Manchester’s odd couple are united

Manchester, so much to answer for.

Manchester’s odd couple are united

The arrival of Morrissey’s autobiography a coupe of weeks ago was a publishing-cum-cultural event, with wistful 40-somethings all over the English-speaking world casting their minds back to a time when The Smiths weren’t so much a band as a guide to how to live your life.

Then, last week, we had the arrival of Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, which quickly became the only topic of conversation in the western hemisphere, largely due to the stunning revelation his former captain, Roy Keane, has a bit of a temper.

In other news, water is wet.

It’s entirely natural everyone has been fixated on the Keane saga in the book, but if you step back and look at this in a bit of context, there’s a good deal more to take in than the nonsense of a contrived argument.

For instance, it would be far more interesting to everyone, Man United obsessives included, if the publishers’ original plan had been followed, and each man had written the other’s book.

Then you could have enjoyed Morrissey on the Keane temper: “Sweet agony today as Spurs did for us in delicate carnage, our Wildean passes counting for nothing in the teeth of their brutish footwork.

“Afterwards, Roy is in one of his moods, alternating between charm and desolation. ‘I would go out tonight’, he says, ‘But every day is like Sunday’. Oh Dallow, Spicer, Pinkie, Cubitt, never mind rushing to danger, rush to cover the blindside run.”

On the other side, you could read Ferguson on the fey musical stylings of the early ’80s: “The Associates this evening on Top of the Pops. Battered them. Absolutely battered them.

“And, as for that Gary Numan? I’m one the only one who thinks he’s not a top, top keyboard player. The rest fall all over him, but I’m not convinced. To me he’s just too slow to take on that extra chord.”

Fantasy, of course, though it was worth checking out The Guardian’s sly quiz during the week, which offered sentences from both volumes and invited readers to pick which book the excerpts came from.

The fact both men have been so instrumental in a city which has as much Irish heritage as Manchester means there’s plenty of joy to be had if you sift them carefully.

Apart from Keane, Denis Irwin gets a mention in Ferguson’s book, unsurprisingly, while Morrissey’s bandmates sound like a Galway full-back line — Maher, Rourke and Joyce.

The singer’s book was published as a Penguin Classic; from what we’ve seen both books could be filed in that particular part of the bookshelf.

Roy too personal about business

Speaking of Roy Keane . . . I was not at the testimonial dinner for Ronan O’Gara last week (we don’t really speak ever since he snaffled that last scone on me the last time I met him for coffee. In the words of one of his clubmates, men have died for less.) Anyway, Roy was there, and my understanding is that the reception he got left nobody in any doubt as to which side the people in the Deep South are backing in the Fergie-Keane wars.

At the risk of granting the Ferguson book any more deep draughts of the oxygen of publicity — particularly as I myself have a book out which is trying to fill its lungs with the self-same oxygen (time to smother this metaphor — ed), I make one point.

Playing Devil’s Advocate, the surprising thing for this observer is the surprise among readers that Ferguson would be so swift to cut Keane loose. Where’s the loyalty? was the implied question, one that was articulated by Keane himself.

But while the reporting of Keane’s riposte hinted at bitterness, I’m not so sure.

Ferguson is simply stating the facts as he sees them: that driving a huge sporting organisation to unprecedented success for over quarter of a century means making ruthless decisions based on cold evaluation of the present, not fond memories of the past. Loyalty is a term that soon loses its currency in that environment.

To quote another forbidding figure, though one in a different line of business, it’s not personal. Just business.

Senna documentary lives up to the hype

For a variety of reasons which need not detain us here, I am currently off work, which means I’ve been catching up with stuff that I taped on the UPC on-demand service over the past few months.

Thus far I can state definitively that The Americans is a far better series than Masters of Sex. This is largely due to my problem with the casting in the latter, because I associate its star, Michael Sheen, with being the voice of Dr Griffiths in Tinkerbell: The Great Fairy Rescue.

His work in Masters of Sex is quite different. Any further elaboration will scar me forever.

I have also watched some sports stuff along the way, mind. I taped a documentary about the British Olympic rower James Cracknell which details his extreme marathon running and so forth, but which also casts an eye back at his Olympic career, and shows him training with immortals like Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent.

Seeing these giants push themselves so hard on the ergometer — the stationary rowing machine — that they end up falling off almost unconscious, eyes rolling in oxygen debt, is enough to make you re-evaluate their achievements in achieving multiple Olympic gold upwards, if that’s possible.

However, I’ve also caught up with Senna, the documentary about Formula One champ Ayrton Senna. I’d heard so much about this that I doubted it could match the hype.

I was wrong.

I still give the gold to Ken Burns’s magisterial Baseball as the greatest sports documentary of all time, but in fairness, that’s nine two-hour episodes (and a recent, further additional episode).

Senna has to take the prize for single-episode documentary, though. I’m open to correction and would welcome (gentle) contradiction, but if you haven’t seen this, catch up with it soon. The Senna/Ron Dennis conversation before Senna left Dennis’s team — captured, incredibly, on film — makes the experience worthwhile almost on its own.

Donoghue’s loss incalculable

The generous tribute paid by Kilbeacanty GAA club to the late Niall Donoghue has probably been seen by most readers at this stage. It is that rare combination of the particular and the personal, a glowing evocation of a departed friend, alongside the general: a lesson, maybe, to people and organisations all over the country.

I’ll go no further than that. There was a good deal of leaping to conclusions and assuming-one-knew-everything in some of the outpourings on social media and message boards following Donoghue’s passing. People should remember a family is always behind the fact in these situations; it won’t hurt anyone if you rein in the speculation — unless the family gave you express instructions to the contrary, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t the case for the vast majority of those commenting.

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