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Old 14th December 2005, 11:08   #1
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Default Ferguson lays blame on press for United's ills (Ten things the media didn't do)

Ferguson lays blame on press for United's ills

Manager walks out of pre-match conference Accuses the media of trying to fragment club

Daniel Taylor
Wednesday December 14, 2005
The Guardian

Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday sought to blame the press for the sense of crisis that is threatening to engulf Manchester United's season. Echoing the thoughts of the former United manager Tommy Docherty, who once said there was a place for journalists "but they haven't dug it yet," Ferguson claimed there was a vendetta against the club and a deliberate campaign to force him out in the wake of their exit in the Champions League.

"I know exactly where it comes from," he said. "They have a hatred of Manchester United. It's always been there. It goes with the territory, I suppose, with us being such a high-profile club. I can understand it a little, but they go over the top. They are trying to fragment the club; the players from the supporters, and the supporters from the players."
His diatribe follows on from his comments at the weekend when he claimed that "inevitably at moments like this the media seek to make it personal". His position has come under intense scrutiny since the 2-1 defeat against Benfica in Lisbon, a result that saw United eliminated from the Champions League, without even the consolation of being diverted into the Uefa Cup.

United are 12 points behind Chelsea going into tonight's home match against Wigan Athletic, with only eight Premiership victories at Old Trafford in the whole of 2005, and confronted by the possibility of a third successive year without the league title. To Ferguson's intense irritation, there has been growing speculation about how United's notoriously ruthless new owner, Malcolm Glazer, might react at the end of the season.

Ferguson, however, has convinced himself that the club's difficulties have been exacerbated by an orchestrated media campaign. The players were booed after drawing 1-1 against Everton at Old Trafford on Sunday and he is appealing to supporters not to be swayed by newspaper coverage.

"I think our fans are aware of it and I don't think they will fall into that trap," he said. "I make the point - and I make it strongly - that we are at our best when the fans are right behind us. That is the only thing that should matter right now. We have to stick together."

Ferguson made his comments during an interview with local radio stations and agency reporters, and when it came to speaking to the national newspaper reporters it was an opportunity to score a few points. Usually his press conferences take the form of a 20-minute question-and-answer session.

On this occasion Ferguson went straight into a couple of sentences about Wigan's progress before banging his hand on the table and abandoning the conference, saying he was "busy" and "see ya later boys". In total, it lasted 74 seconds, without a single question allowed from the floor.

Creating a siege mentality at Old Trafford has long been part of Ferguson's modus operandi and he is entitled to believe the press has been more hostile this season than at any other time since his job was in danger in the 1989-90 season. The flipside to that argument is that this has been the first time since then that Ferguson has been booed by the club's own supporters, the most vitriolic criticisms coming not in the newspapers but in United's fanzines and on the supporters' websites.

In the latest Red Issue one contributor, dissecting the fall-out of Roy Keane's departure, sums it up thus: "As much as we may love Roy, and while many of us have come to genuinely despise Fergie, the boss should always be the boss. But once the dust has settled Keane will be forever remembered and adored, with the affection and respect of all Reds. As for Fergie, it's too late. Too many errors of judgment, too many wrong decisions, too selfish and too greedy. Too bad, Alex. This latest balls-up will be added to the growing list of this old man's mistakes."

In a slightly surreal turn of events, an Arsenal fan felt compelled to ring Radio 5's football phone-in on Sunday night to take offence with the number of United fans demanding Ferguson's sacking. Equally, the manager's old friend Hugh McIlvanney, the ghost-writer for his autobiography and one of the doyens of football writing, has been among those to state that Ferguson should choreograph his own departure rather than risk being "dispatched by remote control from Florida".

Ferguson, in tonight's programme notes, acknowledges the scale of the task ahead when he describes United as "dependent on Chelsea dropping points" and admits the title is "out of our hands to a certain extent". It is doubtful, however, that many fans will concur with his post-Everton assessment that "more important than the result was the manner of the performance".

Ten things the media didn't do

Encourage the fans to boo the team and perpetually sing Roy Keane's name

Suggest they abandon the European Cup-winning 4-4-2 system

Write the "Ten Reasons Why Fergie Must Go" feature on

Become embroiled in a legal battle over a racehorse with indivuals that owned a huge stake in the club

Sign Kleberson, Eric Djemba-Djemba, Liam Miller and David Bellion

Sanction the departure of 20 players through transfers, loans or releases last summer

Spend £20m on Diego Forlán and Louis Saha

Fail to sign a replacement for Roy Keane then try to make a central midfielder of Alan Smith

Decide that it was time that David Beckham and Jaap Stam left the club

Fail to sign Michael Ballack, Arjen Robben and Ronaldinho
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