LONDON: In his new autobiography – the best-selling book in Britain in 2013 – Sir Alex Ferguson says that, for Manchester United, winning is everything. Hence, after every game, the television cameras swing around to focus on Ferguson in the directors’ box.
On Tuesday night at Sunderland he was sitting next to fellow director and United legend Sir Bobby Charlton. They did not look happy. They had just seen United lose their third successive game, by 2-1 to one of the Premier League’s poorest teams in the first leg of the semi-finals of the League Cup.
If this were European competition, a one-goal first-leg deficit would be considered almost a victory, a comparatively simple result to overturn back at Old Trafford. But Old Trafford is no longer Fortress Ferguson. United have lost four times at home in the league this season (only twice away!) in addition to last weekend’s home upset against Swansea in the FA Cup.
United had not lost three successive games since 2001.
Ferguson’s managerial successor, David Moyes, is not under pressure of job security. The Glazer family handed him a six-year contract last summer in the knowledge that the first season would be an awkward one. This does not mean that anyone expected not only so many defeats, but so many home defeats and so many poor performances.
With every setback so the power of Ferguson’s personality and managerial drive become ever more evident by comparison.
Ferguson had appealed, at the end of last season, for the fans to give their full support to the new manager. But many have started flooding radio talk-shows with demands for the sacking of Moyes, even criticising Ferguson for picking the ex-Everton boss as his successor rather than Jose Mourinho.
Moyes put a brave face on a difficult night. United had pulled themselves back into the game through a Nemanja Vidic header after a Ryan Giggs own goal had handed the home side the advantage. They were finished off by a Fabio Borini penalty.
Moyes said: “I have always been happy with how they players have been responding. I thought they were good tonight, apart from the opening 15 minutes. It’s always going to be a tough game. It’s only the first part of the game, so we have got a bit more to do in the second leg.
“This hasn’t happened at Manchester United for a long time. The fans have probably never seen it as bad as this for a long time.”