Monday 20 October 2014

Declan Lynch: How Ferguson ruined my life with his curse

The longest unbroken tyranny of our time has come to an end but it is too late

Published 12/05/2013 | 05:00

THIS man ruined my life. I believe that his great and terrible spirit brought some darkness to my days, a strain of melancholia which has settled in my soul.

And it has not just been a curse in itself, it comes with the knowledge that if I had been a supporter of Man Utd rather than Liverpool, so much of that darkness would have been transformed into the most glorious light.

My sense of well-being would have been permanently lifted by the thought that no matter what happens, in the end everything always turns out fine. If you're down in September, you'll be all right as usual in May. In the end you win.

Leaving aside the 753 trophies they won in his time, all those late goals alone would have pumped so many endorphins into my being, in the fullness of time I might have become a really happy man. But it was not to be.

He is gone now, thank God. The longest unbroken tyranny of our time has come to an end. But for me, it is too late. The damage is done.

Recently I had to listen to the latest Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, explaining that though Liverpool's results at this stage of the season may be fairly meaningless, they still had their own "performance objectives". And they were meeting these "performance objectives" which might involve them aiming to have 15 clean sheets over the season, or maybe to score a certain number of goals. But he didn't mention actually winning anything.

A few days later I then had to listen to Sir Alex explaining that what you need to do, as manager of Man Utd, is keep winning all the time. Just that.

Just win your matches, ideally all of them, or don't bother. If, as a Man Utd player, you come off that pitch without the three points, you have fundamentally failed as a footballer and as a man. You are, as Ferguson also mentioned recently, a "c**t".

And as a manager, the first thing you have to do, he explained, is "get rid of the c**ts".

They don't teach them that any more in management school, but they most certainly teach them all that twaddle about "performance objectives", the words of men trying to tell us that there may be some merit in finishing seventh.

So yes, for some of us, it is too late. There was a time, maybe 10 years ago, when the retirement of Fergie might have given a Liverpool fan some hope, a time when we were roughly competing for the same things. United are still up there, still permanently delirious on the adrenaline of victory, while our guys are quietly satisfied about meeting their performance objectives.

And since I couldn't seriously regard Ferguson as the enemy any more, I eventually began to accept him and his players with a more generous spirit. That desire to win every game, to be two goals down going into the last 10 minutes and still to believe that they will somehow score three, that endless pursuit of excellence, is so admirable you would need to be deeply damaged not to celebrate it in some way. And even if you are deeply damaged, you know in your heart that these guys are good.

For a long time, we clung to Fergie's strange failures in the Champions League as our only consolation. And they are indeed very interesting. Because it seemed that Fergie's desperate need to dominate everything and everyone in England, was exactly what was stopping him dominating Europe.

You would see these lads from Switzerland or Greece knocking it around Old Trafford, apparently unaware that they were not actually allowed to play like that, not allowed to score, not allowed to win. They would not be bullied as so many English players and managers and referees were bullied, beaten before they left home. They would not have to keep playing until Man Utd got the right result.

But Fergie's tormenting of referees was about more than just his craving for an edge. That mania of his for an extra few minutes at the end of a game went right back to the game as it was played on the streets. Back then, they wouldn't necessarily stop the game at a set time, they would keep going until there was a winner. And if Fergie was playing, he would probably keep everyone out long after dark until that winner was scored by his team, and ideally by Fergie himself.

He even let slip something of this nature in a post-match interview, castigating some referee for ending the game too early, not giving United a proper chance to win it. At that moment he sounded about 12 years old.

He never lost it.

Irish Independent

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