Sunday 15 December 2019

Fergie wins battle but he may not win the war

Sam Wallace

for a few days this week, Alex Ferguson tried a different approach to managing Manchester United.

As the Wayne Rooney saga took grip and his club looked vulnerable for the first time in a generation, Ferguson looked hurt and betrayed. He appealed to people's better nature. He even mentioned the cows in the other field which were better than his cows -- or was it the other way around?

Come yesterday lunchtime and he was right back in full dictator mode: United were the biggest club in the world and anyone who said otherwise was either lying or a member of the dreaded press.

If Wayne Rooney's U-turn in his contract was football's most remarkable three-day turnaround, then United's sudden change of attitude -- aided by a helpful bout of amnesia -- ran it a close second.

With the ever-willing MUTV there to facilitate the volte-face, you could be forgiven for thinking that the general turmoil of the last week's public dispute between manager and star player had just been a figment of the imagination.

With Rooney's contract signed at lunchtime, the old propagandist machine was revved up to soothe the worries of the faithful with a series of interviews including Ferguson, Rooney and Rio Ferdinand.

Certainly Ferguson's demeanour told you that he was even having trouble recalling a time when Rooney was refusing to sign a contract. When it was put to him that certain elements of the press had suggested United had looked vulnerable last week, he looked baffled. "I don't know where that was coming from," Ferguson said.

"You have got to wonder about that. You see the record since he (Rooney) has been here?"

Good question. Where on earth were all those bad vibes coming from? Where had people got the impression that United were in trouble? It surely could not be anything to do with Ferguson's seven-minute discourse on Tuesday at his helplessness in the face of a recalcitrant star.

Or his accusation that Rooney had shown "a lack of respect" to his team-mates. Or his admission at being "dumbfounded" at the behaviour of his most famous player.

In a world organised according to United, with the help of their supine in-house television station, the bad memories just fade away.

Ferdinand, noticeably quiet on all matters relating to Rooney until then, identified the culprits.

"There will be a lot of people walking around who will want to talk to us who were very negative towards him (Rooney) and the club and they have to change their tune a little bit."

Curse those negative people. Although they would have to go some way to be more negative than Rooney himself, who accused his own team-mates of being insufficiently adequate for him to bother wasting any more of his time playing alongside them.

But what's a harsh word among friends? So much easier to blame someone else. At no point in this saga has anyone from United uttered the name of their neighbours, who have inconveniently transformed English football with their wealth and are the reason why Rooney's new contract is significantly bigger than it would otherwise have been.

Without Manchester City and their enormous wage bill, it is unlikely that any of this would ever have happened.

Like a lot of what happened last week, United are hoping that simply by ignoring City, the threat from across Manchester will just go away. United have won a victory of sorts over Rooney but you get the feeling that for this particular regime, this is the first of many battles rather than the end of a war. (© Independent News Service)

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