Alex Ferguson's latest 'attempt' at mind games shows just how overrated his powers of persuasion are.
After Manchester United's 0-0 draw against Blackburn that left them needing snookers in the title race, Ferguson made the following remark:
"We have a lifeline if Chelsea blow it, but in my eyes they have an easy game against Bolton on Tuesday."
In fairness to Fergie he was not, for once, trying to deflect attention from his team's performance, which he freely admitted was hopeless.
But this statement is all over the back pages, hailed as a masterpiece of psychological warfare, right up there with waterboarding in terms of devastating effectiveness.
What can everybody else see that ED cannot? Early Doors feels like this whenever it goes into an art gallery (which is not that often). Is Picasso trying to tell us something by putting an eye on the wrong side of that bloke's face or is he just a bit rubbish at drawing?
Like Nostradamus, people laud Fergie whenever he gets something right but the countless examples of total drivel are quickly forgotten.
Having got under Kevin Keegan's skin nearly 15 years ago, he has subsequently received credit - deserved or not - every time a rival manager does something silly.
Hence Rafa Benitez's "facts" rant was not a self-inflicted wound. No, Fergie made him do it.
He got inside the Spaniard's head, like John Cusack in John Malkovich, and used his puppeteer's skill to force total b******s out of Benitez's mouth.
The idea that Sir Alex Ferguson's ability to manipulate might be a touch exaggerated is not a new one - this Guardian blog nicely spells out some past examples of the myth in action.
Fergie's latest remark does not take too much deciphering:
1) He wants to whip Bolton into an indignant fury. "Thinks were pushovers, does he? We'll go to Stamford Bridge and we'll beat Chelsea. That'll show him who's an easy game."
2) He wants to remind Chelsea they could yet 'do a Devon Loch' (Fergie's quote about Blackburn in 1995 is probably more famous than the horse itself these days) and they would be total doughnuts to stuff it up against no-hopers like Bolton.
It drew a resounding 'meh' from both Carlo Ancelotti and Owen Coyle - the Chelsea boss said he hoped Fergie was right, but added: "I haven't played an easy game this season."
Obviously poppycock, as Ancelotti has watched his team hit four or more goals on 12 occasions this season.
Which leads ED to consider a novel interpretation. If we remove ourselves from the psychological cut-and-thrust for a minute, might we imagine that maybe Fergie meant exactly what he said?
Maybe he wasn't trying to play mind games at all, and merely expressed an opinion?
Bolton at home is an easy game for Chelsea. The Trotters have won just three times in 16 attempts on their travels while Ancelotti's men have won 14 out of 16 at Stamford Bridge.
The best price you'll get on a Chelsea victory tonight is 1/6, while Bolton are available at a massive 20/1.
Coyle's reaction: "That's his opinion, he has it and he's given it - all very well," suggested he probably agrees.
Football a game of deeds, not words, and the fact United have lost seven Premier League games and been knocked out of Europe surely represents proof that Fergie cannot exert the sort of despotic control some people would have you believe.
If he could control his rivals' fortune with a barb here and a dig there, surely he could have persuaded his own £30 million striker Dimitar Berbatov to locate the back of the net on Sunday?
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: Kevin Davies gets on the mind games bandwagon: "There seems to be something not quite right with (Nicolas Anelka) and Didier Drogba. I'm not sure they get on very well. There doesn't seem to be a great bond when they play together, whereas Nicolas lights up when he plays on his own. You can't deny he's a great player but at the moment, you feel he's just not that happy." Le Sulk? Unhappy? Whatever next - gramaphones? Motorised carriages?
FOREIGN VIEW: French amateurs Quevilly take on Paris St-Germain in a cup semi-final tomorrow. Here's a generic patronising 'magic of the cup' puff piece complete with a toothless yokel called Eric. In fact, it's only about 80 miles from Paris and is a suburb of Rouen. Without having visited either place, it's going to say it's France's version of Didcot - only with less good rail connections.