Of all the ways in which Alex Ferguson is descending into hubristic madness, surely the most hilarious is his conspiracy theorising. To be fair, you can see where this comes from: when he claims that everybody hates Manchester United, he is not wrong. It’s also clearly true that every other club takes special delight in beating his team, because they’ve been the dominant team in the Premiership since its inception and are therefore a big scalp. However, to suggest that another club would deliberately sabotage their own stadium in order to gain a slight advantage over United in the next match, as Ferguson has done this week, suggests that he has come to see the world entirely in terms of United and not-United.
Ferguson’s claim is that Bolton’s calling-off of their midweek fixture against Middlesborough, citing a failure of their undersoil heating, is suspect. He suggests that it was a deliberate gambit to give Bolton a better chance of beating Manchester United today. Much as Sam Allardyce was complaining about Christmas fixture congestion, that Middlesborough game has to be played sometime and, as he pointed out yesterday, in the coming months they will have their hands full with UEFA Cup games and Middlesborough are not currently in the best form. But Ferguson doesn’t see the disadvantages Bolton have caused themselves by delaying this game, he only sees the disadvantages caused to Manchester United.
This is fundamentally disrespectful. Just because Bolton have no chance of winning the league doesn’t mean that they are just here to give the big boys somebody to play against. They still have Champions League aspirations and they want every point they can get, whoever it’s against. A win against Manchester United is a big deal, not least for neighbours Bolton, but it gets you three points just like it does in any other game. There aren’t extra special points awarded to ‘hard-working teams who play with a lot of heart’ (copyright every football pundit ever) for making a mockery of silky-skilled milquetoasts (although you can argue that there should be). It’s not worth risking wins in other games just to have the satisfaction of beating a big club.
It’s very dull to hear managers complaining about fixture congestion anyway. They’ve been doing it for years, but whenever it’s suggested that the fixture list is cut back, the club chairmen complain because fewer fixtures mean less gate money – especially over Christmas, when everybody wants to take advantage of supporters having more time off to attend matches. But no manager is going to turn on their chairman, so who gets the stick instead? This year, Sven. The poor fella. He deserves to take England to a World Cup win, just for all the flack he’s taken for trying to make the team halfway competitive.