In the aftermath of Man United’s humbling defeat at Anfield, Sir Alex Ferguson is refusing to talk to the media and has apparently instructed his players to do the same (although Rio did tweet about the result). Cue huge outcry from journalists, concerned about Man United fans not hearing from their lord and predictable ‘sore loser’ label from Liverpool fans.
Fergie is already notorious for not speaking to the BBC as a protest over a 2004 BBC documentary that seemed to portray his agent son in a bad light (although the latter had never been found guilty of any wrongdoing). The manager allegedly cancelled his weekly media briefing last Friday after learning about an FA charge for comments made about referee Atkinson after the Chelsea match. Furthermore, he apparently even barred MUTV, the club’s own TV station because he thought the latter’s airing of a post-match interview led to the FA charge. And then, following the Anfield match, no one apart from a club spokesman who informed the media about Nani’s injury has given any interviews.
As expected, the reaction that followed from journalists was one of disgust. Most of them were concerned that Man United fans were being denied their right to an explanation following the crushing defeat. The words ‘disrespectful’ and ‘pathetic’ were being thrown around a lot. Of course, what the journalists do not mention is that they are being denied a priceless post-defeat quote from the most abrasive of managers. In terms of whether it was disrespectful towards us fans or not, I can only talk for myself. I did not need to hear from Fergie and even less so, Phelan! Did I want the usual “at the end of the day” boring stuff? No. Did I want Fergie to go on a rant about Carragher’s foul and get fined/banned? No. Did I want Phelan to say something safe and hence, mind-numbingly boring? No. Did I want Fergie to give an explanation for the defeat? Not really because most United fans can make up their own minds and also, it won’t change anything at all. So, for me, the concern for Man United fans on behalf of journalists is weak. I didn’t want to hear Fergie’s thoughts straight after the match. I think, because the media are obsessed with sensationalist headlines, they prefer to hear from managers who are still overflowing with emotion. As a football fan, I get incredibly agitated during United matches, whether we are winning or losing. Imagine how fired up managers and players are during and immediately after a match! Why not wait for a day to let everything sink in properly?
Now, coming to the actual issue of shunning the media, I can almost see why Fergie is doing it. He is definitely very angry about the last week’s charge, but he also knows that he is managing to deflect focus from United’s deficiencies on the pitch on Sunday, like he does so often. Fergie is a master at creating a siege mentality within his squad. He is a phenomenal man-manager and that is why he always gets the best out of players who, some might think, are not fit to wear the United shirt, but who perform well in a tightly knit team. Mourinho and Wenger (although lesser these days) are two other brilliant managers who use similar techniques to great effect. Nevertheless, I hope I am not the only one who found this latest rift a bit uncomfortable. I understand the shifting of focus from the team’s shortcomings, but I can’t help thinking that Fergie is going too far. I can’t help thinking that this is more about him than about the club. I sometimes think that we need to set the example, not be the first to throw our toys out of the pram. Although unlikely, this kind of reaction can also affect the players negatively. It definitely puts the club in very bad light. It’s perhaps less harmful to not talk to the media yourself and send a player who can barely speak English to talk to the journalists! Although I do trust Fergie blindly and barely care about what other people think of Man United, I have to admit that I felt this latest decision of his was childish and is not helping the club at all. All it’s doing is giving the ABUs more ammunition.
Finally, let me quickly tackle the issue of Liverpool fans labelling Fergie a sore loser.
Most of them sound like its news to them. Fergie is one of the most passionate managers around. He is hurting more than most United fans out there and his own players. Did Liverpool fans really want him to come in front of the camera and half-heartedly say something like “fair play to Liverpool”? Or would they have only appreciated their win if they could see the man vent his fury about a very contentious refereeing decision?
Please just enjoy your win and your battle with Bolton for 6th place, don’t be sore winners!