This week I thought I would diverge from my usual straight-laced approach to these Wednesday football scribblings to indulge in a little conspiracy theorising. The subject, and one I am loathed to return to, especially given Gavin’s comprehensive covering of the subject, is the recent Wayne Rooney saga. I have an inkling, however, that the protagonist in that rather drawn out tale was not the Manchester United striker at all but his manager and known master manipulator Sir Alex Ferguson.
Alex Ferguson is one of the finest managers in the history of the sport and certainly the most successful to have graced the English game. He is tactically astute, protects his players gallantly and is adept at managing the media to promote United’s cause. This has won him unprecedented silverware; collecting 11 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups and 2 Champions League winner medals.
Fergie has been faced with a problem recently though. He will reach the age of 70 next year and probably does not have too long before he retires. This somewhat limits the amount of time he has to build a Championship winning squad. He seems to be further hampered by the money on offer from the club’s owners. Despite protestations to the contrary, the buying of cheaper inexperienced players over the summer pointed to a lack of cash around Manchester United. He has faced this before. In his 1999 autobiography, Managing My Life, Ferguson recalls the time when Eric Cantona left the club. Cantona felt that “United were not ambitious enough in the purchase of players.” Ferguson goes on to say that “I had a lot of sympathy with him”.
Football has changed though. In a time where clubs – especially those in huge debt – cannot afford to lose their star assets for nothing, I think Ferguson sensed an opportunity.
By manipulating the situation and media I reckon a game of brinkmanship was undertaken with the Glazers. This culminated in his Oscar-winning interview and Rooney’s public statement over a lack of ambition at the club. Wayne Rooney commands over 30 millions hits on Google, making him the most mentioned player on the planet and must easily make enough income for Manchester United in merchandising and exposure abroad to cover his mammoth new contract and initial 25 million pound transfer fee. Faced with the prospect of losing such a revenue earning colossus, the Glazers were left with very little option but to subside to his and ultimately Ferguson’s wishes.
Whether Rooney was complicit to this I would not like to hazard a guess. Although a dangerous tactic by Ferguson if he was not, it was maybe that Sir Alex banked on him coming running back to the club on the provision of a fat new contract and promises of shiny marquee signings.
Gary Neville suggested in his column for the Sunday Times of Malta (bizarre I know) following the conclusion to the affair that “The best outcome was reached for all parties”. I have to say, given the interest payments spiralling out of control at the moment, that from the Glazers perspective that may not entirely be true but perhaps that was Ferguson’s deeper point. I think, however, that may be a Green and Gold conspiracy best saved for another day.
Changing the subject completely but maintaining a rather light-hearted approach to this week’s football, I was amused to see Robin Van Persie sharing his injury problems with those around him. It’s a little mean to laugh at this but it’s difficult not to!