Manchester Derby – An Ideological Battle

27 Apr


Manchester United coach, Sir Alex Ferguson, is hard. Before welding soccer teams together he worked in the shipyards on the river Clyde in Glasgow. Tough town. Tough men. They call it the city of the stare. Glaswegians have been known to use head butting as a management solution for conflict.

Ferguson is famous for his wrath. Players speak of “the hairdryer’ effect when he bawls in their faces. Mad as hell, he kicked a cleat at David Beckham, direct hit between the eyes. He created Eric Cantona, the famously brilliant French maverick possessed with so much elan that he entered the stands and karate kicked a fan in the head for jeering at him. Fergie understood. He made Cantona his captain.

The Glasgow native is the most successful British coach ever. Forty-eight trophies are on the mantelpiece including two European Cups. Now seventy, observers scan for signs of weakness in his mettle. They find nothing. No softening of his will for winning and no weakness in his brass for the fight. He’s Clyde built. This Monday he faces a battle royal in the 162nd Manchester derby.

United’s cross-town rivals, Manchester City are snapping at the heels of their more famous neighbors. City is stoked with world-class players. Drill that to the Mid East oil money that owns them. They have sunk over a billion dollars on the project to break United’s grip on success. 43 years have passed since City last won the league.

Ferguson had socialism hammered into him in the shipyards of Red Clydeside. It dominates his thinking.  He is the father of the team collective and he requires that consciousness in his players. They are his apprentices. Developing youth is his way. By contrast, City’s guild is all about moneyed individuals, and some would say, mercenaries. Monday’s final whistle will likely decide which side of Manchester becomes this year’s English champion, and which ideology ascends.

Alan Black is the soccer columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Follow him on Twitter.


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