Sport Soccer

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Perches, mind-games, 'novice' Wenger, upstart Mourinho and noisy neighbours

Published 09/05/2013 | 05:00

  • Share
Kevin Keegan lost his temper live on air as the battle for the 1996 title heated up

IT took time for Ferguson to knock Liverpool "off their perch" as they won the league in 1988 and 1990, and were runners-up in '87 and '89, but after Arsenal, Leeds United, United and Blackburn Rovers took turns at the top, the balance of power shifted.

  • Share
  • Go To

IT took time for Ferguson to knock Liverpool "off their perch" as they won the league in 1988 and 1990, and were runners-up in '87 and '89, but after Arsenal, Leeds United, United and Blackburn Rovers took turns at the top, the balance of power shifted.

Liverpool, who have not topped the standings for 23 years, watched United chip away at their record 18 titles until overhauling it in 2011 and moving to 20 this year.

Although Ferguson regularly exchanged 'pleasantries' with Rafa Benitez, the rivalry was probably at its most intense in Ferguson's first five years at United when Kenny Dalglish was desperately trying to prevent Liverpool's fall from grace.

The two Scots were united, however, after the Hillsborough stadium disaster, when Ferguson gave immediate support and did his utmost to ensure United's fans followed suit, sending a group to Anfield to pay their respects.

NEWCASTLE UNITED

It is one of the most iconic pieces of sporting TV footage as Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan lost his temper live on air as the battle for the 1996 title moved into the home straight.

"I've kept really quiet, but I'll tell you something – he went down in my estimation when he said that," an emotional Keegan ranted in reference to Ferguson's claim that teams tried harder against United. "I'll tell you, I will love it if we beat them – love it!"

Newcastle, who had been 12 points clear, fell away at the finish and United won the title by four points. Ferguson's reputation for winning 'mind-games' was cast in stone.

ARSENAL

Ferguson set the tone on Wenger's arrival at Arsenal from Japan in 1996.

"They say he's an intelligent man, right? Speaks five languages? I've a 15-year-old boy from the Ivory Coast who speaks five languages," the Scot said.

When Wenger (pictured below with Ferguson and Alan Wiley) said that the fixture list was skewed in United's favour, Ferguson called him a novice, adding: "He should keep his opinions to Japanese football."

After Ferguson claimed that United were the best team in the league despite Arsenal winning the league, Wenger memorably responded that "everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home".

As the rivalry flared into the new century, Wenger finally let loose, saying: "Ferguson does what he wants and you (the press) are all down at his feet."

The enmity eventually cooled, helped no doubt by Arsenal falling away and no longer offering a challenge.

CHELSEA

Ferguson took an instant dislike to Jose Mourinho when the upstart Portuguese coach famously slid down the Old Trafford touchline to celebrate his Porto side knocking United out of the Champions League in 2004.

So when Mourinho took over at Chelsea and finally another club was able to better United's finances, it was no surprise that their rivalry developed quickly.

Mourinho said all the right things about his respect for Ferguson, then did all he could to show he did not care a jot, revelling in the battle of words and wit.

Ferguson could not seem to shake the younger, confident, charismatic rival and only when Mourinho left Chelsea did the Scot regain his position as the unquestioned top dog of the Premier League pack.

Had Ferguson stayed, it's likely that the rivalry would have been renewed next season.

MANCHESTER CITY

For over two decades Ferguson had paid little attention to City, even when he was on the receiving end of a 5-1 thrashing three years after his arrival.

Their transformation into one of the richest clubs in the world changed all that. Ferguson famously dismissed them as "noisy neighbours" and "a small club, with a small mentality."

However, City's bottomless budget eventually meant Ferguson had to take them seriously and, when the light blue half of Manchester finally got to celebrate the league title in 2012, with a 6-1 thrashing of United at Old Trafford along the way, it was clear there was a rivalry to take seriously.

City's Italian manager Roberto Mancini duly became enemy number one and gave the Scot new focus as he entered his eighth decade.

Just like all others before him though, Mancini eventually slipped back, forced to claim his side were as good as United even as Ferguson celebrated another title, having resumed the place from where he finally decided to retire – at the top.

Irish Independent

Read More

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport