Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 7th 2014 Contents MANCHESTER---Moments before Alex Fer-
guson left Old Trafford for the final time as
a coach, he issued a defiant message to the
Manchester United fans who were so used
to hanging on his every word.
"I d like to remind you," Ferguson said as
he stood inside the centre circle, getting lightly
coated with raindrops, "that when we had
bad times here, the club stood by me. All my
staff stood by me. The players stood by me.
"Your job now is to stand by our new man-
That was eight months ago. United had
just beaten Swansea 2-1 with a late winner
by Rio Ferdinand in so-called "Fergie Time"
and the team had already romped to a 20th
English league title, enhancing Ferguson s sta-
tus as the greatest British manager of all time
after more than 26 trophy-laden years at Unit-
ed.How ironic, then, that Swansea was back
at Old Trafford on Sunday, administering a
fourth loss in United s last six home matches
to usher the creaking hosts further into decline
under Ferguson s successor, David Moyes.
Swansea won 2-1, its winning goal coming
in the final minute, by which time Ferdinand
had hobbled off injured. The contrast to that
day in May when United lifted the Premier
League trophy on Ferguson s Old Trafford
farewell was acute.
The natives are getting restless. The atmos-
phere at Old Trafford is soporific. The smat-
tering of boos greeting the final whistle of
each home defeat---there have been five already
this season in all competitions---is small but
growing in number.
United fans are undoubtedly prepared to
give Moyes time. They are a knowledgeable
bunch, clearly understanding that replacing
Ferguson is nigh impossible, but they expect
better than what they are getting at present.
For the first time, local and national press
are calling it a crisis, an empire in decline.
United is seventh in the Premier League, 11
points behind leader Arsenal and five points
adrift of the fourth and final Champions
League place that just so happens to be occu-
pied by Liverpool---United s biggest rival.
Sunday s defeat to Swansea came in the
third round of the FA Cup, only United s sec-
ond exit at that early stage---the first hurdle
for top-flight clubs---since 1985.
"It has been a tough start, a tough opening
period," Moyes said, when asked to sum up
his first six months in the job. "I am disap-
pointed we have not won more games or
played better but I am sure it will change, I
have no doubt about that."
Moyes first half year in charge of England s
biggest club has been turbulent but interesting.
He was accused of lacking European expe-
rience from his 11 years at Everton but qualified
United from a tough Champions League group
with a game to spare. With a last-16 match
against Olympiakos to come, he will be con-
fident of at least reaching the quarterfinals.
He has guided United through to the League
Cup semifinals, where it plays Sunderland in
the first leg on Tuesday, and has got the best
out of England striker Wayne Rooney, whose
relationship with Ferguson had broken down
by the end of last season. The blossoming of
Adnan Januzaj, a young winger with superb
balance and movement, is also a major plus.
But the negatives outweigh the positives.
Failing to qualify for next season s Champions
League, which is a real possibility, would be
a disaster not just because of the loss of
finances but because United s pulling power
would be seriously hit.
Moyes and United chief executive Ed Wood-
ward already found attracting the big names
hard enough in the offseason transfer window
so January is likely to be even tougher, espe-
cially since Champions League football next
season can t be promised. Moyes said Sunday
there is an "urgency" to bring in players this
month but acknowledges the ones he wants
won t be available.
Rooney and possibly goalkeeper David de
Gea aside, United s senior players are missing
or aren t delivering. Robin van Persie, the
league s top scorer for the last two seasons,
is currently injured and has played only twice
since November 10 while Michael Carrick,
the heartbeat of the midfield, has also had a
spell out and hasn t been such a dominating
There s no consistency to United s defensive
unit and players such as Rafael da Silva, Javier
Hernandez, Nani and Antonio Valencia appear
to be lacking in confidence. One of Ferguson s
greatest strengths was squeezing that extra
10 percent out of players, but Moyes hasn t
quite been able to do that yet.
Ferguson, famously, was given time by the
United board despite going his first four sea-
sons without a trophy. Beating Crystal Palace
in a replay to win the FA Cup in 1990 was
seen as pivotal.
"Without that triumph at Wembley, the
crowds would have shrivelled. Disaffection
might have swept the club," Ferguson wrote
in his recent autobiography.
Maybe winning the League Cup will be the
catalyst for Moyes, who is six months into a
Ferguson hand-picked Moyes as his suc-
cessor and still holds massive sway at United
through his past achievements and his role
as a director.
Ferguson attends almost every United home
match, sitting in the directors box behind
Moyes. His backing is imperative for the new
man in charge but his continued presence
around Old Trafford is a constant reminder
of the difference between United then and
United now. (AP)
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
LONDON---An English referee who is
in contention to officiate at the World
Cup in Brazil was cleared yesterday of
accusations that he insulted
Southampton captain Adam Lallana
during a Premier League match.
Southampton filed a letter of com-
plaint to the English Football Associa-
tion, objecting to the language Mark
Clattenburg allegedly used in an ex-
change with Lallana after denying the
team a penalty during its 2-1 loss to
Everton on December 29.
Clattenburg reportedly said Lal-
lana s attitude had changed since he
started playing for England.
"The FA has given its full considera-
tion to this matter and it is our view
that the comments, as disclosed in
Southampton s letter of complaint, do
not constitute misconduct under The
FA s rules," the governing body said in
"Consequently, the FA will not be
taking any further action in relation to
this matter and now considers this
case to be closed." (AP)
Premier League referee cleared of insulting player
United in decline
...as Moyes era faces crunch time
Manchester United players walk from the pitch after their 2-1 loss to Swansea City in their English FA Cup third round football match at Old
Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Sunday. AP PHOTO
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