There was a time when one could have regarded Alex Ferguson as being “one of us” at the top end of English football. He was the former union shop steward from Govan, the supporter that had got lucky and, as many people were very quick to tell us, he had never forgotten his socialist background. The problem with that statement, though is that it is untrue. Alex Ferguson, now the proud owner of a knighthood, has forgotten his roots, and is now nothing more than just another rich man, dining out at the Premier League trough.
If you wanted any further proof of this, it could be seen in the recent interview in the press, during which he bemoaned the atmosphere at the New Year’s Day match as being like a “funeral”, and also took the time to have a go at FC United and the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association for “not being the conscience” of Manchester United into the bargain. These are curious statements to come from a man so close to the centre of the Manchester United universe – a man who should really understand the dynamics of football crowds.
When, then, did Ferguson start to lose touch? Was it when he accepted the knighthood? Was it when he took the Glazer shilling and started to decry those at Old Trafford that were unhappy at the state of the modern game? Was it when he started to get involved in what looked to the casual observer like dodgy dealings involving his son acting as the agent to some younger United players? It’s difficult to say, but the truth of the matter is that Ferguson has gone from being an authentic man of the people at the heart of the English game to being just another self-serving elitist, a man who now seems to think that everything should revolve around him, even to the detriment of the people that ultimately pay his wages.
The fact if the matter is that Manchester United have every single advantage that a football club could ask for. Their massive global support means that they have a constant revenue stream of merchandising money. Their name means that they are one of the few English club that can attract genuine, world-class talent. Their massive stadium means that their match day income is bigger than anyone else’s in football. Their perpetual involvement in the Champions League grants them access to television, sponsorship and prize money that even the vast majority of their Premier League rivals would kill for. Rather than setting his sights on the poor unfortunates that, ultimately, pay his wages, Ferguson would be better advised to take a moment to consider why the atmosphere at Old Trafford is as bad as it is these days, and where the people that once made it such a formidable for opposing teams to visit have gone.