If one conclusion can be formed from events in recent weeks it’s that few people can make clear, moral assessments of situations that involve their own club. Defiance leads to delusion and judgements become clouded as they let their heart rule their head.
As football fans we’re all guilty of it, leaping to the defence of our club in response to criticism that seeks to tarnish it’s reputation. Sir Alex is no different and in the wake of witnessing Luis Suarez’s refusal to shake Patrice Evra’s hand, he jumped at the chance to berate the Liverpool striker.
“I could not believe it, I just could not believe it. He’s a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club, that certain player should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again.”
“The history that club’s got and he does that and in a situation like today could have caused a riot. I was really disappointed in that guy, it was terrible what he did.” (Telegraph)
Ferguson was visibly angered by the incident and although his response was understandable, there was a sense of hypocrisy in his opinion that Suarez shouldn’t be allowed to wear the famous red shirt again. He also suggested that the pre-match handshake had “never been a problem up until this situation regarding racism,” but fans of Chelsea and Manchester City will know that this simply isn’t true. It remains clear that Ferguson should have consulted his own managerial past before offering his views on how this situation should be resolved.
Rewind back to 1995 and the flawed genius Eric Cantona, whose inexcusable attack on a Crystal Palace supporter failed to signal the end of his United career. The incident was branded “the most sickening act of savagery in 20 years” (Mirror) and yet coupled with Cantona’s apparent desire to leave at the end of his subsequent ban, Fergie convinced him to remain at the club. The following year he would go on to lead the team to the double, captaining the side and scoring the only goal in the 1996 FA Cup final against Liverpool. An inspired decision? Or an example of Ferguson’s double standards?
In April 2001 Roy Keane launched himself into a horror tackle on Manchester City’s Alf-Inge Haaland. The pair had suffered an ongoing feud for many years but afterwards Keane made it brutally clear (in his autobiography) that the challenge had been pre-meditated. Ferguson claimed he “had nothing to worry about” and that he didn’t believe “there was a case to answer” (Telegraph). Was he defending the indefensible or simply acknowledging Keane’s honesty? Either way its almost certain Ferguson would not have been so forgiving if an opponent had deliberately set out to hurt one of his players.
Moving forward to the present day and Ferguson can be credited with nurturing the development of England sensation Wayne Rooney. Ferguson has stood firmly beside the striker despite his expanding collection of off-the-field controversies and rash tendencies when on the pitch.
Rooney’s red card for lashing out during England’s encounter with Montenegro was yet another example of the striker’s short fuse and could have seriously jeopardised his place at Euro 2012. Ferguson refused to join the growing list of disgruntled Englishman and instead responded:
“He’s been tackled, and he’s reacted. He’s got that fiery temper, which to my mind is not the worst thing in the world.” (Guardian)
There is a no questioning Ferguson’s record in English football, and the popular opinion that managers should never seek to quash the passion or rather aggression that exists at the heart of their approach to the game. We are very rarely made privy to the reactions and punishments dealt out within the confines of a club’s walls but it would be such a refreshing change for managers to speak honestly about players when they’ve committed indefensible acts. The “us against the world” mentality becomes so tedious and I thought was under strict copyright by Millwall Football Club.
I would outlaw post-match interviews that occur seconds after the final whistle. Emotions are running high, managers are often highly flustered whilst the players struggle to form coherent sentences as they attempt not to drown in their own alarming levels of sweat.
Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to contain questioning over a nice cup of tea? Players and staff would have the time to reflect and consider their answers rather than launching an irrational attack on any and every decision that didn’t go their way.
The stark truth revolving round the whole racism saga is that no one involved can claim to have conducted themselves in a proper, impeccable manner. Some admittedly are guiltier than others and various degrees of blame will continue to fall at people’s feet. It’s just a shame that they’re so eager to sweep it under the rug rather than face the consequences of their actions.
Join me on Twitter @theunusedsub where we can discuss football in a civilised manner, unless you attempt to convince me that Crystal Palace are not in fact by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.