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When it Comes to Mind Games, There’s Only One Winner

By Rasmus Lukunka

Ever since the inception of the English Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United team have been involved in more mind games than any top side in the league. With United winning 12 of the last 20 Premier League seasons, Sir Alex and his team have registered about the same number of victories in mind games as they have league titles.

In recent years, mind games have intensified as the league has become more competitive. The psychological warfare seems to surface as opposition teams battle to sustain a high level of performance while Man United gain momentum at the end of a campaign.

The 2011/2012 Premier League campaign is no different. This time, Manchester City fired the first shot when Patrick Vieira, who holds the role of Football Development Executive, claimed United were desperate for bringing Paul Scholes out of retirement.

With Manchester City posing the biggest threat to United’s quest for a 20th league title, Sir Alex and his camp did not take Vieira’s jibe lightly. A master of mind games, Sir Alex responded by referring to Roberto Mancini’s U-turn after publicly stating that he would never allow Tevez to play for Manchester City again. Mancini’s words came after Tevez refused to warm-up in a crucial champions league match before going AWOL for Five Months. Mancini quickly had a change of heart after United leaped ahead of Manchester City in the Premier League standings, prompting Sir Alex to point the finger at City’s own desperation.

Although new to managing in the Premier League, Mancini is certainly aware of the psychological warfare that takes place when United are in contention for the title. He’s probably seen video footage of what happened to Kevin Keegan when he managed Newcastle during the 1995/1996 season. Keegan became so flustered by Sir Alex’s mind games that he took to the camera and unleashed what is today considered one of the most famous moments in Premier League history. Needless to say, United overcame a huge deficit in the league table and won the title. Newcastle came in second.

Another historical moment for Mancini to reference involves Rafa Benitez’s pre-game conference in the 2008/2009 Premier League season. Though less animated compared to Keegan, Benitez came prepared with a script of “facts” of Sir Alex’s conduct and United’s favorable league fixtures. Benefits leveraged the press conference to claim he was only interested in discussing “facts and not mind games.” Sir Alex’s delivered a classic response by wondering why Rafa Benitez was so angry and disturbed. The press conference took place in January of the 2008/2009 and Liverpool were league Leaders. Again, United went on to the League while Liverpool finished second.

With Four matches left before the end of the 2011/2012 campaign, Manchester City can win the League if they win all Four of their remaining fixtures, including the Derby against United on April 30 at the Etihad Stadium. Mancini is knee deep in the mind games; taking swipes at officials and scrutinizing every decision going United’s way.

If history and fate holds true, Sir Alex and Man United will win the mind games and go on to claim their 20th league trophy in the Premier League’s 20th season anniversary.

About the Author
Rasmus was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia and has been living in the United States since 1996. He’s been a keen follower of the English Premier League since its inception.Rasmus has been a contributor to OldTrafford.com since November, 2011. He has also worked with several local newspapers and sports affiliate websites to promote the game of Football(Soccer) in the United States. As a Banker for one of the largest financial institutions in the United States, Rasmus is passionate about helping individuals achieve their financial goals.

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