31/08/2013 15:43

Alex Ferguson`s Mistake


Manchester United manager Ron Atkinson was the most successful since Tommy Docherty, which wasn`t saying much, because Docherty had only won the Football Association Challenge Cup against Liverpool, 2-1 in 1977, since Sir Matt Busby`s European Cup Final win over Benfica 4-1 in 1968. In 1983 and 1985 `Big Ron`  had won the FA Cup but sold star striker Mark Hughes to FC Barcelona of Spain, where Hughes earned the nickname `El Torro`, `the bull`, for his aggressive refusal to admit defeat and, although he left United, Hughes had scored 16 and 17 goals in consecutive seasons, which meant he was their most recently proven player before Ron Atkinson`s amazing decision to sell him on after his 1983 debut and subsequent astonishing success on the manager`s behalf.
 Ron Atkinson discovered he`d committed suicide as a manager. After unearthing the only talented centre forward developed by United since Matt Busby`s last signing, Sammy McIlroy, a part of the team that won the FA Cup for Docherty in 1977, after his debut on 6 November, 1971, against Manchester City in which he scored in a 3-3 draw, Ron Atkinson was sacked by the club for failing to win a major trophy, that is, the English championship or the European Cup, since his replacing of Dave Sexton in 1981.
 Alex Ferguson`s first real decision as manager at Manchester United was to bring back Mark Hughes as his centre forward, which was rewarded by Hughes` goalscoring prowess in a period that saw United win the FA Cup (1990, 1994), the European Cup Winners` Cup (1991), and the English Championship (1993, 1994), before Hughes` goal tally, as a `converted` midfield player, dropped below double figures in 1995 - and he left.
 It was FC Barcelona that Manchester United beat in the European Cup Winners` Cup of 1991, 2-1, and Hughes` two goals that cemented Ferguson`s era of success. When midfield maestro Paul Scholes scored the single goal of a two leg semi-final against Barcelona to give the team a 1-0 aggregate win and afford Manchester United the opportunity to beat Chelsea with a deciding Ryan Giggs` penalty after a 1-1 draw and extra time in the 2008 European Cup Final, the Ferguson era looked to be crowned with success. However, Ferguson subsequently lost the European Cup Final twice in succession against Barcelona (2009, 2011) when he preferred Park Ji Sung to Paul Scholes, who was the player quite rightly `most feared` by Barca in 2008 and United lost 0-2 and 1-3.
 Moreover, Ferguson didn`t play his most potent forward, Dimitar Berbatov, who had arrived at Manchester United at the beginning of the 2008-9 season when the players went on to win the English Championship for the third successive season. Berbatov went on to success in the League Cup (2010), and the Championship in 2011, while United again lost the European Cup Final to Barcelona in Berbatov`s and Scholes` absence. In 2011-12 Ferguson preferred Danny Welbeck to Berbatov, who`d scored 7 goals in 5 starts, while Welbeck finished the term on 9 goals from 23 starts with 7 appearances as a substitute and United failed to win the Championship on `goal difference` from Manchester City, which was the first time the English league Championship had been won by the team that scored the most goals.
 Acknowledging his mistake in preferring the limited striking abilities of Welbeck to proven goalscorer Berbatov, Ferguson had asked Paul Scholes to come out of retirement, after his being disastrously overlooked in the European Cup Final defeat to Barca in 2011, and the following year Scholes did help the club to another Championship, despite Berbatov`s leaving and Welbeck`s scoring only one goal in 27 appearances throughout the league season, because Ferguson had bought Robin Van Persie in his last inspirational move as a manager and the former Arsenal forward scored 26 goals to outweigh Welbeck`s meagre goal tally.
 With his reputation restored Ferguson retired in the full knowledge that his preference for enthusiasm over content had cost Manchester United two European Cup Finals and a certain Championship. He was embarassed. Manchester United`s managerial successor, David Moyes, selected Danny Welbeck as centre forward for the Charity Shield of 2013 and United won the season`s opening game between the Champions and the FA Cup winners Wigan 2-0 while Welbeck scored two goals to double his tally for the previous season in the opening league game against Swansea, which United won 4-1.
 Moyes` reported decision to give star centre forward, Wayne Rooney, a new contract was received with relief by fans, while reports persisted that Javier Hernandez, who had been in double figures as a goalscorer at United for the previous three seasons, in which the players had won the Championship twice (2011, 2013), was to be transferred to Tottenham Hotspur for an `unspecified fee`. The scenario seemed similar to that obtaining before Hughes was sold by Atkinson to Barca in 1986 when a newly proven United goal legend was suicidally exited from the club for no apparent reason other than that the manager couldn`t accept that degree of potency from a rising star.
 Although the sexual metaphor seems inappropriate, Ferguson had a similar problem with Ruud Van Nistelrooy (2001-6), who was prolific to a fault with 95 goals in 150 appearances, and who had won the Championship in 2003 and the FA Cup in 2004 with a large part of the United team that had won successive titles from 1999-2001. Nistelrooy was on his way out of Old Trafford`s `Theatre of Dreams` stadium after Ferguson preferred the almost perennially injured Louis Saha in the 2006 League Cup Final win over Wigan, 4-0. 
 After Nistelrooy`s departure United didn`t win the Championship again until 2007 and the `pattern` had emerged. Javier Hernandez`s departure could signify David Moyes` arrival in the mould of managerial suicides after the fashion of Ron Atkinson`s decision to sell Mark Hughes to FC Barcelona in 1986 and Ferguson`s preference for the injury prone Louis Saha over Ruud Van Nistelrooy`s indefatigable potency as a centre forward, and Danny Welbeck`s incapacity for goalscoring  over `Stretford End`1 goal hero Dimitar Berbatov.
 Similarities between Javier Hernandez and the youthful Mark Hughes were almost eerie. Double figures in successive seasons as a goalscorer not being deemed sufficient for the manager to keep the player. Mark Hughes` return from exile in Europe led to Alex Ferguson`s legendary status as a winner, but David Moyes` falling into the trap of preferring impotency over potency in players, because the manager can`t handle it, is the danger and threat to United`s continuing success and the exit of Hernandez would confirm it.
1 The West stand at Manchester United`s Old Trafford Stadium, which contains the fans who traditionally stand behind the home goal, while the away team`s supporters are behind the away goal opposite.
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