Fergie: England’s secret weapon
Sir Alex Ferguson heads the Braveheart branch of the League Managers’ Association. He stops short of smearing his face with wode, and parading around Old Trafford with his claymore unsheathed, but loves nothing more than sending the English homewards, tae think again.
He’s an unashamed Scottish patriot. It complements his belief in the power of Manchester United’s mythology, and his insistence on respecting traditions established across the generations. But it presents him with a subtle problem.
By building yet another vibrant Manchester United team, with a sleight of hand that signals managerial genius, Sir Alex is helping to secure the future of the England national team. He may have finally forgiven the BBC, after seven years of self-imposed silence, but will he forgive himself?
It’s a rhetorical question, because the pleasure he derives from young players, fulfilling their potential, represents unique job satisfaction. Like all innovators in sport and business, the Manchester United manager thinks several steps ahead.
He recognised in Chris Smalling a player of versatility and intelligence, with the mental strength to overcome premature rejection. He saw in Phil Jones a natural leader. He was talking up Danny Welbeck, as an England striker, in the build-up to last summer’s World Cup.
The younger players, including Tom Cleverley, have bonded on and off the field. There is an easy familiarity with another new boy, Ashley Young, who quickly answered those who doubted he had the personality to flourish at one of the world’s biggest clubs.
Ryan Giggs, in his 22th season as a United player, acknowledges the difference the newcomers have made to the dressing room. The energy, and unfulfilled ambition, of United’s emerging stars will transfuse Fabio Capello’s tired team in the forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Welbeck brings the best out of Wayne Rooney, whose form suggests this may be a landmark season. Already, the partnership of Smalling and Jones trips off the tongue. England cannot justify their new world ranking, fourth, but they do have plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
On behalf of all Sassenachs, Sir Alex, thanks.
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