Keegan in danger of cracking under the strain

Glenn Moore on the winners and losers in the Premiership's psychologica l war

Alex Ferguson was not saying much yesterday, but the Manchester United manager did not need to. The title race may still be running but, judging by Kevin Keegan's televised outburst on Monday night, the psychological battle has already been won.

The victor is Ferguson, a master of the art after five years of championship run-ins. Keegan, fresh to the pressures and wearing his desire on his sleeve, appears close to cracking under the strain.

It was not just what he said on Monday night after Newcastle's 1-0 win at Leeds, it was the way he said it. His eyes were bright with emotion, his finger jabbed at the camera and his passion was raw and unchecked.

The Newcastle manager appeared to accuse Ferguson of provoking Leeds' bold performance on Monday by comments he made after Leeds lost at Manchester United the previous week. He then appeared to link Ferguson with rumours that Nottingham Forest were prepared to let Newcastle win their vital Premiership clash tomorrow in return for being the opposition for Stuart Pearce's testimonial next week. The rumours were vehemently dismissed by Frank Clark, the Nottingham Forest manager.

Ferguson did accuse Leeds players of "cheating" their manager after their efforts at Old Trafford. His remarks were widely interpreted as an attempt to ensure Leeds were as committed against Newcastle as they were against Manchester United.

But he has not made any public comment about Newcastle's match with Nottingham Forest, or made representations behind the scenes. That accusation has, privately, angered Ferguson, but his overall mood on hearing Keegan must have been one of quiet satisfaction.

While Ferguson is equally passionate about the game, and prone to outbursts, there is often a calculated air about them - which is not to say his sentiments are not genuine, just that he knows how, and when, to express them.

Keegan is still learning this game. A few weeks ago he won widespread admiration for the magnanimous way he took the last-minute defeat at Liverpool, and the equanimity he showed in similar circumstances at Blackburn. But, in recent weeks, the great communicator has gone to ground, talking at length only to a tabloid newspaper, which pays him handsomely. His anxiety and his distress at the prospect of losing a championship Newcastle had in their hands at Christmas, cannot help but communicate itself to the players.

After Manchester City, a club facing pressures of a different kind, won at Aston Villa on Saturday, Alan Ball stressed how important it was for the manager to seem in control. "The top man has to be strong," he said. "You have to handle these situations. The players are looking to you. If you have an Achilles heel, if there is the slightest hint of desperation, they will pick up on it."

There is more than the slightest hint of it about Keegan. His reliance on motivation rather than tactics, coupled with his present mood - his parting shot on Monday was, "I tell yer, I'll love it if we beat them, love it" - brings fear that his next pre-match talk will be more Ally MacLeod than Bill Shankly.

Before then, he has a decision to make which will require a cool head. David Ginola is available tomorrow. Keegan has said he will play, but does he drop Faustino Asprilla, his expensive misfit, or Keith Gillespie, Monday's matchwinner?

A similar choice faced another manager on Sunday. He dropped the big signing and reaped the harvest. But, somehow, you suspect Keegan will not be calling Old Trafford for advice.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker