Browsing Tag

Sir Alex Ferguson

Welcome Ralf

After Manchester United sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjær, there were all sorts of rumors flying around linking the club to the best managers available (or not available— at least not until the end of the season).

Brendan Rodgers was supposedly house-hunting in Cheshire. Zinedine Zidane was, reportedly, the choice of the Glazers. Or maybe it was Mauricio Pochettino, who United supposedly made a play for but were turned down. Or Luis Enrique of the Spanish National Team, who laughed off reports linking him to the job. Or fellow Barca alum Ernesto Valverde, who reportedly met with United brass. Or United legend Steve Bruce.

Ok, it was never going to be Steve Bruce.

But one name stood out: Ralf Rangnick. (Or as my wife calls him, “Ralf Ragnarok.”)

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Asleep at the Wheel

Never let it be said that Ole Gunnar Solskjær wasn’t the ultimate company man.

When Manchester United finally decided to sack him as manager after a series of humiliating losses and poor performances but didn’t want to use that terminology, Solskjær went along with the charade and said that he was “stepping aside.” He even gave an exit interview with ManUtd.com that was full of platitudes and niceties. He even managed, with a straight face, to deliver lines like “It was time for me to step aside” and “I’m going to leave by the front door” even though everyone knows he’s being shoved aside (and deservedly so, but that doesn’t mean he should have to swallow his pride or continuing taking one for the team on the way out). I can only imagine what Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho would have said to that. Probably a two word phrase that starts with the letter “f” and ends with the word “off.”

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Return of the King

A lot can change in 24 hours. Just ask Jack Bauer.

Or Cristiano Ronaldo. On Thursday, it looked like he was ready to break the hearts of the faithful United fans who still sing his name and join Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. In doing so, he would be the eighth player to suit up for both United and City — and the third player from that vaunted 2007-2008 Champions League winning team to do so.

But then the United Network kicked in. Sir Alex Ferguson spoke to the player he’s long had a fatherly affection for and tried to get him to come home, something he thought he had accomplished in 2013 as his last act before retirement. Former teammates weighed in, with Rio Ferdinand calling to try and talk him out of joining City, Patrice Evra keeping tabs via WhatsApp and Wayne Rooney sending a message through the media. Even Bruno Fernandes reached out to his fellow Portuguese international and Sporting Lisbon alum to try and change his mind and sell him on an unlikely homecoming.

It worked.

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A Treble of Coins Commemorating Manchester United’s Greatest Accomplishment

You’d forgive Manchester United fans like yours truly for living in the past. These last six years have been painful – especially for those of us who came of age during the Sir Alex Ferguson era, when the club collected trophies the way I collect coins. From Ferguson’s appointment in 1986 to his retirement in 2013, United won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles and two UEFA Champions League crowns.

His finest moment came twenty years ago, this week. United played Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final held at the Nou Camp in Barcelona. Both sides were chasing a historic treble, having won their respective leagues and primary league cups. Both sides were evenly matched and loaded with talented players, however United were slight underdogs heading into the match, owing to suspensions to team captain Roy Keane and playmaker Paul Scholes.

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The Manager Formerly Known as the Special One.

Manchester United sacked Mourinho on Tuesday morning before training began. Club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjær has been named caretaker manager for the rest of the season, whereupon the club will appoint a permanent manager – maybe Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham, ex-Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, or Mourinho’s BFF Antonio Conte. Or maybe someone else. Who knows?

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Exit Adnan

West Brom 5-5 Manchester United on the last day of the 2012-13 season was notable for several reasons. It was Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game in charge. It marked the only time that Romelu Lukaku ever scored against United, as the Chelsea loanee (and recent potential world record signee) bagged a hat trick as a substitute.

Perhaps the most important figure, however, was a baby-faced 18 year-old who looked out of place sitting at the grownup table. The West Brom match marked the first time that a young, promising Academy product named Adnan Januzaj was listed on the team sheet for a Premier League match. He didn’t get into the game, as West Brom’s comeback meant that there would be no opportunities for any debutantes. Nevertheless, his very presence on the bench was powerfully symbolic. Arriving at United via Anderlecht, the talented Belgian /Albanian /Kosovar represented the best of Ferguson’s youth policy and was one of the biggest reasons why David Moyes got the job over more established names like Jose Mourinho. After Januzaj was the lone bright spot during the traumatic 2013-2014 season, it seemed like he was well on his way to becoming a world class winger in the vein of Ryan Giggs, the legend whose number he inherited the following season.

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“A Season in the Red”: How David Moyes Beat Himself Before Chelsea, Everton, Man City, Liverpool (and a Ton of Other Teams) Did.

“He is a modest man who has a lot to be modest about,” Winston Churchill reportedly said about political rival Clement Attlee. Of course, Attlee got the last laugh, defeating Churchill in the 1945 parliamentary elections, but the (possibly apocryphal) put-down lives on in political lore.

Churchill’s quip was on my mind as I read  “A Season in the Red,” by the Guardian’s Jamie Jackson. The book, which was released this month in the United States, chronicles all of the various missteps and mishaps from David Moyes’s disastrous 10-month stint at Old Trafford. The book, which covers both Moyes’s ill-fated tenure, as well as the first year of Louis van Gaal’s reign, is written primarily from the perspective of the press corp covering the team during that tumultuous two-year period following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

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The Ballad of Clever Tom

(Sung to the tune of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett“)

Come and listen to a story about a man named Tom,
Clever midfielder, thought he was the bomb.
Then one day he was lighting up the grounds,
And Sir Alex came a calling – he was Manchester bound.
(United that is. 20 league titles. 3 European crowns)

Well next thing you know, he’s creating lots of goals,
Starting for United, he’s the next Paul Scholes.
Bossed Arsene’s boys – clinched the Shield at Wembley,
The sky was the limit for that lad Cleverley!
(Tom that is. TC23! Future England superstar!)

But then Clever Tom had some really bad years,
No more forward passes, always stuck in second gear.
Said it wasn’t his fault; sent to Villa on loan,
Now Goodison Park is his brand new home.
(Best of luck at Everton, Tom. But please don’t come back now, ya hear?)

The Manchester United Perennial Transfer Targets XI

For certain players, being linked with Manchester United has become a semi-annual tradition. Some players have been on the verge of joining United for so many years that you wonder whether media outlets merely have templates that they trot out every few months where they just fill in the name and price.

In fact, you can make a pretty good team with all of the players that Manchester United have been linked with in the transfer market over the last few years. Some ground rules: I looked at longevity of the rumors and gave preference to players who are still currently linked to the club (sorry Cesc). Also, I disqualified Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Gerard Pique and other ex-United players because it’s only natural for them to be linked to their former team.

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It Was Seven Years Ago Today

One of my favorite memories. Cristiano Ronaldo scoring on a beautiful header off a Wes Brown cross. Ryan Giggs nearly scoring in extra time. Drogba hitting the post, then getting sent off near the end of extra time for slapping Nemanja Vidic. Both sides employing game theory during the penalty shootout. Ronaldo missing his penalty. John Terry slipping and falling. Edwin van der Sar psyching out Nicolas Anelka. And, of course, Manchester United winning its third, and to date, last, Champions League trophy.

This match also marked the start of my professional writing career. At least I’ll always know that I started out on a high.