More than ever, Sir Alex Ferguson wants to win. For a man so endowed with success and historical achievement to once again become so animated and demonstrative in search of victory is refreshing for game. Over recent years, a thawing of attitude seemed to occur within the countenance of Ferguson, as if the manager had been worn down by the persistent rivalries with Wenger, Mourinho and, more pertinently, Mancini. However, rather than recede into the background in face of his sternest test yet, Sir Alex has rekindled the old fire, and upped the ante in a fascinating battle. Once more, Ferguson is desperate to win. Such is the mark of a champion.
The desire to win, and to reclaim this epoch for his club, was clear to see in a number of instances recently. His reaction to Robin van Persie's exquisite stoppage-time equaliser against West Ham in the FA Cup was classic, and illustrated the fervent determination to succeed within his mind; the raised arms and the jubilant jig again returning. After the consummation of the match, during which a replay back at Old Trafford was earned, Ferguson articulated his burning desire to win, stating that "we have had some terrible draws over the years and been knocked out... we don't enjoy that." It is clear, from this thinly-veiled comment that, even for a manager as secure as Alex Ferguson, fear is a motivating factor in determining to triumph.
A lot of that fear, contextually, is derived from the presence of Roberto Mancini. Such has been the sincerity of the Italian's challenge for supremacy in Manchester that Ferguson has, on more than one occasion, been prone to outbursts of anger and frustration. Witnessing the 'noisy neighbours' snatch what assuredly looked like English Title number twenty away at the death last season ignited in Ferguson this rekindled passion to re-establish order.
This passion has, in recent times, been misinterpreted. During the festive home game with Newcastle United, for instance, Ferguson was furious at a number of decisions which, he perceived, were incorrect from referee Mike Dean. Whilst it is arguable that Ferguson should act in a more sophisticated manner when in such a position of authority, to suggest that his 'aggressive' conduct was born of pre-conceived malignity is entirely absurd. The actions, some would say 'antics,' of Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline that December afternoon were the physical manifestations of a hunger for victory, the intensity of which has been missing in the Scot since maybe the days of Beckham and Keane.
It is little coincidence, then, that Ferguson currently sees success for his team on the field. Sitting atop the Premier League table, his United side harbour a seven-point advantage over City, and look most-likely to lead the British charge in the UEFA Champions League when it resumes next month. Domestically, also, United are taking a more serious approach to the FA Cup than they have in a number of years, thriving on Ferguson's thirst for the continual re-writing of history.
Bedecked with the star attacking quartet of Van Persie, Rooney, Hernandez and Welbeck, it has been whispered that this Manchester United side could, in the latter stages of the season, morph into a closer likeness of the vintage incarnations of the changing Millennium, which were led by a similar stable of attacking starlets. The great conditioner of that potential will be the feisty determination of their manager to once again succeed; Fergie is full of fire again.