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There’s no smoke without fire, Sir Alex.

You can’t say that about the greatest football manager the game has ever seen!’ – A common retort sent towards any mere mortal who dares to question or criticise the great Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sir Alex has spent almost 26 years building himself an empire at Manchester United, a tenure that’s seen generations of teams all succeed and a foundation laid to ensure the lessons of years gone by are not ignored.

He’s watched great players come and go, some by choice, others by necessity. He’s seen the ownership change hands and directors come and go, he’s overseen the development of Old Trafford from an almost dilapidated place to attend games (it didn’t feel like it back then but compared to today it really was) to one of the most attractive and welcoming stadia in the World (I’m not sure which way I prefer it, probably the former if I’m honest).

In 2011 the club named the old United Road after Sir Alex. The imposing three tiered North Stand is now The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, and for what he’s has achieved it’s just reward and befitting the unparalleled success the man has brought to a club which was stuttering and stumbling in the post Busby years when he arrived from Aberdeen in the Autumn of 1986.

I’m sure I speak for all Manchester United fans when I say there’s no one who isn’t grateful for what he’s given them and for the legacy we all hope he leaves behind.

But does this gratitude come at a price? Does his success buy the right to silence his critics? Are we really supposed to ignore any possible failings despite the magnitude of feeling? Are we not entitled to an opinion?

Sir Alex Ferguson has reigned at United with a ruthless will to win. He strongly, and rightly so, believes that and adhere’s to the belief that ‘no one’ is bigger than the club. But is he in danger of ignoring that belief when it’s happening right under his nose? It’s not just me who’s suggesting he’s making mistakes or arguably become bigger than the club himself, trawling through United blogs and various other websites and forums it’s clear to see that there’s a growing feeling amongst United fans that he really is making some spectacularly poor decisions lately.

I have a theory of my own and it involves the hacks and the media he so hates and wishes didn’t exist (although he’s astute enough to use them to his advantage whenever necessary, such is life I guess).

His biggest grievance is team selection. His now obsessive desire not to be predictable or second guessed by football writers means he tinkers with the side every single game.

In 2010/11 we won the title. Can you tell me what the ‘Best XI’ was? Probably not, although I bet you could reel off the ‘Best XI’ from 94, 96 and 99 and it would be very similar to the next man’s.

What’s United’s ‘Best XI’ today? If we were playing City on Saturday and the entire squad was fit, who starts? We wouldn’t have a clue because very few players get a consistent run of games in the team anymore and certainly not in the same position or alongside the same team mate. Surely it’s time for a settled side to steady the ship and play players in positions they’re trained for and feel comfortable playing in.

Then there’s the clamour for a new central midfielder. Thousand’s upon thousand’s of United fans cannot be wrong. Fans the world over have pinpointed United’s need for a new central midfielder for a number of years. The press have been at it too, even MUTV have talked about it. The only person who hasn’t seen it or doesn’t believe it’s an issue is the one man who really matters.

It’s not the first time either. Rightback was another area he ignored for too long and it’s only now that Rafael is looking anywhere near coming up to scratch (I’m feeling generous) and there’s no coincidence to me that coincides with the loss of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. Had both those players been fit I’m sure Sir Alex would’ve slotted them in at rightback a few times; thus interupting the progress of others and the necessity for a settled defence, a need [for a settled defence] made all the more greater by the introduction of a new (and somewhat shaky) new goalkeeper aged just 21.

Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford on New Years Eve 2011. United’s midfield contains the aforementioned budding rightback, Rafael. There’s an aspiring central midfielder at the club who United thought enough of to break a few rules to obtain his services from Le Havre in 2009, but he’s overlooked to start the match despite Sir Alex intimating publicly in the previous summer that the reason we’re not purchasing a central midfielder is the potential of you guessed it…Paul Pogba. No wonder Pogba chose to play hardball with United and ultimately leave for Italian shores and more money in his pocket when he can’t even get a start in his position ahead of an erratic rightback.

I’m sure I’ll take my fair share of abuse for criticising Sir Alex, but to be fair, the weight of feeling and the sheer numbers of fans willing to question his latest selection and many other decisions he’s made recently, I get the feeling there’ll also be a fair share willing to not only agree with me, but also add their thoughts.

Oh, and one last thought. To humiliate yourself in front of millions by blaming the officials and a lack of injury time on Saturday, was embarrassing. Our lack of pace, concentration and professional positioning in the first half didn’t entitle us to an extra twenty minutes at the end to compensate for it.

It’s like I said at the top…..there’s no smoke without fire, Sir Alex. Maybe it’s time to get back to basics.




  1. despicable

    1 October 2012 at 13:49

    Yes it made perfect sense, his past should be no reason for people to accept everything, at the end of the day its a job with responsibility.

    yes his experience does buy him more time than others, but i don’t like the notion of “SAF is always right.”

  2. Vida Dollar

    1 October 2012 at 13:55

    Well written Ian and you did well to write this 48 hours after the Old Trafford Debacle. It is clear something is wrong at United except according to SAF. OT is far from a fotress anymore and over the past two seasons we have won/lost bookmakers substantial amounts by tearing the form book. Bassel, Blackburn now Spurs?SAF is in self destruct mode and I am amazed he wanted more time when he literrally aborted anyu form of comeback by taking out Kagawa. From that substitution our threats became less deadly and finally Spurs could boot out the speculative crosses/shots??? with ease. And God when are we ever going to make our corner kicks count???

  3. Maulik Shah

    1 October 2012 at 14:04

    Well this was very subtly done! I too had a bit of complaints but I guess we all have a habit of seeing the glass rather half full because of the weight of the success brought upon by SAF. Its not that he hasn’t made mistakes, but I think he has made up for them without having people to know about them at all 8)

  4. Maulik

    1 October 2012 at 14:06

    Well this was very subtly done! I too had a bit of complaints but I guess we all have a habit of seeing the glass rather half full because of the weight of the success brought upon by SAF. Its not that he hasn’t made mistakes, but I think he has made up for them without having people to know about them at all.

  5. Maulik

    1 October 2012 at 14:14

    But yes, I’d definitely dig these sort of articles! #KeepEmComing 😉

  6. Julian

    1 October 2012 at 14:23

    I’d like to know the rationale in buying Kagawa apart from the fact that he’s a good player. How was he expected to fit in with Rooney? Having then bought Van Persie it’s now an issue of how does Ronney fit in with both of them? Rooney remains our best and most influential player and yet there seems no plan as to how he will operate with the two newcomers. With two wingers, unfortunately three into two doesn’t go! What happens to Welbeck in all this and even more so, Hernandez. I have nothing against Kagawa, he looks a very good player but surely a central midfielder was more of a priority. Kagawa is no midfielder – he plays on the edge of the box. I’ll leave out Giggs, who really should have retired last season but Scholes has become probably our best midfielder, in an attacking sense – keeping Cleverley out currently. But Scholes is also liability when the opposition has the ball. He’s easily by-passed and Carrick is often inadequate as a defensive cover. I would think Fergie has a major headache in all this and its to be seen if he can resolve it – failing which this might just be the beginning of the end of his glorious tenure at United.

  7. Kekonius

    1 October 2012 at 14:59

    We lost. SAF knows that and will therefore force our team to shape up, we have seen this patter over the last three four seasons. We play badly, but wins games somehow, then one day we play badly and we lose. BANG next week we are a whole new team. Hopefully that happens once again.
    Lovely text, but i dont agree that i cant point out our XI squad for 2011.
    Evra, Vidic, Rio Rafael(IMO)/Oshea.
    Nani, Carrick, Scholes, Valencia
    Rooney, Berbatov.

    • BerkeleyBassist

      2 October 2012 at 22:01


      It’s hard to make that point since Rafael couldn’t break into the squad and, at the time, Fabio was regarded more highly; also, Rafael spent the majority of the season injured. Fabio started in the CL final and other big games. It just reinforces the argument that SAF hasn’t had a consistent starting XI in years – partly due to injury, partly due to his decision-making

  8. Joseph

    1 October 2012 at 15:35

    Our fielding is poor.Why play 2 wingers in Valencia and Nani for instance.The game has changed all the world to 4-3-3.Look at Barcelona and Madrid.They have a holding midfielder and 2 creative mids.Basquet/Song will play behind Xavi and Iniesta.Khedira plays behind Alonso and Ozil.When we go wide and our Wingers loose the ball like the spur game(Nani),we expect a 37 years old(scholes) or a sluggish Michael carrick to come back.NO WAY!!! That’s why we are conceding goals like a mid-table team.Forget Pogba or Fellaini,Use Fletcher in that position but get another guy by January if we are dreaming of going anywhere in Europe if we’ll have made it by then.Try Fletcher,anderson/Clevery or Carrick/Scholes.Rooney and RVP should play with either Kagawa or Valencia as first 11.Is Fergie loosing it????

  9. swapnil

    1 October 2012 at 15:41

    many articles have been written criticising SAF over the summer and even last year on red rants or on some other blogs and I somehow always defended SAF maybe because I have too much respect for him or maybe because I kinda felt that he cam do nothing though I really really prey that he leaves at the end of this season.yes that may mean we will go trophyless for some time but we need to get rid of our outdated match tactics and training and fitness methods…..

  10. Traverse

    1 October 2012 at 16:12

    It comes down to Fergie loosing a bit of his nerve, for me. He has get more sentimental in his old age, and I’ll explain that.

    In 95/6 he let Kanchelskis go despite him being our top scorer the season before because we had Beckham coming through in his position.

    Ince was sold and McClair played a third of the games than the previous season because we were phasing them out for Scholes and Sharpe started losing games to Giggs.

    Ince, Kanchelskis, McClair and Sharpe were established players being phased out, despite not being old and still being able to cut it, to bring through younger players who would only get better by playing more games.

    He let Neville hang around 1 if not 2 seasons too many, and Rafael has come on leaps and bounds since getting a regular run of games at RB, like Neville was once allowed to do.

    How is Cleverley supposed to become the new Scholes if he’s played 1/4 of the games Scholes had by the time he’s 26 because a 37 year old is still hanging around?

    Scholes is the odd one out here because he is clearly still a world class passer and visionary but Neville and now Giggs are both guilty of overstaying their welcome, and Fergie should have pulled the trigger on them.

    20 years ago he would have done without a thought.

  11. Yang

    1 October 2012 at 20:00

    It is very difficult to say Fergie lost something but I think that our team lost fatal amount of energy from midfield. It is very odd because we lost Hago, Flecher and Park who all can do hard work in the team and we keep collecting attacking flair players only. How we gonna cope energetic opposition midfilder trio?, No diea.

    It is fair to say Fergie made mistakes in summer window imo.

  12. Moscow

    1 October 2012 at 21:34

    I could devote this rant to Ferguson and his clueless cronies as I have done in the past but since we’re not going to sign a central midfielder until Giggs and/or Scholes die, I will try to offer something which isn’t abusive and one to make the most of our threadbare resources. So here goes…

    Carrick is a world class holding player, and therefore should be a fixture in the midfield, literally no-one can displace him. Scholes is a ball playing possession artist, but doesn’t have the legs or mobility to cope with decent to world class opposition, therefore the legs must be augmented by a proven workhouse, and I would elect Fletcher in that role, since Cleverley thinks he’s the new Iniesta and Jones doesn’t have the composure to play in midfield, Anderson would fail abysmally. So anything less than packing 3 in midfield would be very bad news especially with the midfielders that we have. And since there isn’t a chance of us playing 4-2-3-1 without giving Phelan a brain transplant, 4-3-3 appears our only tangible option if we are to stop playing like complete shit:

    De Gea (play him consistently, FFS)
    Rafael Rio Vidic Buttner (can’t be worse than Evra, can’t possibly be)
    Fletcher Carrick Anderson
    Rooney RVP Kagawa

    Yes this means we can’t start any of our 3 winger musketeers Nani/Valencia/Young but this is the only way we can attack through the middle without sacrificing the team balance. I would start Nani but unfortunately he would be ordered to play like Valencia, cross, after cross, after cross… so fuck that. We have the two best strikers in the league, let’s feed them with through balls so they aren’t wasted by the crossing tactic.

    Yes, we have a good lead, now put on Scholes for Anderson and keep the ball ticking, slow the game down, keep the ball. Yes, it’s no good playing pretty passes when you are 3-2 down to Spurs who are defending for their lives at OT.

    I would feel sorry for RVP playing in such an archaic system, if it weren’t for the fact that City didn’t get him, and Arsenal are still a man short of challenging because we took him away 😆

    Oh and Nick Powell is not a midfielder, he is a centre forward, jeez why don’t you just buy a frickin midfielder Fergie?!!?

    • Onkar

      2 October 2012 at 05:49

      @Moscow: Exactly my thoughts bro.. Spot on.. I said the same thing in the previous thread that its time for 4-3-3 and packing the MF. See we have great strike force who can create and score for themselves but we need to Pack MF so that we are getting exposed at the Back and given the supernormal ability (or lack of it) of our Coaching staff the 4-2-3-1 is just out of question so the easiest no brainier for me is to go 4-3-3 pack the MF area, dont concede and then Hope that NANi, Rooney, RVP, Kagawa, Valencia any of these guys can create and score for themselves…

    • Onkar

      2 October 2012 at 05:52

      @Moscow: One more thing is the same team sheet can be to play Kagawa behind the combo of Rooney and RVP allowing him to link with MF to Strikers I mean more of 4-3-1-2. BUt at the end of the day no matter how much we keep on talking about it nothing is going to happen and we all know that isnt it???

  13. dan

    1 October 2012 at 22:44

    I think the two points you make about Rafael are ABSOLUTELY spot on.

    1 that he wouldnt have found form had the other lads (centre backs) been fit and two that the writing was on the wall for Pogba the minute Raf got the nod ahead of him for the rovers game. I was shocked by that. The difference starting Pogba in the game on new years eve couldve potentially made to how our midfield looks nowadays may indeed have been huge.

    Unfortunately for all his talk of trusting the young players it doesnt seem to add up to much these days. A shame considering the talent that is there in youth at the moment. Talent that was headed by pogba in which we had a player that really excited anyone who watched the reserves and youth teams.

  14. Redrich

    1 October 2012 at 22:46

    Agree to a point, but you’ll always need some speed on the flanks. Trying to go only down the center will not get us any goals.

    The problem Fergie has is Kagawa. He bought him and so now he has to use him. Because of that we have exposed our midfield to having one less body.
    Like you said, Kagawa is not a midfielder (nor is he a striker) and cannot be used as such. So simply put, instead of adding to our midfield in the off-season, we essentially took away from it by including him in the starting 11.

    If we continue to start him we must have an enforcer working behind him and the only players we have that could fill that role would be Anderson and/or Fletcher (and never, ever Giggs).

    So my best possible lineup (assuming Kagawa must be included) is:-

    -Goalie (both Lindegard and DeGea are not great, so go with who ever is in the best form).

    -Rafael, Rio, Evans, Buttner.


    -Valencia, Anderson, Nani

    Rooney, Kagawa. (RVP coming off the bench)

    I don’t see a way to play RVP, Rooney and Kagawa at the same time – not unless Ferguson breaks down and buys a powerhouse CM in January.

  15. Vida Dollar

    2 October 2012 at 13:39

    I dont know why everyone is swayed by the press. Michael Carrick is not a world class midfielder by a long shot. In fact he has become part of the problem.He is virtually anonymous in many Big games and it beats me just how he becomes world class and a permanent feature in the middle of the park. Fergie has goy us thinking like him. Our midfield is now non existent and continuing to pick Carrick,Giggs and Scholes ahead of guys like Cleverly and Anderson is creating a new problem of dividing the squad. If Carrick has to play he MUST Rotate with fletcher and we must let the youngters play…I must add our so called youngsters are really not so young anymore as they await their call.Thank God Pogba realised the guy was taking him down a garden path early enough.

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