Watching the action in South Africa from his holiday base in the south of France, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is not at all impressed with what he has seen so far. “It’s been a disappointing World Cup but I had a feeling it would be” he told a New York radio station “I have been disappointed with the quality levels I have to say. I haven’t been impressed at all.”
Ferguson has also revealed that he has been so concerned with England striker Wayne Rooney’s poor form that he broke off from his summer holiday to call his star striker and advise him to “Relax and enjoy the World Cup” Sir Alex did concede however that a long campaign has taken its toll on the 24 year old who has looked a shadow of the player that scored 34 goals for United last season.
As Scotland’s manager at the 1986 tournament in Mexico, Fergusons side earned just one point then, so he has had first hand experience of how frustrating a World Cup can be. He has also suggested that the Premier League may need to introduce a winter break for England to succeed at major tournaments.
“The season we have in Europe, particularly in England, is tough. The players all met up with their international squads three or four days after the season finished and they have been together for most of that time after a long, hard season. It’s a real task to ask players to perform at the best level they can after a long, hard season in England” he explained.
“Germany take that month long break in January and they always seem to do better in World Cups than anyone ever expects.” he continued “even though they are not as strong as German teams of the past, they still manage to do something in World Cups.”
Ferguson claims the debilitating atmosphere in the England camp is affecting Rooney. “I spoke to Wayne last week and said ‘Relax and enjoy it’, I sensed there was a tension in and around the camp. From what I was hearing, I had that feeling” he said.
The pressure appeared to get to Rooney after the 0-0 draw with Algeria when he angrily criticised England fans as he walked off the pitch. “I didn’t watch the Algeria game” Sir Alex conceded “but I just get a feeling that the expectation is affecting the England team. Sometimes the expectation can be debilitating in terms of getting the players to perform to the levels required to get through their group.”
Rooney is not the only United player to be struggling in South Africa. France captain Patrice Evra has had his hands full trying to keep a team of ego driven individuals together, a team that will be managed by former United defender Laurent Blanc after the tournament.
“I didn’t expect France to do well” Ferguson confessed “but I expected better than what we have seen. There seems to be a lot of disharmony in the camp. I think it was bad preparation for the players to know that the manager was leaving and that Blanc was going to be coming in after the World Cup. They should have brought Blanc along as an overseer or assistant just to get a look, and maybe he would have had a calming influence and brought a bit of harmony into the squad.”
One player who Ferguson has been more than pleased with however is new signing Javier Hernandez who will officially become a Manchester United player on July 1. He netted Mexico’s first goal in the 2-0 defeat of France after coming into the action 10 minutes after the break. “He did very well” his new boss admitted “He showed good movement, he’s quick and sees space very well. I was very pleased with his performance.”
What are your impressions of the World Cup so far?