Manchester United: Sir Alex Ferguson Master of Deception
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You would expect by now that most would see through his theatrical post-match performances and spot the scam a mile off.
The last few days have seen the back pages awash with criticisms of Ferguson, mocking his over-reaction to Ashley Williams’ smashing of the ball into the back of Robin van Persie’s head (after the whistle had been blown to stop play) in Sunday’s draw against Swansea.
Sensationalist headlines immediately followed Ferguson’s sensational outburst. Rival managers, players and fans alike danced to the music and joined the chorus of detractors. The United manager’s “he could have been killed” remarks, were scoffed at on a wholesale basis.
Social networks were rife with van Persie "get well soon" jokes. Doctored pictures appeared of the Dutch marksman wearing a crash helmet, protective knee pads and safety shoes; images of virtual candles were lit in memorial to his close shave with death.
Everyone was conned—again.
In a few moments of exaggerated outrage in his post match-interview, demanding a lengthy ban for the Swans defender’s actions, Sir Alex’s job was done. The smoke-screen had distracted the media glare away from van Persie, who had been close to starting a mass brawl in anger at the blow to his head.
Robin van Persie’s retaliation could so easily have derailed his fantastic start to the season, and Sir Alex drew on his mastery of the media to protect his star player. It was important that the United striker’s fiery reaction remained out of the headlines and that any unsavoury media attention was averted.
Many felt Ferguson had made a fool of himself; some even thought he had completely lost his marbles, but the United manager’s selfless support of van Persie will only serve to strengthen their relationship and create a bond between player and manager welded together by trust and respect.
Ferguson’s carefully chosen remarks to the press are also complimented by what he chooses not to say.
Wayne Rooney, following a below-par performance against Swansea, was strategically offered to the press after he was substituted by Sir Alex in the aftermath of two dropped points in Wales.
Rooney stated he was disappointed with his play, but vowed to make amends against Newcastle (via The Sun):
The Swansea game has gone and it is certainly not one I will remember—but I will relish the next one. Given the position we are in at the minute, it is a great opportunity to make that gap at the top even bigger. We couldn’t do it at Swansea but, hopefully, we will get six points from the next two games against Newcastle and West Brom.
It is likely that Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was fully expecting United’s talisman to start the game, but all the talk just prior to the match was centered around the fact he wasn’t even included on the bench.
At full-time, reporters were ready to push the button on speculation that a rift had developed between Rooney and Sir Alex and he had been dropped entirely from the squad as a result.
Only after another three points had been secured by the Old Trafford outfit was the possibility quickly dispelled with news that Rooney had suffered a knee ligament injury in training and was likely to miss the next two to three weeks (via Daily Mail).
This information had been carefully protected by Sir Alex until the moment was paramount to divulge it.
The master of deception had triumphed again: Van Persie was protected from the shackles of unwanted media attention, and Manchester United was protected by the delayed release of its playmaker’s absence through injury.
Van Persie scored, and Manchester United increased its lead at the top of the Premiership to seven points with a 4-3 victory over Newcastle at Old Trafford.
Did Sir Alex genuinely overreact, or was it a calculated play of the media? Give me your thoughts below or hit me up on Twitter @jonathanbeever.
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