Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sir Alex Ferguson fifteen, Felipe Scolari love. Over to you Scolari as Fergie launches ‘manager wars’!

Graham Fisher in Editorial 24 Jul 2008

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I love it! The season is still a couple of weeks away but Sir Alex Ferguson has fired the first shots in the ‘manager wars’ series ahead of the coming nine months.

The Manchester United manager has said that he believes Chelsea‘s aging squad may struggle to challenge his side for major honours next season and that they may have peaked last year.

The mischievous Scot says that Liverpool and Arsenal are as much of a threat to United’s hopes of retaining the Premier League title as Chelsea are. This is obviously an attempt to engage Felipe Scolari in conversation because he has been reasonably nice about Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez. That is certainly not something he is noted for.

“Chelsea are an experienced side and I don’t see outstanding progress coming from a team in their 30s,” he said. “I wouldn’t write off Liverpool or Arsenal. It has been understated what Arsenal achieved last season.”

Sir Alex said in South Africa following their 1-0 win over Orlando Pirates, whose squad are currently on tour in South Africa, added: “Arsenal suffered injuries at a bad time. In February they lost most of their midfield. Who is to say that it would not have been closer if Arsene Wenger had kept his players fit?”

Things have been looking good at Chelsea with the arrival of Jose Bosingwa and Deco and the increasing possibility of keeping Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. The news that Petr Cech and Michael Essien have both committed their long term futures to the club has also raised the level of expectancy around Stamford Bridge. They have high hopes of regaining the title after bringing in new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Despite all the above Ferguson has been quick to try to quell the growing tide of optimism in West London. He says it will be difficult for Scolari to improve on what they have done in the past, with essentially the same group of players.

“I’m not concerned about Chelsea; I just don’t know how far that team has got to go. They have lots of experience and big-game temperament and in a sense Scolari is fortunate, joining a big club with a team of internationals. But it’s hard to see where there is going to be an improvement. Maybe they have reached a plateau – although perhaps that’s not the right word.”

Sir Alex Ferguson has also talked about the role of Wayne Rooney within the United team.

The England striker who has maybe not quite yet fulfilled the enormous potential he showed in his teenage years was not at his best for much of last season, despite United winning the Premier League and Champions League. Whilst Fergie didn’t go as far as to agree that he didn’t have the best of seasons, he did admit that he needs to look at Rooney’s role within the team.

He said, “We need to define his role a bit better and I have to take some responsibility for that. I think he has sacrificed himself for the team, which says a lot about the lad because he never complained. We have played him wide and in other positions – he would play at centre-half if we asked him to. He may have benefited from having someone with more experience alongside him, which always happens with young strikers as he was never going to be the finished article at 22. We signed him for his potential, which is why we paid £26m for him. In a few years we’ll be saying that is really brilliant business.”

Is this a hint that an experienced striker might be on his way to Old Trafford to play alongside Rooney? Did someone mention Dimitar Berbatov?

It will be interesting to see now if Felipe Scolari is drawn into replying to Sir Alex’s comments. I suspect he won’t be, but it would be much more fun is he was.

Is there any basis to what Fergie has said about Chelsea? Well, in the likely starting line-up at Stamford Bridge only, Michael Ballack and Deco are over thirty, with Frank Lampard and Ricardo Carvalho both being exactly thirty.

For United? Garry Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are all well over thirty. They may not feature too regularly in the starting line-up but then again, Deco, Ballack and Lampard are unlikely to start too many games together.

As for Fergie’s comments about Chelsea having the same group of players, they have actually signed two established internationals whereas United have so far signed nobody.

He really is the king of the ‘wind up’ but I would hope that Scolari is too street wise to bother getting involved.

The next few months are going to be fun!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Graham Fisher


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