Fergie’s wish to go out a winner sealed the fate of Moyes

A certain symmetry. The man who went before — Big Ron — met Alex Ferguson in autumn of 1986 and found him strangely distant. Soon after, the rumours Ron had heard proved correct.

Fergie’s wish to go out a winner sealed the fate of Moyes

As the tattle was told this week, we heard that David Moyes found Fergie rather aloof recently. Being The Man Who Knows Everything gets a little awkward every now and again.

We tend to remember how United managers faced the sack. Wilf McGuinness’s hair fell out, Frank O’Farrell was drawn into a bitter wrangle, Ron — never likely to drop the brash guard — asked Martin Edwards if he could still use the gym for seven-a-sides on Fridays.

David Moyes released a measured statement of thanks with the subtlest barb — he omitted the players. A gesture of frustration that summed up a reign? Reasonably polite, yet meek as the regular assurances that United would do their best to turn things around; belated as that first signing of Fellaini that signalled a lack of intent; futile as the final touchline chat with Steve Round over a lovingly-bound set-piece manual.

But it is easy now to read everything Moyes did as wrong.

That amusing thing new managers do; when they sit in the stands for the first game and the result doesn’t go on their record — maybe the reverse should apply to old managers who go and sit in the stand. But make it a season.

Fergie never had the knack for aphorisms of Vince Lombardi. They haven’t yet called a trophy after him either, though now might be a fun time to do so, ahead of the perch handover.

But he shared the need the legendary Green Bay Packers coach had to exit with glory.

As his receiver Gary Knafelc put it: “Lombardi didn’t do Phil any favours. The Packers were old and dead. Lombardi didn’t want to go down a loser.”

Phil was Bengston, the mild-mannered, introverted coach that followed when the abrasive Lombardi retired to the stands. Not a defensive coach, like Moyesy, but a defence coach.

Bengston, too, made champions mediocre. It went on his record anyway.

In the book When Leadership Mattered by David Claerbaut, about Lombardi’s great quarterback Bart Starr, there is a gushing letter of thanks to Lombardi from Starr’s father: “He gives you the entire credit for any and all success that he has had.”

The next season, the grumbling started. Starr was accused of holding the ball too long. Maybe it was perception. In the great years, he was known as the Statue of Liberty for his ability to stand still and wait.

But everything was wrong now. Bengston was considered too soft, accused of backing his players no matter what. Yet a few weeks before he resigned, linebacker Dave Robinson said the new coach had “levied more fines than Lombardi ever did”.

We hear now Moyesy tried the hairdryer too. If it had worked out, his refresh of the coaching staff would have been hailed as the spark. But nothing worked.

Roy Keane said the players should be ashamed. He’d have preferred the attitude of Packers tackle Jim Weatherwax, in ‘68.

“Yeah we want to win for Phil. And we also want to win to show everybody that it wasn’t just Lombardi these past few years, that it wasn’t all him.”

How many shared Ben Starr’s view that it was all him? The day Fergie washed his hands of the results, he told his players: “I want to go out a winner. And I’m going out a winner.”

He might as well have told them they hadn’t any more wins in them. And why wouldn’t they believe The Man Who Knows Everything? He won once more, in accustomed fashion, with a late Rio Ferdinand goal. Rio, we heard, was the loudest dissenter when Moyes sent them off on a run on his first day. The Men Who Knew Nothing Anymore.

Rewind comes a tad too late for big Bill

The great snooker rewind continues. Before long, those who switched off because the game lacked characters like Silvino Francisco and Bill Werbeniuk may be out of excuses.

In a week when Barry Hearn printed golden tickets to the elite ranks for Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry — plus World Championship invites for former champs Taylor, Thorburn, Griffiths and Reardon — people began to notice the current top tier is middle-aged enough as it is.

The average age of Crucible qualifiers was nearly 33. It edged over 34 when six of just nine twentysomethings lost in the first round.

The supposed onslaught of identikit young swashbucklers, rattling in centuries while Pops contemplated a route back to baulk, has been repelled.

How come? Alan McManus — slugging it out in a nineties revival with Ken Doherty — gave us the old-stager’s view; social media has addled young minds. Of course Ken, at 44, is as active on Twitter as any of them, which might well decide that match.

But much of a scrappy first round was played as though nervy men were keen to get back to their chairs to check their retweets.

Sadly, the rewind has come too late for big Bill. But at this rate Silvino, who has fought the law in retirement, might yet have a shot to nothing at redemption.

Only the people on SSN can do GAA Controvassy justice

The timing isn’t ideal with the Munster Championship in mind, but Limerick’s latest spat might just kickstart the GAA’s ambitious world domination plans.

Sky have already cranked up the machine, with Alan Parry and Niall Quinn taking several detours last Super Sunday to plug championship coverage; including Parry’s analysis of Shane Long’s background in a “rather rougher form of football.”

If it is roughness they want, the Limerick lads might oblige, but it is their expertise in another area — where Sky are undersupplied in summer — which could prove vital. Controvassy.

Sky Sports News have moved on from the days when they would pretend the World Cup wasn’t happening. But they won’t be over-egging it either.

So you could see them get their teeth into this; the voicemails and the texts and the apologies and the non-apologies — with Quinny on hand for analysis, a man who mightn’t have resolved many disputes, but has been there or thereabouts when lots started. It is the stuff they dream about and only the people on SSN have the time and energy to do this justice.

Heroes and Villains


Paddy Crerand: All Tuesday evening, we waited and waited for Paddy to come out and tell us that Moyesy was safe as houses. Congrats Pat on being back in the loop.

Dan Martin: Tuned up for Liege-Bastogne-Liege with a grand spin in the Fleche Wallonne Classic. Still the odd cloud, mind you, on cycling’s horizon — the winner was just back from a doping ban.


Rui Faria: We have seen, many times, how a loyal touchline assistant knows when to agree with his boss. In the very special relationships, he knows exactly when his boss wants him to make a show of himself.

The International Rules: And then there was one. Next step in the Shrink-It-Til-It-Disappears process; a celebrity five-a-side between Fair City and Home and Away. Alf Stewart to redress the recent balance by having Leo Dowling’s guts for garters.

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