London rivalry baffles United
Saturday 07 February 2009
For once Sir Alex Ferguson was stumped when the former West Ham manager Alan Pardew dropped in to see him this week and they began discussing the peculiar intensity of Manchester United's games at Upton Park which, Pardew told him, get Hammers fans more worked up than the arrival of either Arsenal or Tottenham.
Perhaps the rivalry is borne of the vitriolic reception Paul Ince received from West Ham fans for years after he had moved to United; or else the east London club's knowledge that twice, in 1992 and 1995, they killed United's title hopes in the home stretch. "I've no idea. I can only throw ideas out," Ferguson said yesterday. "I could be a million miles out. I just know it's unusual."
United have only one win in their last nine visits to the capital and they will find Gianfranco Zola's West Ham confident and injury-free tomorrow, while Cristiano Ronaldo will have memories of his missed penalty in last season's 2-1 defeat at West Ham.
However, that defensive record of theirs – no goals conceded in 12 Premier League games – is intact and though Wayne Rooney will be on the bench at best, Ferguson said he is "prepared to take this team anywhere at the moment, with the form of the team as it is, I would be". This is, he justifiably said, "a great moment, a great period we are going through".
The recent plaudits have been reserved for that defence of his and the burgeoning Dimitar Berbatov, but United's man of the moment is the unsung Michael Carrick, whose six years at West Ham propelled him on his way in football. In many respects, the 27-year-old is Old Trafford's anonymous man; the one left behind in Manchester during international breaks like next week's, whose No 16 you don't tend to see adorning replica shirts.
Ferguson yesterday compared Carrick to Dennis Irwin – both "the quieter types [who] sometimes get overlooked by fans and the press," as he put it. Irwin, Ferguson recalled, "used to give me eight or nine out of 10 performances every week. But he didn't have the celebrity status of others round about him – like Ryan [Giggs], David Beckham, Eric Cantona and Mark Hughes. He was a quiet lad who went about his business. Michael Carrick may come into that category." The quality of Carrick's distribution has never been in question, though he has added a defender's vision to it this season.
Ferguson was less effusive about Michel Platini's declaration, this week, that Uefa plans to financially regulate its own competitions, including imposing a salary cap based on wages as a percentage of turnover. "I'd need three years to work that one out," Ferguson said. "It's a fact of life. How do you stop people from earning money? It's difficult. Progress is progress."
Patrice Evra is still not fully fit after a foot injury and can only expect a place on the bench tomorrow, while Gary Neville has been hit by a virus.
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli scored as many goals for AC Milan on second debut as he did for Liverpool in the Premier League last season
Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea top the list of the Premier League's most expensive squads
Cyprus vs Wales match report: Gareth Bale's bullet header has Welsh on brink of Euro 2016
Jose Mourinho: Chelsea manager has four Guinness World records hanging in his office
Sir Alex Ferguson: 'I place discipline above all else and it might have cost us several titles...' but Manchester United boss wouldn't change it
- 1 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Refugees welcome: More than 250,000 sign Independent petition calling for Britain to 'take its fair share'