Oi! Everything! Yeah, you Everything, I’m talking to you … pipe down at the back Something Else and you, Another Thing. Put your hand down, this isn’t an open forum, or ruddy show and tell. Look , Everything just stop happening for a one lousy second … thank you.
Okay, now, I was doing this introduction to this post that went something like this:
It’s now been given the backing of my imagination and roughly 100% of one persons asked, that if you were to pit our crocked XI against our available accidents waiting to happen, they’d give ‘em a right good stuffin’. I didn’t actually imagine the match, the details of the game I mean, but we’ve come this far … so, as a matter of interest De Gea was in goal for the crocks, on account of his plumbeousity of the feet, which renders him incapable of jumping for crosses at any given time, and the captain was Fletch. ‘Whhhhaaaattt! Where’s Vida?’ I hear my imagination ask on your behalf. Well, contrary to popular belief, he hasn’t chewed his own arm off to fashion a splint for his knee, no, he’s househunting in Spain. Truth bullets my friends.
Okay, nothing spectacular there, just the usual crap that drives the invisible wedge between myself and roughly three thirds of the online United community. Anyway, so, it continued as you might expect, with the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh paragraphs, with slightly less of the above and an attempt to steer the post towards some kind of point…
I think it’s a popular misnomer that Fergie ‘sorts players out’. One of the strengths of his management, I bel19ve, is that what he actually attempts to do for the most part – with wildly varying degrees of success – is to channel a player’s natural instincts towards a positive outcome for the club (and in a round about way, himself). I’m not suggesting any Derren Brown sorcery here, that’s Phelan’s department, just good ol’ individual player management. Of course the upshot of nurturing aggression, externalising self-destruction, encouraging those natural instincts is: it brings risk. Living by the sword, reaps rewards – it can also leave you without a very good team to pick from.
I promise this is the last time I’ll mention Hargreaves on this site, not ‘cus he no longer clocks in and out with us, it’s ‘cus it still hurts and I can’t keep opening up old wounds. Why? WHY?! WHY, GODAMMIT?! Anyhow, when he left amidst the mis-quoted claims of Franken-science, one thing he factually alluded to was how he, along with SAF (and the medical team), had taken calculated risks with regards to his treatment. We all know how the story ends. If the risk had paid off, at the very least, we would have a midfielder as good as Owen Hargreaves still playing for us. When the club announced that Fletch was going for an extended sit down, it became clear that Fergie (along with Fletcher), had again been riding for a fall. No doubt, as was the case with Hargreaves, the short term solution, such is the demand placed on most employees of clubs, was considered to be the only one.
In the examples of both Hargreaves and Fletcher it doesn’t take Robert Downey Jr or Humperdick Bumbecrunch (?) … Bedbatch Cumberdick (?) … Benedict Cumberbatch (!) to deduce that the losers in this game of *insert gambling cliche of your choosing* are the two players. Fergs and United continue stacking up silverwares unabashed. Both players’ desire to succeed, their competitive instincts and combative nature were in part exploited by Fergs, the means to his ends. They may have both paid for it with their careers. More of this later.
Of the current incapacitated amongst the squad, there are more specific examples of players who more directly arrow this post towards the sort of conclusions that suit my own opinion. The aforementioned Vidic probably being one of the better examples (I will visit the others momentarily).
Nemanja Vidic cheats a hell of a lot more than the average Premier League defender. That isn’t my opinion. Truth bullets. Nemanja Vidic is also a bit of a nutjob. That is my opinon, but probably not a popular one. Nemanja Vidic is also one hell of a defensive force. That is also my opinion, but one I think most people would find difficult to argue with. If you stop Vida cheating and/or being a nutjob then he’s not the defensive force. Fergie knows this. The trick, of course, is harnessing all of the component parts of his personality to form the required whole; an effective team player. Sometimes Vida gets caught cheating and gets sent off, or we concede a goal as a result of him giving away a needless foul. Much more often than this though, Vida makes vital tackles, keeps very good strikers quiet for long periods of time and saves the day. Fergie accepts the terms of the risk involved in having Nemanja Vidic in his team. You temper Vida and you stand to lose all that he offers you. When Vida, in a spectacular display of indiscipline, needlessly gets involved in a tangle with an opposition player in their half so voraciously that he does his own knee in, is out for the season and we lose the game anyway – that’s where the risk backfires.
(As an aside – don’t worry, in using these brackets I’m effectively whispering to you out of earshot of fans of other clubs – players such as Vidic serve to highlight one of the dichotomies of succesfully managing a football club: actively turning a ‘blind eye’ and furthermore encouraging the ‘necessary’ evils in order to gain the upper hand, whilst maintaining a holier-than-thou self righteous facade, finger pointing and generally suggesting the rest of your rivals are profoundly well adjusted to some form of sick society that is completely alien to your own. Or something like that)
On to the others … Unfortunately, although we love them down to their ickle socks, The Twins didn’t come with a warranty. As with most BOGOF offers, refunds are also invalid. Their rambunctious wont, would no doubt see them throw themselves into the mouth of a lion with landmines for teeth if they thought for one second that said lion was potentially getting the upper hand on them. An admirable trait, but one that has seen them keep our medical staff in gainful employment all by themselves. SAF again understands that making a concerted effort to reign them in could bring with it dire consequences with regards to their output. He hasn’t managed to channel their temperament as of yet and at the moment the risk of allowing them to continue somewhat indisciplined isn’t producing that many positives.
Whilst formulating a similar paragraph about Anderson, he’d only gone and been ruddy named as a sub on the ruddy same day, therefore practically negating my point about him being injured. However, that was small fry compared to the news that Rooney had been dropped in a ‘misdemeanor that only Rooney could get dropped for shock’! My post was fast becoming dated. I soldiered on … blogging, hardest game in the world.
Ando similarly spends a disproportionate amount of his time at the pie shop
staring at the ceiling in the Carrington nurse’s room. Again, to his credit, if he were offered the luxury of being able to detach his limbs at will and disperse himself across the Old Trafford pitch, so as to be everywhere at once, then he would shake on that deal in exchange for his mortal soul. In the absence of this ill-gotten gain, he does it his way for 55 minutes and then the wheels fall off. Fergie could curtail it, implore he holds his position, but then you just have Darron Gibson with braids.
Yes, I know Ando no longer has braids.
(I could use other current examples such as Cleverley, Young and the perpetually injured Owen, who have been risked, rushed back when not 100% fit and now we are without. )
Players of course need to be disciplined in a tactical sense, and in a behavioural one, and others besides. But without the encouragement of what some might describe as their innate ability, they just become ordinary. We can keep The Twins and Ando fit with discipline at the expense of an intrisic part of their nature. Fergie could have insisted both Hargreaves and Fletcher got the neccesary treatment as soon as they were advised of the dangers. United may not have won the Champions League in 2008, or the league last year.
Revisiting the examples of Hargreaves and Fletcher, as I said I would, I wanted to redress the balance of this post a bit, as I don’t want to simply imply that Fergie recklessly uses players for the furtherance of his own career (and ultimately the success of the club) and cares little when they end up at the back door of the glue factory. Although when you put it like that… No, of course the players are implicit in the risk taking. At least you hope so. If they’re not, then more fool them. Anyway, time is ticking on. It’s clear to me that the self-efficacy of the individual player plays an integral part with regards to the risk to their long term health. Self-efficacy derives from an individual’s self-perception and is heavily influenced by external factors. People with a strong belief in their own ability (high self-efficacy), which is the category you can imagine that most professional footballers would fall into, are much more likely to view obstacles (such as playing when carrying injuries, not 100%), as something they can overcome, as opposed to something they should yield to. Hargreaves and Fletcher (The Twins and Anderson) are professional footballers and their lives revolve around the strict regime placed on them as a result of that. They are all defined primarily by what they do on the pitch. It provides them with their identity. They need to gamble as much as Fergie and the club needs them to. Without it, what are they? Did I make a point there? Let’s hope so.
For the concluding paragraph I was going to attempt to summate that SAF, in terms of the success of the club with regards to the individual casualties we spit out along the way, was weathering this particular season’s storm as only he can, incredibly well. But then we lost to Blackburn (at O.T., where we look less and less convincing!) and I was sulking, so left it for a bit. Then Newcastle happened and I thought that perhaps the risks that Fergie was taking weren’t working out after all. I mean, we might still have Fletch and Hargreaves, right?! I left it for a while to see what the F.A. Cup game would bring. It was during this time, while sorting out some CDs, I decided to title this post as I have. The ‘Get ur freak on’ part referring to what I felt United needed to do. Weak, I know.
Things then just kept on happening. We had suddenly flipped Scholesy upside down one day over Christmas and realised we’d been looking at the sell-by-date, not the use by. Despite our best efforts to drag a loss from the jaws of victory against City, we only went and beat them didn’t we. And now with the news that Sparky is back, I can envisage a beautiful climax to this gloriously demented excuse for a Premier League season, when QPR go to City on the last day.
One of the enduring aspects of football is how things literally change in an instant. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, it just might be a train.