Leci: Game, set, match

ESPN Star Sports presenter Andrew Leci enjoyed Sir Alex Ferguson's performance at the US Open final and thinks the Scotsman might have been buoyed by Andy Murray's win.

Andrew Leci

Andrew Leci

"That was far more nerve-wracking than a Premier League match. I'm usually in control of my own situation, but I wasn't in control here."

Two quotations to get the ball rolling today; both from Sir Alex Ferguson; both indirectly involving football, and both spoken after a game of tennis.

Sir Alex was in New York on Monday, witnessing the triumph of his fellow Scot, Andy Murray, at the US Open. He was more than a mere spectator though, happily ensconced in the players' entourage section of the arena, and displaying the gamut of emotions usually seen on the touchline at Old Trafford.

As Ferguson ‘goes up for headers' on occasions, he could be seen at Flushing Meadows playing tennis shots in his mind, with all the attendant twitches and ancillary body movements.

No, he certainly wasn't in control, but his presence on the tennis ‘touchline' was just the kind of inspiration Murray needed to break his Grand Slam duck, and put himself in the position of never having to face the "Andy, when do you think the first Major is going to come?" question again.

"I was looking at the guys in the box," said Murray, post-match (no need for inverted commas there), "because I needed to get myself pumped up in the fifth set, and that helped me."

Of course it did, and why wouldn't it? Ferguson could be seen rallying (excuse the pun), and calming, proving that even when you take the manager out of Manchester, you'll never take the manager out of the manager.

It's interesting that Sir Alex was talking about not being in control of the situation when watching Murray beat Novak Djokovic.

It implies that he is completely in control whenever Manchester United take to the field, which slightly undermines the importance of the players he picks and their performances on any given day.

It's very suggestive though of Ferguson's confidence in his own influence on what transpires on the pitch, and testament to his self-belief as a manager - an aspect that sets him apart from all but a very few of the rest.

I wonder then, what Sir Alex has made of his team's start to this Barclays Premier League season, in which United have won 2 of their 3 games so far, after losing their opener against Everton.

Despite being the better side in the second half at Goodison, it was just about a fair result, and it appeared to give Fulham some impetus (if any was needed), when they visited Old Trafford on match day 2.

Ultimately, Manchester United only had themselves to blame for the closeness of the final score-line, squandering a host of first-half chances, and that in itself seemed to give Southampton impetus (again, if any was needed) for the game that followed.

What I'm getting at here is that in the first 3 games of the season, Manchester United have been rather more accommodating towards opponents than Sir Alex Ferguson would like.

It is far too early in the campaign to read too much into the line-ups, or even the tactics that have been deployed up to now, but it's possible, just possible, that the opposition will not approach encounters with the Red Devils this season with quite so much trepidation.

Or will they?

There are the usual worrying signs for every other team in the BPL. Manchester United have not played particularly well yet, and have still managed to pick up 6 out of a possible 9 points.

Shinji Kagawa has looked good (occasionally very good) despite not completing the games against Fulham and Southampton, and Robin van Persie has scored 4 goals in 2 and a bit games - the most recent 2 being the hugely significant difference between the two sides at St Mary's.

Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie have the potential to create a trinity that will trouble any team in the world, but they won't play every game.

Wayne Rooney, when fully fit and mentally prepared, is a good enough footballer to fit in to almost any tactical formation, while Paul Scholes - as he proved against Southampton - still has plenty to offer.

Selection headaches are something Sir Alex Ferguson is quite used to and indeed thrives on, and there'll be plenty of them as this season progresses.

Make no bones about it, Sir Alex is desperate to win the Barclays Premier League title this season - he is every season, but this season more than most, I would suggest.

I started with a quote from Sir Alex, it would be fitting to end with one as well.

"I'm really proud for the boy," he said after Andy Murray's US Open victory. "That was a real test of a champion for me."

Manchester United fans the world over will be hoping that perhaps Andy Murray's example can provide the necessary inspiration for Sir Alex and the team, in the way Sir Alex's presence did for Andy on Monday.

It will be invaluable if it serves to enable United to wrest back the title from their big-spending, boisterous neighbours, and reclaim what Ferguson must believe is rightfully his. 

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