Mind the games

No need to get overexcited by manager chat, says Max

Last Updated: 25/04/12 12:06pm

Mancini: does he have the force?

As soon as the City game finished on Sunday - we all got a little bit more excited about the "biggest Manchester derby of all time". And then the boundless enthusiasm for eight days of mind games began.

"Basically what'll happen after this game is we'll find out the result, then look back at the mind games and decide that they made a difference, that either Sir Alex is still Yoda, or that the force is stronger within Roberto, the young pretender, than we previously thought. "

Max Rushden

Quotes of the week

As soon as I hear the phrase "eight days of mind games" - I just think of those devastatingly boring puzzle books my parents gave me for long train journeys.

I never liked a word search, so eight days of it would have killed me. I really like the idea of Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson doing logic problems until Monday night - sitting in Roberto's lounge attempting killer Sudoku together.

But I guess we might get a little more excited about mind games than the managers and the players themselves.

Yes there have been a few occasions when Fergie's won the mind games before the game's started, and then won the game - vs Kevin Keegan and Rafa Benitez for example.

This has earned Sir Alex the title of "the master of mind games" - giving him Jedi status against the rest.

"You don't want to take Sir Alex on" - because then what? "He'll use the force to move your cones around the training ground without you realising, thus rendering your offside trap impotent."

Successful

There have been loads of times when he hasn't won the mind games - when regardless of what's been said before, United haven't gone onto win.

Sir Alex is the most successful manager in Premier League history because of how well his teams have played on the pitch, not how well he's confused other managers in press conferences.

There's a little part of me that thinks the managers might chat to each other on the phone before the press conferences and decide who's going to say what and then laugh at us whenever we get overexcited by it all.

When Mancini said a couple of weeks ago that City had no chance, he clearly wasn't talking to his players. And he's bright enough to know it's not going to change the way United approached things.

It's not as if Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick were sitting on the sofa watching that interview and thinking, "ah it's ok, we can relax, City have given up".

Frustrated

It's possible that managers get frustrated by being asked the same questions every week and probably just want to go home and have dinner.

I certainly don't blame the interviewers. It's a tough job to stick a microphone in front of a manager right at the end of the game. And you can't really win.

You have to ask obvious questions: "Sir Alex - you've drawn with Everton, how do you feel?" - what else can you ask?

I remember years ago when Spurs beat Man United 4-1 to go second. The then Spurs boss Gerry Francis was asked how he felt when Andy Cole put United 1-0 up - "Great" he said, and laughed.

When asked if Spurs could stay second: "No chance" he replied sarcastically (turns out he was right about that!).

It was funny, and the interviewer looked stupid - but through no fault of his own. They're beholden to how the manager happens to be feeling.

Basically what'll happen after this game is we'll find out the result, then look back at the mind games and decide that they made a difference, that either Sir Alex is still Yoda, or that the force is stronger within Roberto, the young pretender, than we previously thought.

Safe to say on Tuesday morning we'll be in for another three weeks of mind games...