On Sunday, Man­chester United all but won the Pre­mier League title by bea­ting Chelsea 2 – 1. They did so with a per­for­mance to finally banish Didier Deschamps’ obser­va­tion that they lacked fan­tasy“, pier­cing the Chelsea defence with a first goal in 36 seconds and then threa­tening to do so at will throughout the game. Wayne Rooney was a ram­pa­ging menace, Ryan Giggs was an ageless artist, and Ji-Sung Park, utterly relent­less. It was a joyous after­noon for the Red Devils, who are now one point away from over­hau­ling great rivals Liver­pool as England’s most suc­cessful club. They will claim their record 19th league title either against Black­burn or Black­pool, and they will do so lar­gely because of one man – Sir Alex Fer­guson.

If he had managed any of the top four clubs this season,“ said Alan Hanson on Match of the Day, they would have won the league.“ Coming from a former Liver­pool legend, that is magn­ani­mous in the extreme. But in his 70th year, the bespec­ta­cled Glas­we­gian who has manned the United dugout since 1986, com­mands respect. 

When Fer­guson arrived at Old Traf­ford, Liver­pool already had 16 of their 18 league titles, United only seven. He has since then installed an asto­nis­hing win­ning cul­ture at the club and demons­trated a never-ending hunger for suc­cess. He has not only seen off Liver­pool in his time, but withs­tood Arsenal’s ass­ault on top spot and rele­gated Chelsea once more to second in the Pre­mier League pecking order. It is worth noting that, careta­kers included, Carlo Ance­lotti is the 15th Chelsea manager Fer­guson has faced in his time – that is a mea­sure of incredible staying power. Here are five of Ferguson’s facets, which might just have helped him to his extra­or­di­nary suc­cess: 

Respec­tful but not reac­tionary:

A bea­ming Sir Bobby Charlton applauded from the stands on Sunday and it is no wonder: Ferguson’s Man­chester United play with the same swagger, the same attacking flair, that was gospel under Sir Matt Busby. There is an iden­ti­fiable heri­tage at United but one Fer­guson has never been a slave to. After seeing his Pre­mier League-con­que­ring sides of the 1990s fail to domi­nate Europe for example, he dis­co­vered a new­found fle­xi­bi­lity in the 2000s, aban­do­ning 4−4−2 when required to play a counter-attacking game and even toying with a 4−6−0 after Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s depar­ture. 

With a ruth­less streak:

In an age where pam­pered mil­lion­aires have caused ruc­tions in other club dres­sing rooms, Fer­guson has never been afraid to remind his players that none are bigger than United. Stars inclu­ding David Beckham, Ruud Van Nistel­rooy, Roy Keane and Gabriel Heinze have all incurred his wrath and left under a cloud, and alt­hough Fer­guson did sell Jaap Stam too soon fol­lo­wing a fal­ling out over remarks in the defender’s auto­bio­graphy, he admits it was an error of jud­ge­ment. Unlike say Arsene Wenger, rou­ti­nely lam­pooned for his stubborn­ness, Fer­guson learns from his mistakes, too. 

Not afraid to dele­gate:
It is not all bibs, balls and cones for the number twos at United: Fer­guson has leaned on a suc­ces­sion of assi­stants during his long reign to remain fresh. Steve McClaren brought with him sports psy­cho­logy and video ana­lysis, while Carlos Queiroz is credited with broa­de­ning United’s tac­tical pallet and attrac­ting Por­tu­guese stars like Cris­tiano Ronaldo and Nani to the club. Simi­larly, Fer­guson has relied on his vete­rans to instil the club’s values in young players. Ryan Giggs edu­cates people in the dres­sing room,“ pointed out ex-Arsenal defender Lee Dixon over the wee­kend. I’m sure he does a lot of Ferguson’s work in there for him.“ 

A showman, too:

From his head­line-grab­bing mind games“ with rival mana­gers to his grand bow in front of Old Trafford’s Stret­ford End after Sunday’s game, Fer­guson is a man who knows he is in the enter­tain­ment busi­ness. He best sides have played elec­tri­fying foot­ball, but in their will to win have also estab­lished United as the go-to club for drama. The denoue­ment of 1999’s Cham­pions League final has etched itself into club mytho­logy and United now delight in snatching breath­ta­king late wins. Fer­guson loves it – and so do the 76,000 who fill Old Traf­ford every other wee­kend. We should have been out of sight but that’s the way of Man­chester United.“ Said Fer­guson after Sunday’s vic­tory. We take it to the wire, leave those poor souls in the stands having heart attacks, sit­ting on the edge of their seats, biting their nails – and I was one of them.“ 

And no grumpy old man:
Ok, he can be a little cur­mud­ge­only (ban­ning coloured boots in the youth team and snoods for the first team), but for a 69-year-old man, Fer­guson brims with energy. It is worth remem­be­ring that Fer­guson was sup­posed to retire in 2002 – ins­tead he has found a new lease of life working with young players. Both Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney seemed to rekindle his appe­tite for the game, and this season it is likely that Javier Her­nandez has had a simi­larly revi­vi­fying effect. Even the Da Silva twins have been trusted in clutch games this season and both shone. Rafael’s per­for­mance against Gareth Bale when Tot­tenham Hot­spur visited Old Traf­ford will for example have put a youthful spring in Ferguson’s step. Wrap­ping up the season with a third Cham­pions League title would no doubt have a similar effect on him. And who right now would bet against Fer­guson mana­ging that?

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Die Titus-Fuss­bal­ling-Eng-zyklo­pädie

An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die eng­li­sche Fuß­ball-Kultur auf Deutsch


Folge 38: Devon Loch

Es spricht wahr­schein­lich Bände über Eng­lands Sports­kultur, dass wir uns noch erin­nern, so einen spek­ta­ku­lären Miss­erfolg wie Devon Loch. Die Name des Renn­pferds wird noch heute in Fuss­ball benutzt wenn eine Mann­schaft die Tabelle mit so viele Punkte führt, dass einen unvor­stell­baren Ein­bruch nötig wäre, damit sie nicht die Liga gewinnen. Wah­rend des Grand Natio­nales 1956 hat Devon Loch kurz vor die Ziel­linie plötz­lich gesprungen und hat dann sich auf seinem Bauch hin­ge­legt. Nach Fuhren, hat er das Rennen nicht gewonnen. Das Leben ist hart. Es musste sich aus­ruhen. Wer ver­steht nicht dieses berüch­tigtes Pferd?