Alex Ferguson has been mercifully quiet since his retirement, contenting himself in the main with a seat in the stands from which to glare down balefully at the struggles of his hapless and helpless successor, David “Gollum” Moyes. It’s been a quieter and more peaceful – even saner – game without the rantings of the whisky-nosed old curmudgeon. Although Moyes’ plight has been pitiful to behold, at least some light has been shed on what was behind the success of virtually the same team last season, which looks so spectacularly inept this time around. It’s been Fergie all the time it seems; terrifying opponents, refs and FA officials alike into granting his team every advantage they could wish for. Now that he’s subsided into a brooding and impotent silence, away from the arena itself, the game seems a fairer and cleaner thing, with everyone a lot happier – fans all over Devon and Cornwall and in Milton Keynes who have Man U sympathies always excepted.
The old tyrant’s broken that silence this weekend though, deigning to pronounce upon the Premier League Title race, for which he sees a wider-than-usual field of maybe as many as six possible contenders. Pushing the margins of credibility, he includes old charges Man U among these contenders, along with the Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea and even Everton and Spurs. Notable by their absence from this select group of “Fergie’s Favourites” is Liverpool FC, a name that the Govan Gob studiously avoided mentioning, wary perhaps of bringing on an attack of apoplexy. Clearly, the purple-nosed Taggart clone still has a problem with a club he vowed to “knock off their perch” when he first slithered south all those years ago. How he failed to do that, despite all those lies, damned lies and statistics, is detailed below.
Let’s face it – Man U fans can crow all they want about 20 titles, but the evidence to confound their plastic claims is there for all to see, like some geological stratum separating the dinosaurs from the mammoths. That schism dividing the game up to ’92, from the showbiz shenanigans of ’93 onwards, stands out like a Tory at a Foodbank, exposing Man U as the wealth-backed, monopolising opportunists that they are. Seven titles in their history before Uncle Rupert bought the game for them. Thirteen in the twenty years after the game went mad for money when, aided by more riches than anyone else, combined with the threat of Fergie to cow refs and officials, the Pride of Devon all but cleaned up in what was no more or less than a game of craps played with the dice heavily loaded in their favour. And it was all done with such bad grace, another indictment of this new and joyless age we’ve been plodding through. No gentle wisdom of the Bob Paisley variety – instead we had the sour bile of Ferguson himself and now seemingly a Fergie-Lite clone in the newly growly and grouchy David Moyes. No loveable old-style hard-man Desperate Dan type like Tommy Smith – we just had the manufactured machismo of Roy Keane, a supposed tough-guy with an assumed snarl and trademark glower, whose typical party trick was to sneak up behind wee Jason McAteer and fell that not-exactly-scary individual with a sly elbow.
The comparisons could go on all day, but the bottom line is that Liverpool at their peak – and it was a hell of a peak – typified all the values of football that some of us remember from a pre-Sky, pre-glitz, pre-greed age when it really was all about a ball. Now, it’s all about money, and contracts, and egos, and snide bitching to the media if you don’t get all your own way – and lo, we have the champions we deserve – but not, it seems, for very much longer – despite the wishful thinking of a silly and deluded old man.
To apply a conversion rate which sums up the way our game has been degraded in the Fergie/Murdoch era – let’s say that each Premier League (or Premiership, or whatever else it’s been marketed as) is worth maybe half – at the very most – of each proper Football League Championship, won on a level playing field in the days when the game still belonged to us and the world was a happier and more carefree place. At that rate, Man U are still a good long distance behind Liverpool, which, on the basis of the history of English football as a whole, is precisely where they belong.
Ferguson might choose to ignore the challenge of a newly-invigorated Liverpool, but then again, football knowledge was never the strong point of the Demented One. For bullying and intimidation, he wouldn’t have had much to learn from Torquemada, but his opinions on the game can safely be set aside in favour of those from saner minds – i.e. just about anyone else. Meanwhile, it should be emphasised once and for all, for the avoidance of doubt and despite the latest nonsense from S’ralex – Liverpool are still very much The Greatest.