Sir Alex Ferguson - Master of the mind games?
Love him, like him or loathe him - and I find myself sitting on the fence with that conundrum - you can’t help but admire Sir Alex Ferguson’s expertise in the art of mind games.
At a recent press conference, one of the assembled journalists referred to Patrick Vieira’s recent comments regarding Manchester United. To paraphrase slightly, Vieira observed that for Manchester United to have to resort to calling Paul Scholes out of retirement smacked somewhat of desperation on their part.
Up steps the master of the mind games and, in a flash, turned the tables back on Manchester City. Surely, given the well documented fall out with Carlos Tevez and his five-month sabbatical in Argentina, Manchester City are the more desperate team, in having to back down from the “he will never play for this club again” mantra of a few months ago to now having him on the subs bench and making appearances for the last few games.
Now I’m sure that there are probably contractual wranglings, the like of which us mere mortals will hopefully never have to contend with, that are at play amongst the agents, legal eagles, etc surrounding Tevez and Manchester City, so much so that Manchester City probably have no option but to play him, despite how this may appear to most fans.
It got me to thinking about how our own Paul Lambert has handled the mind games and media in this Premier League season.
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The media, some would say, have a hard job. In the world of 24 hour news, the eagle-eyed journalist is always on the lookout for that extra bit of scandal or the more unusual story to report back to the waiting presenter in the studio. How does Paul Lambert react to almost every question or comment that is put to him? Usually with a slightly bemused look on his face, giving the impression that he can’t quite believe he’s there having to consider an answer to the question or the point presented.
However, in most interviews with Paul he almost always turns the question into an opportunity to praise the players, and he usually has a positive comment to make about the fans. It is never about Paul Lambert - always the players, fans and the club. No matter what he demands he knows that his players will run through walls for him and he always ensures that he acknowledges that fact.
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Recall also his handling of the comments made by Andre Villas-Boas following our visit to Chelsea earlier this season, when AVB made rather ungracious comments about Lambert “having a good imagination” over his interpretation of a penalty decision. AVB came across as a petulant school child, Lambert on the other hand played it all rather coolly and, again, with a slightly bemused, innocent look on his face.
I have a feeling that Paul Lambert is getting to grips with the mind games and the media and that his cool, bemused attitude is just the right foil for the likes of Ferguson’s now rather obvious attempts to destabilise his opponents. I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops this element of his managerial skills next season!!