Raheem Sterling is an outrageous man. He is attempting to secure market value, or perhaps even above market value, for his talents. He is trying to do that while playing for a quite capable side who need him far more than he needs them. He is entirely happy with honouring the contract he signed a few years back, and is clearly happy to invite other options to consider. He might still end up renewing his contract and staying at Liverpool, but he has nonetheless given the world an enjoyably self-regarding interview about his thoughts, feelings, worries.
Sterling is a sensitive man, not a money grabbing 20-year-old (though the thing to remember he is that even if he was, so what? What kind of scumbag resents working-class kids making the most of one of their talents to secure their future? Dickhead scumbags, that's who. FYI). He needs to be handled sensibly and with a style that will wed him to Liverpool and its manager. Unfortunately, it seems that Brendan Rodgers has not been the great psychologer that they needed him to be. Or more likely, there is only so much a club the size of Liverpool can do to keep hold of their best players, particularly if they don't ruin their reputations by being racist or trying to eat other players.
Ever since Lord Sugar tweeted in December 2014 to suggest that Raheem Sterling could join Manchester United, the Busby Babe has thought of little else other than, "But how would Manchester United's legendary and in no way disgraced manager Alex Ferguson handle this situation?"
Well, as we have seen with Ferguson, he is willing to talk absolute rot whenever it is in his interests to do so, happy to trash his legacy with a dishonest adverb or a self-interested move to protect the Glazers, for whatever benefit he may or may not be receiving, have received, or will receive. He is happy to talk up Manchester United's history of giving young players a chance, and then you actually have a look at the last five years, and cast your eyes to Turin. In Turin is Paul Pogba, the most exciting young midfielder in the world, and very close to being one of the best midfielders in the world, regardless of age. He has pace, creativity, strength and technique, and he's still a kid, just 22.
Ferguson decided that Pogba's demands — less than Sterling wants now, of course, and still not especially provocative given his potential talent, which was clear to everyone — demanded that he freeze him out of the side and then allow him brief appearances. He got three league appearances. Not even three league starts. He played Ji Sung Park and a Da Silva ahead of him in central midfield. He gave Gabriel Obertan more of a chance to make a career at United than he did Pogba, and yet when the young Frenchman inevitably sauntered off to a club that actually spent money and would let him play football, Ferguson had the temerity to be furious with his agent. An agent who had seen his best prospect be signally ignored against a backdrop of youth apparently always getting its chance, and knew that he and his player could make more money elsewhere. Pogba's contract at Juventus was apparently worth just £1 million a year.
So, how would Alex Ferguson have handled the Raheem Sterling dispute, had he joined us as a teenager, and had Ferguson stayed on? Presumably he would be kept on the bench for a few years, and instructed to learn from the massed talents of Luis Nani, Wilfried Zaha, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young. He would have been told that when it came to youth, it always gets a chance at United, and that he should be patient. And when there was an injury crisis, Sterling would get his hopes up and expect to play, and then be surprised to see Chris Smalling and and Javier Hernandez start on the wings ahead of him.
Two months later, Ferguson would be in his office, throwing paintings, chairs, animals, cups of tea, cups that used to have tea in them, tea that is suspended as if in zero gravity, Paul Parker, Bobby Charlton's ticket allocation, newspaper cuttings of stories of Bebe's transfer and subsequent police investigation, newspaper cuttings of stories that he stood to gain from the Glazers floating on the NYSE, requests from HMRC to pay some tax after a scheme of avoidance failed, vials of horse semen, a list of corrections that he forgot to send his publisher for his autobiography, and various lawyers letters at Sterling's agent, preceding a swift exit to a team that might play him and pay him the going rate.