|Who you calling Mr Marmite?|
As I said last year when Chelsea won the Champions League I couldn't find it anywhere in my heart to say well done, not because of malice or a wish for them to have failed because as a rival London club I couldn't do it.
There are however times in sport, like life, when partisanship should be put to one side and achievements recognised and applauded simply because they are an exception to the other mediocrity that exists, masquerading as sporting excellence whilst taking televisions silver (and gold) dollars (other currencies are available). I was an Ovett fan but recognised Coe's singlemindedness and self-belief, a McEnroe fan but could see that Bjorn Borg was Paul McCartney to McEnroe's Jagger and as I have posted on here over the years the talents of Dennis Bergkamp transcended any party lines. I have never bought into the ABU's syndrome (anyone but United) because as I think that sometimes you simply have to recognise that there are teams who are better organised, better coached and, let's not beat around the penalty spot, better funded teams.
If you were a four year old United fan when Sir Alex Ferguson took over at Manchester United, I use that age because that was the age I was when I first saw West Ham play, you are now thirty one years old and you have not known the highs and lows of promotion and relegation, the fear of your club going into administration, the possibility that your star player will be sold so the club can make ends meet you have been party to an era the likes of which I
St MirrenScottish First Division (1): 1976-77.
AberdeenScottish Premier Division (3): 1979-80, 1983-84, 1984-85.
Scottish Cup (4): 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84, 1985-86.
Scottish League Cup (1): 1985-86.
European Cup Winners' Cup (1): 1982-83.
European Super Cup (1): 1983.
Manchester UnitedPremier League (13): 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2010-11, 2012-13.
FA Cup (5): 1989-90, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1998-99, 2003-04.
League Cup (4): 1991-92, 2005-06, 2008-09, 2009-10.
Charity/Community Shield (10): 1990 (shared), 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011.
Champions League (2): 1998-99, 2007-08.
European Cup Winners' Cup (1): 1990-91.
European Super Cup (1): 1991.
Intercontinental Cup (1): 1999.
FIFA Club World Cup (1): 2008.
He has his critics, us the fans of the opposing teams, who have felt that he has wielded too much power and carried too much influence in areas where perhaps he shouldn't have. We have also borne the brunt over the years of his barbed comments when our teams have had the temerity to beat United. I was at Upton Park on 22nd April 1992 when Kenny Brown managed to shin the ball past Peter Schmeichel from twenty five yards and give the old First Division title to Leeds United - we had already been relegated in what was a particularly horrible return to the top division and the crowd sang, "We are bottom of the league," for most of the match. West Ham of course would deny United the Premier League title on the day that Blackburn won it. Sometimes the most negative aspects of human nature can be the most rewarding.
I don't buy into the moaning minnie criticism or the fact that he never publicly criticised any of his players, his Govan roots would have nurtured a 'you're either with us or you're agin us' mentality and any chastising would be done behind closed doors. He hasn't had the best of relationships with the media, the BBC and various newspaper journalists have fallen foul of his temper and reluctance to suffer fools gladly over the years but ultimately his job was to lead his team to trophies.
Of course he cultivated and nurtured a coterie of fellow managers for whom he could do no wrong: Allardyce, Curbishley, Hughes, Redknapp, O'Neil, Moyes, Mourniho and those for whom he could do no right: Wenger and Bernitez being the two obvious candidates for that group whilst Mancini's only real crimes were being the boss of City and Italian
Whoever follows SAF will have the hardest job in football because he has pushed the bar so high for anybody that comes next - David Moyes will be a strange choice given his lack of success at Everton - the one thing his successor is lucky in having though is a relatively young squad packed with internationals and experience who are probably just a couple of quality players from cracking Europe again.