Nostalgia holds little appeal asfocused Fergie marks 25 years
The mood was not one of sentimentality as Alex Ferguson celebrated his 25th anniversary at Old Trafford. It was the quest for redemption weighing most heavily on his brow.
Ferguson chose not to view his own stadium as the scene of so many well-remembered triumphs. He sounded more like a member of the emergency services leading his team back to the scene of a trauma.
The most damning reminder of their first home appearance since the 6-1 dismantling by Manchester City was delivered by Ferguson in his uncompromising programme notes.
"It's painful even to think about it, but I don't want the players to forget it totally because it must serve as a reminder of the necessity of keeping our concentration levels high," Ferguson wrote.
"The score against us only reached such high proportions because of our own stupidity. It was a recipe for disaster and we contributed to our own downfall. City didn't even have to work for their last three goals, but the fact is that we were left with an embarrassing scoreline, the butt of many a joke I know."
It is typical of Ferguson that the only history he wanted to reflect upon ahead of the arrival of Otelul Galati was current and painful.
If nostalgia is the neurotic inability to deal with the present, Ferguson continues to ooze the confidence of a man looking only to the future.
When asked about his latest milestone, Ferguson was dismissive. He is more interested in making amends for recent failure than discussing the artefacts of two decades of success. "I've not reflected on it but I'm looking forward to the next 25 years," was the somewhat curt response to a question about his latest milestone.
It is Ferguson's refusal to reflect on his own unprecedented triumphs which gives him the authority to cast aside those who have served him so well. Players such as Rio Ferdinand know what lies ahead. He was eased back into the first team against easy opponents, although he still endured some troubling moments and will surely be reeling from the blunt assessment about "losing a yard of pace".
There was a brutality about Ferguson's pre-match assessment of Ferdinand's dwindling powers which explains why and how he keeps the United juggernaut rolling. There is nothing revolutionary about how Ferguson does it. He captures the best young players with the supreme skill.
Youngsters are seamlessly integrated alongside fading forces who do not realise they are assisting their replacements until they are shipped out. With the rampage from defence of Phil Jones you realise you are watching the next generation.
In the analysis of Ferguson's 25 years, it should be acknowledged it was not leading United to the top which was his greatest success, it has been his ability to keep them there. He arrived at Old Trafford when United were the economic superpower, but has retained their status during a period when they are not.
First Chelsea, and now Manchester City; Ferguson has never had a single, wealthy benefactor, yet he is still able to dismantle and reassemble title-winning sides while others work with blank cheques.He does so by learning from the past rather than living in it. (© Daily Telegraph, London)