Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is the past master of the so-called “mind game,” and has left many so-called world class managers blubbering in a corner rocking back and forth like a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is a smart man and has so far played his cards well by distancing himself from ever digging or provoking Sir Alex Ferguson into out-and-out warfare. Despite the championship-winning year, Mancini knows that Ferguson still has many trump cards up his sleeve, and when any recent challengers raise their head from the parapets they tend to get shot down or end up with egg on their face (Liverpool FC’s ex-boss Kenny Dalglish or City Supremo Patrick Viera being recent casualties). Ultimately he knows that the man who Jose Mourinho calls “the boss” is a man who is untouchable when it comes to these high-pressure tactics.
I have to say I am in awe of everything Sir Alex Ferguson does, especially when he is at his most controversial, when he begins to cross the line into villain. This is when we see a master at work, when he is at his most compelling, his most awe inspiring, and, believe it or not, when he is at his most controlled. Season after season, winner or runner up, he manages to reduce one manager into a bumbling mess. For me my favourite is a tossup between former Liverpool FC boss Rafa Benitez’ press conference list or ex Newcastle United legend Kevin Keegan’s infamous “I would love it” moment.
“I was serious last week when I said Manchester United were the favourites,” Mancini smoothly stated. This wasn’t a comment to put pressure on Sir Alex; it may do a little to one or two in the United squad, but this was a message clear as day designed to relive the pressure valve that I bet he has begun to feel within the City dressing room. This is sure to intensify with United’s capture of Robin Van Persie.
Mancini’s comments were very mild stuff, but it was the beginning of the dual. Ferguson & Mancini have let the mind games commence and it has wetted the appetite to what could be a fierce English Premier League season.