Ferguson’s last foul

Ricardo Guerra

Published: Updated:

Following intense debate about who would be the best candidate to take the reins from Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, management at Manchester United has confirmed David Moyes as the team’s new manager. The 50-year-old will officially join the Red Devils on July 1 after completing the season with Everton.

It is undeniable that Alex Ferguson has achieved extraordinary success leading Manchester United as the general manager. The club continues to be a major powerhouse among the elite in world football, and during Ferguson’s management won multiple titles. But Ferguson should not just be allowed to go into retirement without some explanation for a recent comment he made involving the feigning of injury by a Chelsea defender, a foreign player.

For a man who runs a club that claims to be the darling of the world, his remarks were very insensitive at best. Not only is Manchester United a popular club within English football, but its appeal is also felt in all corners of the world, including intensely loyal fans from all over Middle Eastern and Gulf Arab states.

Fan-based organizations are spread from east to west, north to south, and are present in all continents.

In fact, a survey performed worldwide in May 2012 by market research company Kantar claims that Manchester United has 659 million followers worldwide: 173 million in the Middle East and Africa, 71 million fans in the Americas, 90 million in Europe, and 325 million in Asia Pacific, including 108 million in China.

If this study is in fact accurate, it indicates a staggering amount of worldwide support for Manchester United. With this support comes great responsibilities to such a diverse fan base and a plethora of foreign players dreaming to one day join United.

Last December, Morocco’s star player Adel Taarabt, who is Queens Park Rangers’ midfielder, said Manchester United is the club of his dreams.

“I’d leave London only for Manchester United, the club of my dreams, where there is no number 10,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“For Mr. Ferguson [manager of Manchester United] I’d also stay silent on the bench and I would work hard,” he added.

Foreign players

But his treatment of foreign players has been questioned. Just last weekend the Scotsman questioned Chelsea’s defender David Luiz’s professionalism following an incident in a match that led to one of Ferguson’s players being red-carded. The Manchester United manager said of the incident, “Rafael [a United player] was elbowed and he retaliated. The player that retaliates gets the heavier penalty, but it was quite clear Luiz has elbowed him twice. He [Rafael] retaliates but Luiz quite clearly elbows him twice then rolls about like a dying swan and that convinces the referee. He was smiling; it’s bad. What kind of professional is that?”

The Manchester United manager rejected the assertion that the foul by Rafael should be regarded as violent conduct. Ferguson seems to have a point in some of his grievances, but he loses ground with his subsequent statement.

“The referee has gone with the fact Luiz has rolled around the floor, you see that with these European, foreign and South American players, and that has convinced him it is a red card,” Ferguson added.

Does Ferguson really think that the only players who feign being injured are foreigners, South Americans, or Europeans? That part of his statement is unsettling, and I don’t know if it was a slip of the tongue or if it was actually a more troubling indication of Ferguson’s prejudice.

From what Ferguson said, could he be implying that the only ones who do not fake injuries are British-born players? Well, maybe they just don’t have as many opportunities to dramatize their injuries within the center stage of the Premier League, since they are a dime a dozen among the starting lineups of the world’s top clubs. And every year they seem to be squeezed out or pushed aside in favor of the foreign talent—actually, the foreign talent that Ferguson on many occasions has coveted for his own squad.

I wonder if Ferguson realizes the multinational make-up of his own squad and how such a comment really undermines and attacks his own foreign players. In this day and age, it’s surprising how a top-flight manager of a professional sports team can get away with such remarks without further scrutiny. Only under the watch of a segment of the press that seems to be always more pliant and submissive can that actually happen. If such a comment had been made by a top manager in North America, that manager would have been lambasted and potentially even forced to resign.

Maybe it really is time for the man who has ruled United with an iron fist for so long to go into retirement. Let’s just hope that the new manager is endowed with a more cosmopolitan outlook—a perspective that is more sensitive to the millions of “foreigners” who every day sustain the United brand all around the world. Those fans deserve that much.


Ricardo Guerra is a Brazilian journalist and blogger with degrees in political science, international relations and physiology. His articles have appeared in several international publications in five different languages, and his writing covers topics related to medicine, science, sports, politics and current affairs.

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