Inside Ferguson's team talk that transformed Man Utd after Aguero heartbreak

446     0
Alex Ferguson and Rene Meulensteen masterminded United
Alex Ferguson and Rene Meulensteen masterminded United's comeback after Man City won the title (Image: John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

It is the most famous goal in Premier League history, Sergio Aguero side-stepping Taye Taiwo before rifling past Paddy Kenny on May 13, 2012 at the Etihad.

Cue pandemonium as Manchester City rip the trophy from neighbours United’s hands.As news reached 139 miles north in Sunderland, United were left gutted as they trudged towards the dressing room to hear from manager Alex Ferguson.

First-team coach, Rene Meulensteen, stood there and listened as, in the minutes following the biggest disappointment of their careers, Fergie laid the groundwork for taking back what he considered to be theirs.

Meulensteen - who would have a key part to play in the extraordinary signing that summer of Robin van Persie, a deal that would secure the title a year later - takes up the story inside the Stadium of Light...

End-of-season disappointments can really fester into your system and the 2012 defeat was one that was felt by the whole staff.

Marcel Sabitzer completes Man Utd transfer after last-minute deadline day dash rriddqixxiqezinvMarcel Sabitzer completes Man Utd transfer after last-minute deadline day dash

In the moments before the players came back into the dressing room at the Stadium of Light, I can remember thinking that it was our shared responsibility to hide our own disappointment to ensure the players did not feel quite so fatalistic.

In his post-match address, the boss had transformed our entire mentality as a group, and we were immediately focused on regaining the title. It was something that even our most experienced and successful players hadn’t been through. That was their motivation to go again.

Inside Ferguson's team talk that transformed Man Utd after Aguero heartbreakSergio Aguero's famous goal against QPR won the title for Manchester City (Ed Garvey/Getty Images)

It’s in moments like this, looking back and putting things into context, when I marvel even more at what the boss was able to achieve over a prolonged period.

We discussed what he did and how he did it, but the truth is that it’s not easily replicated. The most stunning thing is that we were in such a pressurised situation, coming out of what could be described as a mentally draining way to lose the league, and at a club where you had to win with style in every game, I never felt any pressure.

The defeats were turned into challenges. It’s an extraordinary thing, and it is all thanks to the work of Sir Alex. Few people would have identified goalscoring as the problem that summer. We had scored 89 goals, with Rooney on fire, and Welbeck and Chicharito chipping in. It was the second-highest tally we’d reached in Premier League history.

Inside Ferguson's team talk that transformed Man Utd after Aguero heartbreakRene Meulensteen: United, Sir Alex And Me, published by Reach Sport for £18.99, is on sale August 10th from Amazon and all good book shops
Inside Ferguson's team talk that transformed Man Utd after Aguero heartbreakRene Meulensteen was Fergie's right-hand man (John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

So, I know there was surprise when our main summer transfer turned out to be Robin van Persie.

It seemed, to the public, to be a heist, capitalising on a contract impasse at Arsenal. There’s some truth to that; but the story of Robin’s arrival at Old Trafford is much more complex. It went back to January of that year. I was contacted by Robin’s agent – I knew him on a personal level – who told me that his client was not going to renew his contract.

‘Listen, Rene’, he said. ‘He really wants to play for Sir Alex Ferguson. What do you think?’

Inside Ferguson's team talk that transformed Man Utd after Aguero heartbreakRobin van Persie joined Manchester United in August 2012 (John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Meulensteen went back and forth between Ferguson and his friend. There was concern at United about an old injury. As much as Ferguson liked Van Persie, he needed convincing it was the right move. Meulensteen volunteered an idea.

I suggested raising the subject indirectly with the players – approaching a handful of our senior players and suggesting a couple of names to them. Robin was one, Luka Modric was another. We asked Scholesy, Giggsy, Rio and a couple of others.

Man Utd deadline day live updates as Sabitzer completes loan moveMan Utd deadline day live updates as Sabitzer completes loan move

Whenever the subject of Robin was mentioned, their eyes lit up. Sir Alex was becoming more convinced but remained sceptical about how genuine it was from Robin’s side.

Eventually a £24million transfer was agreed. Meulensteen witnessed the signing and remembers what Van Persie told Ferguson as the ink dried.

‘I love the idea of playing for United, but more than anything, I love the idea of playing for you,’ Robin admitted. ‘So, I hope you’re not going to disappear after just one year!’

The manager laughed. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I still feel good, I’ve got a good group and good staff. At least two to probably three years.’

One year later, with the title regained, Ferguson retired.

Rene Meulensteen: United, Sir Alex And Me, published by Reach Sport for £18.99, is on sale August 10th from Amazon and all good book shops.

Rene Meulensteen

Print page

Comments:

comments powered by Disqus