Book Review: Alex Ferguson, My Autobiography

I love Manchester United. I have always admired Alex Ferguson. Even when he appeared to be a dolt.

So I bought his autobiography on release day – it promised to be tell-all, revealing, and controversial. The greatest controversy isn’t what Fergie had to say about people like Mark Bosnich. It is just how inane the prose in this book is. It was clearly rushed to print. It is repetitive. Self-indulgent. And in need of a good edit. Some random examples of just how stilted and language-defying the writing is are included below for your education.

Do not buy this book if you don’t like knowing how sausages are made.

On giving criticism

“Faced with the need to confront a player who had performed below our expectation, I might have said: ‘That was rubbish, that.’ But then I would follow it up with, ‘For a player of your ability.’ That was for picking them back up from the initial blow. Criticise but balance it out with encouragement. ‘Why are you doing that? You’re better than that.’”

An “amusing” anecdote

I was coming out of the Grand National meeting with Cathy in April 2013 and two Liverpool fans came up alongside to say, ‘Hey Fergie, we’ll hammer you next season.’ They were good lads. ‘Well, you’ll need to buy nine players,’ I said. They looked crestfallen. ‘Nine?’ One said: ‘Wait till I tell the boys in the pub that.’ I think he must have been an Everton fan. ‘I don’t think we need nine,’ said the other as he traipsed away. I nearly shouted, ‘Well, seven, then.’ Everyone was laughing.

New entry to the Dictionary of sporting idioms: Doing a Rooney

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Doing a Rooney (idiom): The act of very publicly voicing one’s opinion against something, and then acting to the contrary to your statement within days.

Etymology:

The curse of Manchester United’s Fergie looked like it was going to smite Wayne Rooney as it had myriad players before – players like Jaap Stam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, and David Beckham were all golden children who moved from hero to an integer followed by seven or eight zeroes in a matter of weeks. Fergie has no real qualms about selling anybody who thinks they are bigger than the club. And it looked like Rooney was on his way out of the Old Trafford revolving door this week when it was revealed that he, and the manager, disagreed on his level of fitness (Fergie said Rooney was injured, Rooney said he wasn’t), this followed a pretty public revelation of some pretty extreme sexual misconduct on Rooney’s behalf, which was sure to put Fergie’s nerves on edge. He’s spoken pretty publicly about players with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. Then it turned out that Rooney wanted out, and had ceased negotiations on a new contract weeks ago. Then Fergie said he could go. And everybody thought he was gone, many suggesting he had played his last game in a Man Utd shirt.

Until, in a pretty massive backflip, Rooney committed himself to the club for a further five years. Signing a new contract today. Bizarre.

My inner conspiracy theorist thinks they may have signed him to such a long term deal so that they can extract a greater transfer fee now that the sharks are circling.

Premier League: Same Same, but different

The Premier League kicked off over the weekend. Which is awesome. It is by far my favourite sporting competition in the world. This year’s competition has the added complexity of another team bankrolled by people who place no real value on money.

When Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea a couple of years ago they were tipped to take over the world thanks to a seemingly bottomless pit of money. That experiment hasn’t proved to be particularly successful – they’ve won more than they used to. But Manchester United, thanks to some astute signings of young players who were then groomed into superstars, are world beaters. They’ve won the Premier League three years in a row, along with a bunch of other trophies.

This year it’s Manchester City making a big splash in the transfer market thanks to money from an Arabian oil conglomerate/Abu Dhabi royalty.

Man U enjoyed a win over the weekend. But they lost the earlier Charity Shield on penalties. Patrice Evra, one of United’s backs, was injured in the match by a terrible tackle.

My Premier League prediction for the year is for more of the same. The top five will no doubt be Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Sadly, and this is the point of my rather long winded preamble – the Fox Sports reporters were unable to distinguish two of Manchester United’s players. Despite Nani having his name clearly emblazoned on his back.

$160 million man


Sir Alex Ferguson is faced with a dilemma. How to spend $160 million Australian. That’s what Real Madrid have just paid for Cristiano Ronaldo.

I’m looking forward to seeing how he replaces a man who considers himself irreplaceable. And I’m really looking forward to being able to dislike a man I have little respect for.

Hopefully they buy a couple of midfielders who like to pass.

Ooh, Aah

Eric Cantona is, for a Manchester United fan, about the closest thing you can get to perfection. He left the game on his own terms – years before many would argue that he should have – and now he’s an actor. And his latest film, where he plays himself, is getting rave reviews.  Here’s the trailer and a couple of other pieces of Cantona magic…

Here he is killing the devil…

Here he is umpiring in Nike’s awesome “cage fight” football commercial…

Here’s why he’s regarded so highly…

And here’s the bit where he kicks a Crystal Palace fan in the head…

Old dogs, new tricks

Ryan Giggs is a legend. I’ve said that before. He’s the most successful Premier League player in history in terms of league titles won. At 34, when he should be winding down and getting ready for retirement and the obligatory testimonial match – instead he’s in the form of his life. And has just been named the Premier League Player of the Year by his colleagues.

 If I were a church planting blogger I’d no doubt find some inspirational lesson to draw from this underdog story – but I’m not, so I’ll just appreciate it for the remarkable achievement it is.

League Cup of their own

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Manchester United also took out the League Cup last night in penalties. That picture is them celebrating the winning penalty. What a night to be me. Both my teams took out semi-meaningless silverware. Man U are also seven points clear in the Premiership with a game in hand.

Contractual Obligation

I was going to write something a while back on the Cristiano Ronaldo saga at Manchester United. For those of you who aren’t fans of the “Red Devils” or the “Beautiful Game” – so aren’t au fait with the situation – Cristiano Ronaldo is the biggest, brightest, best superstar playing for arguably the biggest, brightest, best club in the world (well they’re European Champions, and back-to-back winners of the world’s best football league). The problem is, Cristiano doesn’t see things this way – he’d rather play for glamour club Real Madrid. Real pay their stars exorbitant wages and don’t really win anything – but they go into massive debt to buy players and mercilessly exploit their image rights to pay the interest. But I digress. Cristiano’s problem is that he signed a five year contract with Manchester United pretty recently. In the murky world of Football politics and contractual law – clubs can sell contracted players for “transfer fees” – essentially the longer the contract the higher the fee the club can receive. In fact, players can move clubs for free at the end of contracts (and sign with new clubs on free transfers in the final year of their contract with the transfer taking place upon expiry). It’s in the best interest of the club to sign players up for long term deals. Wage structures in these contracts often reflect “potential value” rather than actual. So a young player is offered a contract with a lot of zeros because the club wants to keep them for a long time – and if they see a chance to sell their star they get the best possible price.

The integrity of contracts is fundamentally important to the commercial survival of clubs. Some clubs in England survive, financially and competitively, by buying and developing young talent and onselling them to the top clubs at a profit. Sonny Bill Williams decision to disregard his contract with the Bulldogs has brought the contractual argument into the world of Rugby League. His case is distinct from the round ball game, and from Cristiano Ronaldo’s situation – in that he is switching across codes – rather than within a code. League also doesn’t have a transfer fee system, and it has a salary cap – which football (in the literary and global sense) doesn’t.

My take on both situations is that these players are being led astray by greedy “sports agents” – the antithesis to Jerry McGuire. Agents benefit greatly when their charges sign new contracts – they get massive commissions – 10% in the case of Cristiano Ronaldo’s proposed deal. They’re like leeches. They also are the ones that broker the legal side of sport’s contracts – and they advise their clients to sign on when perhaps it’s not in their best interest to do so.

A contract is a contract – and, sports clubs, and governing body such as the NRL – have every right to expect they be honoured. The FIFA (the global football body) President, who nobody really likes, came out and basically said Ronaldo (who is on millions of pounds per year) is essentially being treated as a slave – not particularly helpful (or politically correct) stuff from someone who is meant to be the game’s senior figure. NRL CEO David Gallop has been much more statesmanlike in his handling of the SBW situation. Although Gus Gould gave him a bit of a roasting for pretty much overseeing the death of Rugby League as we know it. I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on what this means for the game.

My friend Ben seems pretty convinced that the NRL needs to shrink (number of clubs) and expand (nationwide) which has been one option suggested by a few people. That’s probably an unfair summary of his argument – but I think he’ll email me to clarify when he’s read this, so I’ll leave it as is.

The problem with this resurrection

Unlike the other more significant resurrection – which is massively more significant, and you should investigate it for yourself… I’m finding it hard to find inspiring topics.
I would happily write about coffee – roasting it, drinking it, tinkering with my massive machine (that incidently is up and running since last mentioned here)… but I don’t think it interests that many of my current readers.
I would happily write about the problems with the Catholic Church and World Youth Day – but that would just be a vehicle for my intolerance.
I would happily write about a Christian response to the “arts” – particularly in the context of the nude photo frenzy recently… but that would be slightly too far in the past to be edgy and current…
I would happily write about the new Batman movie – which I saw last night, which was excellent – but really, there are better film critics out there than me.
I would happily write about how the GST should be used to control inflation rather than interest rates – but I feel grossly unqualified to make the necessary economic arguments.
I would happily write about the Cristiano Ronaldo saga, and what I’d do with the 85 million pounds Manchester United would get for him.
I would happily write about how Manly sit atop the NRL table and are looking pretty good this year… but neither of those topics are all that interesting to anyone but me.
I would happily write about all the topics I could possibly write about but don’t feel inclined to – which I guess I’ve actually done.
I would happily write about how I could have simplified this post by using a colon.

So, in conclusion – I’m looking for inspiration, topic requests, things people like to read about that are consistent with what I like to write about…

Paris for the weekend

I feel no pity for Paris Hilton – instead I’m still filled with mirth every time I picture the poor heiress (that’s called juxtaposition boys and girls) to the Hilton fortune curled up in a prison cell wearing regulation orange overalls. Paris Hilton drove drunk. Paris Hilton had her licence revoked. Paris Hilton was warned not to drive while disqualified. Paris Hilton’s agent told her she’d get away with it. Paris Hilton listened to her agent – not the court – and Paris Hilton got caught. That’s the long and the short of it. And now she’s in jail – or she will be from June 5 – for 45 days. Not content to go down without a fight Paris Hilton has launched a campaign via her MySpace – suggesting she’s much too good looking to go to jail. Another MySpace campaign is not so flattering – a right wing cult leader/nut job/conspiracy theorist is so tired of Paris and the league of false role models that he’s launching a campaign encouraging people to burn her CDs outside Hilton hotels. His protest is based solely on Hilton’s lack of suitability as a role model and is not making an aesthetic judgement on the actual CDs – which I would have thought an equally compelling reason to burn them. Sucks to be her – apart from the millions of dollars she flouts while out and about trouncing around the country side (there are lots of “ou” words in that sentence). For someone who writes “socialite” on the employment section of any forms she probably could have claimed that she was in fact using her motor vehicle for “work” related activities – a defence Winona Ryder tried out during her 2001 shoplifting trial (some stories claimed the shoplifting incident was “research” for a role as a criminal.

In other news – Manchester United are the champions – after years of putting up with Chelsea’s incredible bankroll and backroom deals the Red Devils are again the top dogs in the English Premier League. Thanks to Arsenal, which makes the victory extra sweet… Now if Manly can maintain their current vein of form in the NRL it could be an almost perfect year of sport.

So much to tell you…

Following a two week hiatus you’d expect there’d be a bunch of interesting stories for me to tell you. This would be an incorrect assumption. Sure, I went to a couple of weddings and saw Gomez live (they were amazing). I visited exciting places like Toowoomba, the Gold Coast and Mount Tambourine. I spent hours in a hospital car park waiting to pick up the groom from one of the aforementioned weddings following emergency eye surgery two days before he was due to marry Robyn’s sister Justina. I picked new towels, sheets and bed linen as part of preparation for my own married life (and wasn’t that fun). I learned all about weddings – for instance – I learned that the colour of an invitation should indicate what colour to wear, or not to wear to a wedding (the colour of the invite should match the bridesmaid’s dresses and also indicate the general theming of the wedding). I tried, without success thus far, to find somewhere to hold an “intimate” wedding reception following a larger inclusive ceremony and afternoon tea, and negotiated the nightmare of family politics surrounding weddings (I can now empathise with the captain of the Titanic who was no doubt doing his best to miss a bunch of minor icebergs when he ran into the big one that scuppered the ship). Plus there were a series of traumatic events in the news cycle while I was away that I felt compelled to blog about – however I couldn’t actually be bothered to respond to those compulsions. So will now mention them in passing – Andrew Johns retired as the best half back I’ve ever seen (given that my league watching career spanned exactly the length of his career that’s not too surprising). Anyone who tries to compare the incomparable skills of Mr Johns with Alfie Langer, Ricky Stuart or any other number seven who played in that period has rocks in their heads (even Geoff Toovey wasn’t as good – he sadly had no kicking game). Incidentally, Manly are still undefeated and sit atop the ladder, Manchester United won 7-1 against Roma in the Champions League and made the FA Cup final in the same week while still leading the Premier League by 3 points with only a few rounds to go (including one against Chelsea – which barring a diabolical turn of events and dramatic chance in goal difference it probably won’t matter if they lose they should still take the title) – so all in all it’s good to be me right now

The ANZAC day media fiasco played itself out in the media – but I’d like to point out that Vietnam is in fact no Gallipoli – and April 25 has very little to do with the Vietnam conflict. Why wasn’t the fuss made about that? I’m glad the real issue – Rudd’s Channel 7 favouritism was brought to the fore and promptly dealt with. A school shooting in the US made further mockery of the right to bear/bare arms (why anyone would want paws or hair free arms is beyond me). The idea that the American populace to be able to take part in a citizen’s militia to repel invaders has been a little diluted to the point where students can open fire on their peers. Gun reform is an easy campaign issue for the Democrats now so we’ll see what Joe’s blog has to say on that issue in the near future. Speaking of blogs philnsmiz has finally been updated – and should be again shortly, while Scooter’s blog still languishes back on the first of January where it promised so much but has since delivered so little. Tim’s has been also been updated.

So all in all, I am in need of a holiday. And I’m back at work today.

From the Sydney Morning Herald

Rooney’s energy could produce 16 cuppas
The energy generated by British soccer dynamo Wayne Rooney as he sprints around the pitch during a match is enough to boil water for 16 cups of tea, according to research published.
David James of Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sports Exercise Sciences calculated the 21-year-old Manchester United and England striker produced 6,700 kiloJoules of energy, equivalent to 1.86 kilowatt/hours of electricity.
This, he said, was also enough to light an average house for 90 minutes – the length of an average match – or run a standard television for six and a half hours.
The research for energy utility E.ON UK is part of a program to try to raise awareness in schools of energy usage in the face of the global warming crisis caused by burning fossil fuels for power and transport.