Wednesday 24 January 2018

Ferguson gives insight to what lies beneath as roller coaster of title race nears thrilling climax

Mark Ogden

ALEX FERGUSON has offered a rare insight into the loneliness and anxiety that comes with managing Manchester United by admitting that today's trip to Bolton will trigger the apprehension and agitation that lies beneath the surface in the race for the Premier League title.

The 68-year-old's emotions will at least be calmed by Wayne Rooney's return to full fitness following a concern over the forward's knee.

Ferguson must endure title rivals Chelsea and Arsenal performing before he sees his United team take the field for an evening encounter with Owen Coyle's team.

Ferguson famously coined the phrase 'squeaky-bum time' to describe the tension of the title run-in.

And his mind games with rival managers during United's battles for Premier League supremacy have emphasised his determination to increase the pressure on those attempting to beat him to the prize.

But rather than claiming to relish the build-up to crucial fixtures, Ferguson admits that he will be restless at the Reebok as he contemplates United's encounter with their near neighbours.

"I won't be (anxious) in a couple of weeks' time -- my horse is running at Aintree!" he said. "But you still get keyed up for games and that's all part of it.

"It's probably at the time when the players are doing the warm-up that you are sort of on your own in a sense because the staff are also out and about, doing their jobs.

"It's all right at Old Trafford because you have your office, but when you're away from home, there's always that killing time, walking about and sitting in your dressing-room or whatever. But we're all the same, whether you're at the top of the league or at the bottom. That's what football does to you.

"It depends on the make-up of the person. Some people are relaxed about the game and don't show great emotions, but they still care.

"Deep down, they are probably turning inside-out like the rest of us because that is what the game does to you. That's the emotional aspect.

"But I think it tells that you still care about the game. Managers are subject to that more than anyone -- that uncertainty about winning a game, that anxiety, that apprehension about every game you play in, simply because the result is important to you.

"You're in to win. If you lose, you can't lose too many or you lose your job.

"There is no one in the game more directly responsible for results than the manager.

"No matter which way you look at it, we're all subject to winning games of football and if not, we're on the dole line."

Ferguson, who dismissed suggestions that Ryan Giggs could make a return to international football with Wales at the age of 36, takes United to the Reebok knowing that they could fall from top to third by kick-off time if Chelsea and Arsenal avoid slip-ups against Aston Villa and Birmingham respectively.

And with the title race proving too close to call, Ferguson admits that he is anticipating a three-way fight to finish top on the final day of the season.

He said: "I'm trying to work out the run-ins and what the eventuality could be.

"I can't see anything other than possibly the last game unless somebody blows up.

"But the easiest way to solve the whole thing is to win our seven matches and we'll win the title," he said.

"Bolton is a big game for us and every one will be that way. If we can win this one, it's on to the next one and the next one and the next one.

"It's not easy. Winning the league in our country is not easy, that's why our experience will be vital."

Ferguson has renewed his attack on the English FA, accusing the governing body of double standards after Thomas Vermaelen, the Arsenal central defender, escaped an additional one-match ban despite failing in an attempt to have a red card overturned this week.

By contrast, Rio Ferdinand, the United defender, received an extra one-match suspension on top of a mandatory three-game ban after he received a red card for violent conduct last month. An independent regulatory commission ruled his appeal to be "frivolous".

"It's so inconsistent it's difficult to analyse why Rio's (appeal) was frivolous and that (Vermaelen's) wasn't," Ferguson said. "Only the FA can answer that. They don't come out with a report on it, do they? It's sitting in the chambers of their minds."

Elsewhere, United winger Nani has signed a new contract that will keep him at the club until 2014. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Bolton v Manchester Utd, Live, ESPN, 5.30.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport