Judging by the fuss and all the extra newsprint, a person could be forgiven for thinking the Messiah had just left the building. However, among all the hagiography there were odd revelations which cast a dark shadow on the mass grovel.
The Hair Dryer
This aspect of his character was reminisced about in a very forgiving and humerous series of interviews. Victims of ‘the treatment’ along with observers and commentators adopted an ‘ah well, what do you expect in the high-pressure world of football’ with reference made to when he had turned round the performance of his team in the second half. Hitting David Beckham with a football boot was mentioned in a similar vein. The man is a professional bully.
Many people report that Ferguson is wonderfully helpful behind the scenes and with other managers. In his professional life he behaved more like a mafia boss. For instance it is not just his players who were belittled and shouted at. Any journalist who displeased him would receive a ban from Old Trafford. This did not just happen to the press. The BBC ran an expose of how his son was involved in very dodgy dealings acting as an agent for several United players. Ferguson refused to speak to the Beeb for seven years. And was allowed to get away with this. Several national papers were banned at times for writing things Ferguson did not like. Press relations were carried out on the North Korean principle. All news whether written or said about United has to be better than rose-tinted - it has to be sanitised, and reflect only glory on United.
Compare this craven approach from those who collude with bullying with what happened in Italy. Jose Mourinho banned a journalist when he was managing Inter Milan. At his very next press conference, as he began to speak all the massed ranks of journalists stood up and left the room.
Listening to a profile of ‘Pep’ Guardiola, the brilliant ex-manager of Barcelona, it emerged that he did not believe in the hair dryer approach to player management. It was enough for a player to know that he had disappointed the manager for improvement to take place. For the record Barcelona embarrassed United each time they met in the European Champions League final. Although Manchester United have a great domestic record it has not translated into European Cup success. Yes they have won the Champions League twice and the Cup-Winners cup once but there are several pundits who believe they should have won more European titles to justify all the adulation.
Another aspect of the bullying is his effect on match officials - whenever United are losing, extra minutes are mysteriously added to the time allowed for injuries etc. Why does this happen? Most of his fines and touchline bans are for comments made about officials. He lets them know in no uncertain terms what he thinks of their decisions. It takes a brave official to award a penalty to United’s opposition. The FA have regularly ducked confronting him with the effect him and his players have on the lower reaches of the game. His players too reflect their managers approach to officials. The sight of his team ganging up on referees does little to encourage good behaviour in amateur and school football.
Is Ferguson the best manager ever? The glowing tributes about his record ignore the dark side of his methods. Imagine a Head teacher treating colleagues to the Hair Dryer. Or a Personnel Manager? In fact anyone dealing with human beings on a daily basis. We are more aware of just how bad bullying can be for the victim. Thanks to the media coverage of Ferguson’s departure there will be a few more bullies who think it is ok to make their workers and colleagues lives a misery.
Thanks Fergie. For a strong labour supporter and union man that is quite a legacy.