Jacques Lacan's Reflections on Manchester United's 19th title

Posted on by

In light of United’s historic 19th title, we decided to revive our special series on interviews with famous intellectuals. We were delighted that dearly departed Jacques Lacan took an hour from his busy day to answer a few questions on Sir Alex Ferguson, the Mirror Stage, the Imaginary Order, Nani, and the ahistorical implications of subjectivity. And United’s 19th title.

Would you classify the reign of Sir Alex as a “Return to Freud” or a “Return to Busby”?

For several decades, the epistemology of psychoanalysis & professional football lay upon a rotten foundation: the unquestioned understanding that secondary Freudian texts should be studied first, often supplanting Freud’s words for these later works. In a sense, Sir Alex has succeeded more on a conceptual level than a material plane – he has pierced the fog of the Atkinsons, the Sextons, and the O’Farrels to offer a fresh yet accurate interpretation of Busby. For that he deserves praise.

Will Nani ever progress beyond the “mirror stage” and stop throwing himself to the ground at every gust of wind?

I would just like to clarify that the “mirror stage” is an essential moment in human development, but really is much more than a single moment per se. Rather, as Freud reflected upon the lingering nature of post-partem attachment between young children and their mother, the mirror phase can last for years, even a decade. Basically, at six months, a child may recognize him or herself in a mirror, yet they lack the ability to fully control their body. While Nani has full control over his hands, as evidenced by the hours he spends in front of the mirror doing his hair each morning, I do not anticipate the mirror stage ending for him anytime soon.

You have posited that “speech originates from beyond our control” and lays in the realm of The Other. Thus, is it fair for Sir Alex to get banned for speaking about referees?

First, we must clarify the glaring difference between “the other” and, of course, “The Other.” The other, referred to as “a”, is but a reflection of our ego, like those Lil Penny commercials from a decade ago. Conversely, “the Other” refers to radical alterity, the symbolic order that is separate from each and every one of us. Only in the “Other” can speech be constituted. Speech is never constituted in the individual, not even Sir Alex Ferguson. Thus, a two match ban would have been less harsh.

You’ve written extensively on the “Symbolic Order,” namely the tension between an object’s simultaneous presence/absence. Would you place Anderson’s performances this year in that category?

What the layperson refers to as “realty” can be broken down into three separate realms: the Imaginary Order, the Symbolic Order, and the Real. The Imaginary is the world before language mutates it – you see Anderson heaving & lumbering about the field, but the words don’t yet form in your head. The Symbolic Order is the wall of language which transforms the world as we perceive it into words and sentences. You see Anderson walk. You think “unfit” or “lazy.” Then, the Real is reality beyond perception, with no margin for error or mistake. Absence/presence only exists in the Imaginary and Symbolic realms, where a reality lurks behind the things our eyes see. Anderson similarly stalked this realm in the last Champions League final, when he simultaneously existed on the same field as Andres Iniesta yet disappeared in key moments. This year has been no different.

Your writings focus on unlocking intimate desires – for example, you claim that only by “articulating a desire” can it be fulfilled. Was this the case in Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Real Madrid?

Desire exists first in the Imaginary Order. Our lusts, our yearnings – these manifest themselves before language can map them into a Symbolic Order. The summer before Cristiano’s move to Real, the entire world could feel the intense Imaginary Order emanating from his actions & gestures. Yet he stayed at United. I assert that only when his desire was fully articulated and began to occupy the Symbolic Order could it be attained. Plus Real offered a huge transfer fee.

Gareth Bale’s short-popping runs bring to mind your work “The Signification of the Phallus.” Do United “need” a new left back to replace the aging Patrice Evra, or is this just a “desire”?

First, we must classify “desire appropriately.” There is desire as a need – a biological impulse that must be fulfilled. Every team needs a left back. However, there is also demand – which both articulates that need and also is a demand for love. Even if we fulfill our “need”, thus satiating the pressing “demand,” the demand for love will always be unfulfilled. United can fulfill their need for younger legs at left back by signing Bale, but the need for love is omnipresent. And Evra is pretty needy as is.

One thought on “Jacques Lacan's Reflections on Manchester United's 19th title

  1. Having recently done a college course on Psychoanalysis, I was initially curious/skeptical to read this piece. But this is probably the best thing I’ve read this entire year. I loved the way you infused the Lacanian concepts with United’s season, and the touch of humour made this an amazing, and entertaining read!

    (any chance of an interview with Kristeva on the ill-tempered Clasicos? Heh.)