Does Fergie Really Needs Our 'Expert Advice'?

“He [Pep Guardiola] has created a different philosophy for Barcelona. I think the [Johan] Cruyff era laid the foundation for the width they used in their game and using the full size of the pitch. If you look at their midfield players over the last 20 years they have all been small. What has changed is the pressing and the areas in which they press the ball. That is what Guardiola has brought to the team.” - Sir Alex Ferguson compliments Pep Guardiola for his contributions in making FC Barcelona one of the best squads in Europe.
Imagine being the greatest manager of the modern era and possibly the greatest of all time. Imagine having won every single honour club football has to offer; a total of 47 trophies north and south of the border, countless individual accolades, an OBE, CBE, a knighthood - in fact every conceivable prize that was in offer. Now imagine just how tedious it must be, having amassed all that achievement as a testament to your ability, to then hear all and sundry still bang on about how they could do a better job than you.

This happens to Sir Alex Ferguson every single day of his life. When he turns on the television, opens his newspaper, listens to the car radio, orders dinner at a local restaurant or jumps in a cab, he is besieged with ‘expert advice’. Premier League title has been conquered and the Champions League is up for grabs against Barcelona, but that hasn’t offered him any respite. Instead it has prompted an even greater avalanche of ‘helpful’ guidance to crash around him.

One of the favourite article that was published as an 'expert advice' to Ferguson with headline ‘This is Your Task - Stop Messi’. Yes, the essential piece of insight offered to the game’s most successful manager was that he might like to consider taking the ability of the world’s best player into account when that important Wembley date comes around. It is the football equivalent of putting a sticker on a packet of peanuts saying ‘Warning: May Contain Nuts’. Other suggestions scattered through the media were less 'bleeding' obviously, but equally superfluous.

Ferguson was advised to play a 3-5-2 formation, or 4-4-1-1 or even 4-6-0. He was told to launch an all-out attack and forget Barca’s strengths; pressure the centre halves; move the ball wide and exploit the full backs or expose Barcelona’s weakness in the air. Others suggested United should try not to foul Barca too often; wait for the Catalan club to pass themselves dizzy and strike in the latter stages; or use Wayne Rooney in midfield, on the wing, through the middle, or all of the above.

Ferguson was advised to man-mark Lionel Messi with Darren Fletcher, or Park Ji-sung, or Ryan Giggs. To man-mark Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta too. In fact, why not mark all of their players throughout the entire match, ditch the penalty shootout and simply ask Sergio Busquets and Nani to settle the Champions League with a forward roll competition (I admit that last one was my idea).

Seriously, when did we all become such tactical masterminds that we assumed a figure like Ferguson might require our counsel? When did we suspect there was an innovative ploy he has not been smart enough to consider after more than half a century in football? And does anyone really think there are aspects of the game that Ferguson cannot grasp at United at the age of 69. His tactical masterclass against Arsenal in FA Cup may suggest otherwise (Sir Alex Ferguson's Tactical Masterclass).

I can drive a car, but I would never assume Lewis Hamilton might need me to tell him to put his foot down - and try not to crash.

Yet we see no contradiction in doing the equivalent in football. These days anybody can express their 'expert' opinion - and expect it to be considered with the reverence equal to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

That is why football is the world’s favourite game, and the sport we all love, hate, argue over and obsess about.

But, while we might feel qualified to criticise Ferguson’s approach to referees, or the media, or some frippery associated with the football circus, with his record we should leave the tactics to him - unless he plays Dimitar Berbatov as a goalkeeper.

Related Articles:
Fletcher & Giggs Will Be The Key Against Barca
Sir Alex Ferguson Is Wary Of Complacency
Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Manager?
Barcelona: Pep Guardiola Is Our Sir Alex
Sir Alex Ferguson's Tactical Masterclass
MU Are Deserved "Will To Win" Champions

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