Time to hit the road…
Will Parchman takes a look at which MLS coaches got Ferg in them.
Alex Ferguson retired. Newsflash, Rick Reilly-style!.
Another bit for the ticker: Word is he was a good manager.
There are the 38 trophies in 26 years at Manchester United–as crickets chirp at the Emirates–and his record both in Europe and in domestic competitions stands head and shoulders above any club manager in European history. But why?
It seems paradoxical at first that a single aging man should have such an otherworldly impact on a game that does not directly involve him, doesn’t it? Draw up all the tactical blueprints you like, but in the end the man on the touchline has nothing to do with their physical implementation. Sir Alex hasn’t scored a goal in a competitive game in 39 years. It’s clear that certain coaches are better than others, but logically, why is Fergie is far an outlier from the standard deviation?
And yet there is obviously something special about Ferguson and the small guild of elite coaches he heads. Four key traits came to define Ferguson’s coaching career, which MLS coaches best emblematize them?
Disclaimer: There are multiple right answers here. These are merely mine.
Without further ado, the four idiosyncrasies that undergirded Fergie’s unbelievable coaching career, which is burning toward its glorious conclusion.
The best coaches are odd birds. They stamp into losing press conferences and push fire out of their nostrils. I’ve interviewed them. They are not pleasant. At other times they clop into winning press conferences and walk that minuscule tightrope swinging over the pit of restlessness that swallows up their free thoughts. I’ve been in the room for those interviews, too. The coach’s temporary satisfaction is quickly subsumed by distraction. The chalk is already flying into furious motion even as his striker bundles in a goal for a 4-0 lead with 20 minutes left. The next game is already a topic of discussion.
What I’m saying is the best coaches are not like you and I. We don’t really understand them. They say odd things to the press, spewing forth an indignant, righteous anger based on vague, often entirely invented slights. I’m not sure anyone was a better, more successful eccentric than Sir Alex. He was unlike a horde of others in the disciplinarian mold in this respect because he was always approachable. Meet him out of his black sideline peacoat when the gum wasn’t squished between his molars and the visage is distinctly pedestrian slightly more reverent perhaps.
But he’s not. He lambasted players who weren’t in shape. Early in his career, he developed the nickname “Furious Fergie.” He kicked over tea urns when his teams were losing. He manipulated the press for his own gains. He once swung through on a cleat that hit David Beckham just above the eyebrow in the Manchester United locker room. He petulantly recalled loans, criticized match officials and still holds a grudge against Gordon Strachan two decades after he snubbed Aberdeen for Cologne. Again, this is not a normal man. In some respects, he’s not a well-adjusted man either. Perhaps retirement and guarding his lawn suits him.
“I swear to g*d I’ll headbutt you…”
But for our purposes here, this is a good thing. These eccentricities federated him with his players. The ones who didn’t acquiesce were either eventually folded into the system or jettisoned. An endless rotation of willing bodies was then put in their place (many of whom came from the scouting network he so meticulously pruned). Alex Ferguson is many things, but he is a man endlessly sure of what he wanted, what works and how to meet those ends.
MLS’ closest facsimile? Jason Kreis.
The RSL head man is perhaps a bit less lyrical than Fergie, but his iron jaw, excellent eye for talent and unwavering resolve make him MLS’s most accomplished eccentric disciplinarian. His terse press conferences and inability to appear satisfied are hallmarks. I pity the fool who dogs it on Kreis’s watch.
Continuity and Simplicity
Jose Mourinho has often been hailed as the best manager in the world over the past decade. By at least some metrics, those folks may well be correct.
But how settled can you be as a player when your manager has an eye on the door before he arrives? Mourinho and those like him are compelled by the challenge of the thing. When the challenge pales, the chariot awaits. This has kneecapped more than one club. Inter Milan are still figuring out a way forward.
The effect is more than just psychological.