It was remarkable. And looked incredibly harsh on Moise Kean.
Everton’s 19-year-old Italian had been introduced to Sunday’s action at Old Trafford only eighteen minutes earlier. Then in the closing minutes of the game his number was displayed and he was withdrawn. The youngster looked at once, baffled and angry.
Not only that, his interim boss, larger-than-life character Duncan Ferguson, appeared to blank him as he trundled off the pitch.
After the game, Ferguson said...
”I just needed to make a substitution to kill a bit of time.
”I have a lot of attackers on the bench, it was nothing against him personally.”
But in the post-match presser Ferguson opened up a little more to his reasons behind the strange substitution: “I thought he had not quite got into the pace of the game.
”We put on a guy [Oumar Niasse] that handles it better. Nothing about Moise. I’ve been there, I’ve been subbed off but we’ll pick him up, he’ll come again, he’s only 19.”
Ferguson as a player always wore his heart on his sleeve. He still does as a manager. He played physical, it was a man’s game to him and to say he took no nonsense from opponents is to understate the obvious. In the pouring rain at Old Trafford, Ferguson’s bold machismo again came to the fore. Where most would reach for shelter or at least some kind of waterproof reinforcement, what did Big Dunc do?
He took a layer off, removing his jacket to reveal a plain white shirt and neck-tie, as he stood facing the elements.
Winning 3-1 over Chelsea in his first game as caretaker, and leading for much of the game at Old Trafford, his Everton team showing more grit and determination than under dismissed former boss, Marco Silva, pundits dared wonder if the Scot was in the frame for the job permanently.
The incident with Kean though will surely have caused a re-think, if Ferguson was being seriously considered at all that is. Kean so far, has not settled well on Merseyside and didn’t make an impact during his short appearance in Manchester. But his team were under the cosh as United pushed for a winner.
If the player’s withdrawal seemed harsh, then the manager’s reaction added further ignominy. He failed either to shake the disappointed youngster’s hand or offer any kind of advice as to why he’d been removed from the action. Kean was forlorn and looked a troubled and embarrassed figure as he walked the touchline towards the Old Trafford tunnel.
Some Evertonians, from whom Duncan Ferguson is attached legendary status, may appreciate the caretaker-manager’s actions, seeing a hard-edged and committed attitude as a welcome pre-requisite to gee their team up, maybe a long overdue dose of toughness in an attempt to cure a soft centre, but it’s still difficult to justify Ferguson’s treatment of the player and mis-management of the situation.
Has he lost the player for good? We may never know. It looks like Carlo Ancelotti will have the job of lifting his young fellow-countryman if today’s press reports have it right.
If Big Dunc was ever in with a chance of permanence, Sunday’s incident probably blew it!