Brian Viner: Detractors might not want to accept it but Fergie's is the model to follow

Share
Related Topics

Sir Bobby Charlton hit on something when I interviewed him earlier this week, suggesting that when Manchester United played Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final, most supporters of other English clubs unequivocally wanted them to win, whereas tonight there will be no less equivocation in the widespread rooting for FC Barcelona.

Why is this? What has changed in 43 years? It can't just be that the emotions stirred by memories of the Munich disaster, still so powerful in 1968, with Sir Matt Busby and Charlton himself embodying the fruition of dreams that appeared to have expired 10 years earlier on an ice-bound runway, have inevitably lost some of their poignancy. No, it is also something to do with the Manchester United of 2011, with the club's perceived arrogance, and of course its spectacular success.

Let me now state that, while not a United fan, I hold no anti-United sentiments myself. It seems to me that those of us who support less muscular clubs, either in or below the Premier League, should reserve our disdain, if disdainful we must be, for the outfits that have simply bought their way to the top. In Chelsea's case, incontinently sacking managers along the way.

Of course, United have used plenty of their own financial firepower, but the club's towering achievement is to have developed organically. Brighter football fans recognise that this object of bile is actually a role model for every other club, a paragon (give or take the best part of a billion quid's worth of debt) of what an English football club should be, in the sense that it is reaping the dividends of managerial stability (and, of course, sustained managerial excellence), as well as those of a youth policy that once yielded Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the Nevilles, all more or less at the same time.

So, why the hatred? Plain envy has a lot to do with it. But so does the personality of Sir Alex Ferguson, who is not averse to using bully-boy tactics when they suit him, and whose most cherished players have rarely shied from sticking the boot in.

It might not be the case that referees at Old Trafford are instinctively more generous to United, with the stopwatch and with penalty decisions, than they might be towards, say, Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium. But when did Wigan players ever intimidate a ref like Roy Keane and his team-mates notoriously did the hapless Andy D'Urso? Moreover, why should it be that Ferguson, Busby and Charlton landed knighthoods, when Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish didn't? It was never Sir Bill Nicholson, never Sir Jock Stein. I can see why that might encourage the idea that United get special treatment, even if Fergie steadfastly prefers to trade on a delusion of victimhood.

Ultimately, though, the hatred of United says more about the haters than it does about United. For instance, the resentment generated by their dispersed support is plain silly and a little desperate. Wouldn't every club love to have coaches rocking up from Cornwall and even Norway on match days?

Whatever, I can't argue with those English football fans who favour Barcelona tonight because Barça have again this season been the best team in Europe, and should be rewarded for their consistent brilliance. A far more prevalent motive, however, is the wish to see United denied. That's the way of English football. It's also a bit pathetic.



React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A strong currency isn't everything  

A strong pound is a great tonic, but it's not an end in itself

Hamish McRae
Left in limbo: Refugee children in a processing centre in Brownsville, Texas  

Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Rupert Cornwell
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?