Monday 19 March 2018

Ian Herbert: Five ways Alex Ferguson can arrest Manchester United's decline and halt the march of their noisy neighbours

Alex Ferguson. Photo: Getty Images
Alex Ferguson. Photo: Getty Images

MANCHESTER City sense a shifting in the balance of power. "Last year we won the FA Cup and qualified for the Champions League," David Silva said yesterday. "This year we are challenging for the title. Let's see. Hopefully, we can win the title. Then next year we can challenge for the Champions League." Sir Alex Ferguson is in a difficult place, though football has defied those who try to make bold pronouncements about the established order this season. But there are ways for Ferguson to prevent Roberto Mancini changing the guard in the city United have called their own. Here are five of them...

1. Be patient...

Ferguson has become messianic about bequeathing his successor a new generation of players. Or a "foundation", as he put it to Fabien Barthez, in his most revealing interview of the past few years – "a collection of players who stay for a long time, understand each other and are friends, because that is what time does – it builds friendships". That all sounds rosy in theory but some potentially very fine young players are the victims of the ethos because they are being cast into the furnace too soon, in the clamour to demonstrate that United stand for youthful idealism – in juxtaposition to City's brutal spending. Witness Phil Jones on Monday, blasting a cross high over the defence when allotted several yards of second-half space in the box; allowing a ball to loop beyond the dead-ball line on another occasion rather than take it on. Tom Cleverley – not even in Monday's squad – has never played more than four consecutive games, Danny Welbeck never more than three. Yet they are respectively being described as world-class, and England internationals. They need to grow and learn among seasoned players, free of the weight of this responsibility being thrust upon them...

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