

Ferguson has only got a couple of more years at the top, but I'm sure he'll be involved in a few more slanging matches before he retires. When he finally does call it a day, this much is sure: the old people's home he ends up in, are going to have a tough job on their hands.

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