Thursday, July 18, 2024

Back in our hands + thoughts on Ferguson

It was a fairly quiet day yesterday from an Arsenal point of view, but there’s definitely stuff to talk about this morning.

Starting with last night’s 2-2 draw between Chelsea and Sp*rs. I didn’t watch, I have to admit. After a long day of work Mrs Blogs and I watched a bit of House of Cards (seemed apt, in terms of title at least), but I followed the score on Twitter. Given their propensity for late goals recently I was expecting the bloke who is trying to trademark having hands (I suppose he’d have Disney on his case if he tried ears, what with Dumbo and all), to score a late one but it remained a draw until the end.

While a Chelsea win would have been preferable, allowing us to draw one of our final games because of our superior goal difference, it’s back in our hands and I don’t think we can ask for much more than that. Win our final two games and we finish in the top four, end of story. We can finish above Chelsea too but are dependent on them dropping points to avoid a qualification round.

Still, at this point of the season, beggars can’t be choosers and while two wins was always going to be the target it makes things very simple now. This weekend may make life easier but I don’t see Chelsea slipping up against Villa and there’s more chance of Joey Barton becoming pope than there is of Stoke getting anything from their game against Sp*rs. The beauty of the situation is that we don’t have to concern ourselves with other results too much. Do what we need to do and we’re there. If we let it slip now we’ll have nobody to blame but ourselves.

The other big story of yesterday was, of course, the retirement of Alex Ferguson. Let me get the nice stuff out of the way first. As a football manager what he achieved was extraordinary. His success, once he got going after some barren early years at United, was sustained and that’s an incredibly hard thing to do, as we know. The list of trophies speaks for itself and that, in recent years, he was able to do it with teams far less accomplished than some of his best was a testament to his management skills.

As well as that, the era when it was us against them, like two rutting stags, is surely a high point for any Arsenal, and United, fan. The intensity of the rivalry was something else, the games themselves were events that even Sky didn’t have to hype up the way they’re forced to these days. The drama was inherent in the contests. Vieira and Keane, Ferguson and Wenger, United’s golden generation against Wenger’s best teams.

It was epic at times, most of the time it was merely thrilling, nerve-shredding, passionate and hot-blooded. There were great moments for both sides. Overmars scoring that goal at their place on that incredible run to Wenger’s first league title, Giggs at Villa Park, Wiltord at Old Trafford to win the league, the van Nistelrooy day, the scrap in the tunnel, the day they cheated and booted their way to ending our unbeaten run. It was, despite all the ups and downs, the very best of football and for that we should be grateful to Ferguson as much as Wenger.

Yet, it strikes me there’s a touch of revisionism to the whole retirement thing. I don’t know if this is as prevalent in other countries as it is in Ireland, but regardless of the character of somebody who died, nobody will say a bad word against him.

“Well, there you, Seamus is gone.”

“He is.”

“Decent fella.”

“He wasn’t really, when you think about.”

“Come on, now.”

“He was an alcoholic who beat his wife.”

“Sure, don’t we all love a drink? It was the drink did the bad things, not him.”

“An inveterate gambler.”

“A game of cards never hurt anyone.”

“He was a rotten thief.”

“Needs must, you know yourself.”

“Never paid his debts.”

“Well …”

“Miserable with money, never bought a round, would beat up old people and rob their houses, nicked from the collection plate at church, had an affair with his own neice …”

“Ah, sure he was a grand lad really, have a pint.”

The very best things that Ferguson brought to the football world were borne out of his undoubted will to win, but they were completely and utterly at odds with ours and our desires as Arsenal fans. For all his talent as a manager he was rude, boorish, ignorant and incredibly, incredibly annoying. He was a hypocrite, what was good for his team was means for vociferous, spittle-flecked complaint when enjoyed, however rarely, by others.

People might laugh at ‘Fergie time’ now but think back to when a referee stuck 5 or 6 minutes of injury time on to a game in which we were holding a lead, or in a game in which we needed them to drop points only for a late goal to scupper things. Not so funny. He had a team who would berate and intimidate referees, very much in his image, yet when anyone had the temerity to question him, regardless of the legitimacy of it, he’d throw his toys out of the pram.

He danced on our pitch, he fought with our manager, he was so irritating one of our players chucked a slice of pizza in his face, and while I completely and utterly respect what he did, I didn’t like him then and I don’t like him now. I’m also sure that’s pretty much exactly how he wanted it. I realise there’s a vast difference between someone’s public image and the private reality. Lots of the tributes posted in the last 24 hours have spoken about the side of him that people didn’t see, the decent, charitable one, but having never been party to that I can only go from what he showed us.

And if you weren’t a United fan there wasn’t a great deal to like. He cultivated that, no doubt about it, revelled in it, I’m sure. It was part of how he worked, part of what made him and his teams successful, and he’d never make any apologies for it. Nor should he.

If things were less contentious in recent seasons and he wasn’t the same, objectionable, loathsome old crank, that was entirely down to us not being as much of a threat as we used to be. It wasn’t him suddenly becoming nicer in his old age. If we’d been more competitive you can be quite sure the opprobrium would have returned.

“Ah sure he was a grand lad really.”

No, he wasn’t. What he did was amazing, but I’m glad he’s gone.

The miserable old bollocks.

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