Keown hits back at Sir Alex over ‘poor’ tactic to motivate players against ‘babyish’ Arsenal

Date published: Saturday 1st October 2022 11:51 - Jason Soutar

Martin Keown gets in Ruud van Nistelrooy's face

Martin Keown thinks it was “poor” from ex-Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson to call Arsenal players “babies” before his side’s matches against the Gunners.

Speaking last month, Red Devils legend and Keown’s former England teammate Rio Ferdinand gave some details about Ferguson’s team talks before matches against Arsenal and Liverpool.

Ferdinand recalled his old manager calling Gunners players “babies”.

He said: “Sir Alex Ferguson used to say, ‘Get in their faces. They don’t like it, they can’t deal with it. They’re babies’.

“’Get right up against them and you’ll win this game. Rio, you’ll overrun them, you’ll overpower them.'”

You would suspect Ferdinand is relating to after his retirement, as his encounters against Man Utd were often fiery and he and his teammates were certainly not “babies”. Just ask Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Arsenal have grown a bit of a soft reputation over the years, although current manager Mikel Arteta is doing a good job of making the team intimidating again.

From having the likes of Lauren, Keown, Sol Campbell, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry to Laurent Koscielny, Denilson, Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla is a huge downgrade in terms of grit and fight, with all due respect.

Keown has now responded to Ferdinand’s quotes, saying it was a “poor” ploy by Sir Alex, while noting that Arsene Wenger would only concentrate on his own team, which was evidently unlike Ferguson.

“It’s poor, it’s poor,” Keown said on talkSPORT.

“Not a great topic was it. I thought the great Alex Ferguson would’ve found a bit more to have gone at with the players to motivate them.

“Were they playing to stop us? Or were they playing to be success for themselves?

“In our dressing room, for Wenger it was about us, not about the opposition.”

Ferguson won more with Man Utd than Wenger did with Arsenal, but Keown says he definitely preferred Wenger’s methods after getting some insight on the Red Devils legend through Ferdinand.

He added: “I’ve been in dressing rooms towards the end of my career where I went to work for a manager who would just ridicule the opposition manager.

“I wasn’t learning anything from that. I was very motivated myself, but thinking back to Graham Taylor as a club manager [he] was very good, George Graham of course very good, an extreme I suppose [compared] to Arsene Wenger.

“But I preferred a quiet approach, coming in at half time you play the game back in your mind’s eye, you work it through yourself and then you’re wanting to hear from the manager.

“But when you come in and they’re continually talking, you can’t think straight.

“So I just needed a quiet moment, but then tell me what I need to know, and let’s go and do it and improve and win the game.”

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