On February 27, 1992, Jonjo Shelvey was born in Romford, West London. At that point, Alex Ferguson was already laying the foundations of his project to transform Manchester United into arguably the worlds most powerful football club, having already brought unprecedented success to Aberdeen in Scotland. A manager already bedecked with a rich lineage of success, the fiery Scot preceded Shelvey by fifty-one years. Countless trophies and two decades later, Ferguson still precedes Shelvey, in class and behaviour.
What possesses a relative novice of the game, then, to confront and lambaste one of its greatest doyens of all-time? Quite incredibly, that is what Shelvey did, upon his dismissal during Liverpool's game against Manchester United on Sunday, at once illustrating his own brash arrogance and demonstrating an utter lack of respect for the history of the game that he plays. To sneer and shout, point and pout upon exiting the field, Shelvey must be either be entirely stupid or blindly ignorant; his actions were wrong on so many levels.
Most pertinently, to show such contempt towards an icon like Ferguson is foolish. More intelligent and experienced people than Shelvey have provoked confrontation with Sir Alex only to feel the full extent of his wrath. For such an unproven player to insult Sir Alex Ferguson over a footballing issue is akin to a primary school biology pupil questioning David Attenborough on Evolution; it is, in essence, painfully counter-intuitive and, ultimately, embarrassing, for he lacks both the stature and the experience to even enter into a discussion.
Furthermore, Shelvey demonstrated incredible stupidity by choosing this of all fixtures during which to incite a crowd. For more than a week in the build-up to this complex fixture, the media was dominated by pleas from Liverpool Football Club for respect, unity and calm between fans. How oxymoronic is it, then, that the most convincing occasion for a full-scale riot was instigated by one of their very own players? In his failure to grasp even the most basic social responsibility, Shelvey made a mockery of all that his club had previously urged.
The most fundamental discrepancy in Shelvey's behaviour, however, has gone widely unreported. Yes, he was sensationally wrong to publicly disrespect Ferguson. Yes, he was also incorrect to provoke a crowd already high on emotion and energy. However, his basic thesis was flawed: it was a foul worthy of a red card! How, in this epoch, a player can launch from the ground with two feet and come away without the ball yet go on to protest innocence is entirely beyond the workings of comprehension.
All of this surely violates the trust put in Shelvey by his manager, Brendan Rodgers. Relying on Shelvey to come from the substitutes bench and change the game against BSC Young Boys in midweek, the Ulsterman showed that he has faith in the talented midfielder. However, when a players reckless play is accentuated by an equally reckless mouth, what else can a manager do but leave him out? One moment of insanity could yet cost Shelvey much more than a three-game ban.
Jonjo Shelvey was classless when he attempted to insult Sir Alex Ferguson. A player that has achieved so little of note in the professional game has not right to rant and rave and remonstrate at a man who, in stark contrast, has won forty-eight major trophies over a success-laden managerial career; a player who has not even made one hundred senior appearances simply cannot argue with the most successful manager in British history. Shelvey and Ferguson may be separated by fifty years, but in class, etiquette and dignity, they are light years apart.