If Sir Alex Ferguson can’t control his players, what hope is there for other managers?

Ollie Irish

15th, June 2009


Sunderland-v-Manchester-U-004.jpgTime was, the only way you’d leave Old Trafford was on the say-so of Ferguson. A United player’s future was almost entirely in Ferguson’s hands. Those days are long gone.
Player power is so great that football managers no longer inspire fear in the men they manage. Sometimes they don’t even inspire basic respect (see Didier Drogba’s refusal to play for Big Phil Scolari).

Even Fergie appears to be losing his edge. Could he stop Cristiano Ronaldo leaving Old Trafford? No, he couldn’t. C-Ron has no fear of Fergie’s hairdryer; it’s an outdated tool, ineffective on the very best players, who want for nothing and only listen to their agents (I’m sure Ferguson knows this too).
And when Ferguson himself phoned up Carlos Tevez to try and persuade him to stay at United, Tevez did not cower and say “Yes, gaffer, whatever you say.” Instead, the Argentine bristled and made up his mind to leave (so it seems).
It takes a very special, very charismatic man to successfully manage today’s vainglorious brand of football star - young, thrusting chaps like Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, for example. Men with stubble.
The rise in dugout tantrums is no anomaly or coincidence. It’s the direct consequence of the disproportionate amount of power players now have. If they think they are above their managers, as so many do, then something is very wrong with the game.
Football needs to take its cue from the major American sports. In baseball, basketball and American football, head coaches are (generally) respected 100% and treated accordingly by their playing staff. The head coach is God, a father figure and a boss rolled into one. It used to be the same in football (see Alf Ramsay, Bill Shankly, Matt Busby, Brian Clough etc.), but the tidal wave of money that has flooded the sport has reshaped the role of a manager, for the worse.
All of which has left Fergie looking rather like an old wizard who has lost his magic staff. And if Fergie can’t get a little respect, what hope is there for men like Gary Megson?

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  1. EricTheGreen says:

    re: emulating American sports managers. Maybe managers are respected in some alternate-reality America, but the profession sports leagues in the America I live in feature regular player mutinies, grandstanding, curious injuries following disagreements over playing time, contract holdouts and proxy wars via the media between players and managers on a depressingly regular basis.
    Basketball is truly the worst of the lot, but baseball and football aren’t far behind. Don’t look for help from here, unfortunately.

  2. Ollie says:

    Really? Times have changed Stateside too, then.

  3. dp says:

    As usual, the truth is somewhere in between. Player power is limited, especially in the NFL, by the fact that it is very easy to just let someone go if they rock the boat too much (see Owens, Terrell). Basketball is, if anything, worse than even football in terms of how much power players have, but even that’s been limited by fan sentiment–the newer generation of player is far more paranoid about public perception, as the Detroit-Indiana brawl and the me-first generation of Iverson drove fans away in droves in the absence of Jordan. And in baseball, there are plenty of egos, but the system of trades and free agency mitigates friction and managers generally are listened (and as soon as they’re not, they’re fired).

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