Man Utd have learned from Liverpool’s ‘boot room’ lesson

Date published: Tuesday 12th March 2019 2:29

Ashley Young Manchester United

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United actually seem to have learned from Liverpool’s ‘boot room’ lesson
Ross from Ottawa says:

“They haven’t broke free from the Fergie years… He helped United win an unprecedented amount of trophies and presided over the most dominant era of the clubs history but he won’t be around forever, the club will… They’ve delayed the inevitable necessary evolution needed to sustain future ears of dominance. You can’t replicate Fergie’s style or success nor should you look to former players to carry on that tradition… United have decided to learn later than sooner that you should evolve or die.”

Er, what?

Ross is basically arguing that Manchester United should reject a philosophy that worked for nearly 30 years right up to the last moment they were any good, in favour of something different, purely for difference’s sake and regardless of what actually characterises that difference, as if they haven’t already tried that and it hasn’t worked.

Presumably he also feels the same way about Liverpool? They shouldn’t have transitioned from Shankly to Paisley and Fagan, and then to Dalglish, a period in which they won thirteen league titles. Instead, they should have “evolved” and changed the winning recipe to a new formula from outside, purely because change is good. Had they taken Ross’s advice, and appointed the (apparently) best new managers of the time, they could have ended up with someone like Ron Atkinson, Terry Venables, Graham Taylor or Joe Royle (the list goes on) and would probably have been crap. They could actually have “died” (to use his words) and gone a lot longer without a title than just the last three decades.

And that’s the point. It’s too early to say what Solksjaer will achieve. But winning a league title with a club who have never won one before suggests he must be pretty good already, and there’s a reason why the club appointed him specifically over and above all the other ex-United players who could have had a crack. Of course, nobody (fans, at least) expected it to go quite this well, but the club must have had an inkling that it was a possibility. Although he may well have been lucky in recent weeks, United have looked better over the past four months than at any point in the last five years, with many of the same players. So it’s implausible to put that down to luck alone and it reflects very badly on Moyes, LVG and Mourinho, though it could just be that United wasn’t right for any of them and they could be good elsewhere (Mourinho may well be, although I doubt it, as he seems to be a dinosaur who was found out as long ago as his last Chelsea meltdown).

Moreover, rather than “change for change’s sake” United actually seem to have learned the “boot room” lesson that Liverpool learned all those years ago: the person at the top needs to be good, but they also need to fit with the club and culture for it to work. This is a basic, largely unquestioned idea that underpins any high-functioning, successful business or other organisation when making decisions about hiring people, especially leaders. So, why should football be any different? More often than not, when they hire “disruptive” types, things are already shit or they turn to shit. If you get the right culture in place, which Fergie and Shankly did (as did Cruyff at Ajax and then Barca, something Guardiola gave a big shot in the arm there too) it can continue to produce success over a very long timeframe. My guess is that lots of clubs will be re-learning that lesson soon too, and that’s the real evolution.
Matt, Sheffield


Hardly the stuff of legends
N O’Reilly states that Arsenal were the better side against United and fully deserved their win, 1 shot on target and a dodgy penalty was hardly the stuff of legends mate. Yes I know the PSG penalty was fortunate but that doesn’t negate the fact Lacazette dived and John Moss bought it. United hit the woodwork twice and had more shots on target but Arsenal got the rub of the green, it happens in football and you got the points well done. As for the press giving Ole an easy ride, yes some sections are but alternately some are still screaming for Poch saying Ole is out of his depth which he will get after every setback as the kneejerkery from the red-tops is off the scale.
On to the United way, Ross in Canada states it’s the Fergie way, sorry Ross you’re wrong in that respect it is very much the United way and if you want to label it with a persons name try Sir Matt Busby as your template. Sir Matt’s footballing philosophy is ingrained into the United DNA one that Sir Alex brought back when he took over, attacking football trusting in youth and a never say die attitude. It might sound twee and a little anal to quote about a fabled United way but that is what it is and what Ole is trying to bring back to the club so excuse us United fans for being happy about what’s happening.
Paul Murphy, Manchester


Wow, N O’Reilly. They say that bitterness starts out as hurt so I can only assume that you support a team who United have smashed down the years.

If you’re not trolling (and I strongly suspect that you are) then well done, you’ve reeled me in.

If, however, you’re being genuine then, seriously, send some of that sweet stuff my way because I want in.

Seriously though, what world do you live in where you could look at the Arsenal match and think that they ‘were by far the better side and fully deserved their win’.

Bar the opening 15 minutes, United absolutely bossed the match. Yes, the initial set up was all wrong but a couple of minor tweaks and United had more of the ball, more of the chances and more of the threat hitting the woodwork twice and pulling some brilliant saves out of Leno.

You talk about luck but don’t mention Arsenal’s opening goal, their incredibly soft peno or the fact that Leno made some saves. Unless it’s only United that are lucky when their keeper makes saves!?

Also, you bemoan the fact that a new manager is not being abused by fans and media alike. Is that a bad thing? You certainly seem to think it is. Again, bitterness of a level rarely seen.

‘We get it. You’re giving him an easy ride because he’s an ex-United player you’re fond of and he doesn’t rock the boat.’ Again, such cluelessness.

Firstly, Ole has had ‘an easy ride’ because he’s done absolutely everything right. What is there to criticise him for? Being a bit lucky at times?! Jesus.

And if you think that he has simply waltzed in and made no changes then you really don’t have a clue.

He reinstated players who should have been playing and dropped those who shouldn’t have been.

He instantly got rid of Fellaini, a Jose mainstay, and edged the club captain out the door.

He has completely changed the way United play and, in turn, transformed their season. Hell, he’s even got Lukaku playing well.

He also won a club record 9 away wins on the bounce beating Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal and PSG. Neither Fergie nor Busby ever managed to do that  but, yeah, anybody could have walked in there and gotten the same results.

All in all, I thought your mail was possibly the biggest steam pile I have ever read on here, and that’s saying something.

Have a good one,
Dave, MUFC


Spurs needs two full backs, not Bale
An early email asked whether Spurs are ready to concoct a deal for Bale. The question isn’t whether we are ready to but whether we ought to.

Bale probably had his finest individual season as a Spurs player the season before joining Madrid. He hasn’t had it bad since in terms of tangibles by any means but it’s reasonable to say that he thrived in that season under AVB to such an extent that we really did look the epitome of a one man team (so many last minute screamers). To bring him back would be to ask him to be a team player in a set up that is miles from AVB’s and anyone’s at Madrid. I don’t see him being fit enough nor willing enough at 29 to adapt. Isco on the other hand – that would something else.

Spurs ought to have enough funds to bring in someone of the standard of, and my mates will roll their eyes as I write his name for the umpteenth time since last summer, Tielemans. We should have him right now but hey ho. The likes of Rondon, Ndidi, and Maddison would be excellent if very expensive additions. But what we really need are two full backs.

Chillwell and Win Bassaka are fantastic but I wouldn’t imagine either at Spurs due to City, Cheese and United no doubt also being very interested. So the question is who are the full backs that are viable upgrades on three mediocre players and a crocked Danny Rose? I really don’t know.

To be fair Davies is a great squad player.


Exhausted by it all
The preponderance of rubbish in this morning’s mailbox fuelled my penning a lengthy missive concerning the strawman argument of Ferguson’s presence at United, the absurd notion that a striker as gifted as OGS could possibly be considered “lucky” for, you know, scoring a goal or the worrying lack of understanding concerning who/what has the right to impose fines on members of the public and how much they can be before you require a jury trial.

But then indignation gave way to just a sort of world weariness. Neanderthals punching players. Grotesques in the stands shrieking invective at people for the unbridled audacity of kicking a ball rather well in someone else’s colours. The giant plastic continent they say is floating in the Pacific. And of course Jacob Rees Mogg – with a name and persona so patently ludicrous he could play himself in an episode of Spitting Image (alongside Edward Woodward).

I don’t even know where to begin People.
Stephen (Spitting Image was a political satire in the 80’s. With Puppets) Dublin 


Pitch invaders
Dear Editor

Whilst clearly not condoning the idiots that invaded the pitch on Saturday, we have to take care not to use a sledgehammer here. Many many thousands of people go to football every week and are happy to watch the events unfold. Down in lower league world, we have all witnessed or even been involved in the sheer joy of a pitch invasion when a team is promoted/wins a Cup game/avoids relegation. It is one of football’s pleasures in what is often a miserable existence. But once again, the precious boys in the top flight get nervous and talk is of points deductions, playing behind closed doors or even back to fences.

In the Premier League, there is a simple solution. Employs enough stewards (on more than the minimum wage), and make sure they watch the crowd and NOT the game. I appreciate this may be difficult as money is a little tight at present in the Premier League (NOT), but if the players are really worried about it, perhaps they could offer a small wage reduction?? I sit ten rows from the front at Arsenal, quite how a fan managed to head down steps, leap over a small fence AND the advertising banner and get onto the pitch is beyond me (unless of course they didn’t have enough stewards??).

Or we could once again penalise the many thousands of fans by a points deduction or a behind closed doors match.

Oh, hang on, it’s the FA dealing with this. ‘Pass me that sledgehammer, this nut is really bothering me’.

Tim ‘Tottenham Hotspur, we’re coming for you’ Benson, Bedfordshire


Where’s Wenger?
Ross Coughlan, Ottawa, Canada said something in his mail that got me thinking. I haven’t seen all of Arsenal’s games this season, but I’ve managed most of the ones on tv, and my question is that has anyone seen Wenger at any of the games ala Ferguson et al?

I know you need time after a break up, but I do find it a little strange that Wenger hasn’t come to one game this season, got his obligatory wave and appearance on tv? Maybe he’s waiting for next season as to not interfere with Emery? Or waiting until be bombs? Or just afraid that he’ll get booed?

I’d love to see him mixed in with the fans, flask in one hand, pie in the other, singing away and embracing retirement and the legendary status that comes with it.
Néill, (as long as he’s not sitting beside Stewie), Ireland


To Ross Coughlan – from United’s point of view, having Ferguson hanging around again is not going throwback the way you think it is. Right now, it’s all very well to talk about needing a good structure, recruiting the right players, getting in a manager who can take them forward etc etc. But what United need first and foremost before any of that can be accomplished is to get the ‘fear factor’ back. The good old days when all the clubs in the bottom half of the table would wave a white flag before a ball had even been kicked. And they did that because Ferguson was in charge. It’s no accident that stories of him getting involved are leaking out and photos of him and Cantona fist-pumping are ‘emerging’.

You could argue that appointing Mourinho was an attempt to achieve this by other means, as he had a reputation for grinding out wins with crushing inevitability, and to hell with ‘the United way’. They were probably all too aware of his third season syndrome problem but were banking on having the fear factor squandered under Moyes and van Gaal restored by the time it came to jettison him. Ferguson is probably a last desperate throw of the dice, but it seemed to be working until last weekend. Let us see how it pans out.


Ferguson built something too big just to throw it all away
All very myopic over Ferguson and his spectre over Man Utd.  So may as well just say this, he does own the club.  He’ll own it until he wants to give it up.  He became a symbolic owner after 20 years of unbelievable success.  It’s all “they have failed to move on, the dark days are upon us…”, but what they actually did was FAIL TO TRANSITION.

You’re one of these fools with an opinion that’s basically saying ” try suicide again.”  It’s not informed, it’s not enlighted, it’s stupid and very very uncaring.  I’m not a utd fan, but I am a football fan and I like seeing what happens.  Man U tried to basically move on without transitioning first under Moyes, then under lvg and van gaal they continued to do that, and ogs has come in as caretaker, and decided to actually take care of the club.

Maybe he’s not the right man for the job, but he is the right man to care about the club.  Ferguson is far too big of a factor to not be taken into account when transitioning from 28 years or whatever into something else.  Ferguson built something too big just to throw it all away.  What’s either happening right now is they’re sticking with Ferguson’s philosophy or they’re trying to transition PROPERLY out of that philosophy.  Smh, you’re like someone who has a go at a 10 year old when they become 12 and haven’t become a 40 yo yet.
Dave, Dublin


Happy retirement, LvG
You may not really get so many mails on this but i’m really sad LVG has retired. A great coach who gave so many youth team players a chance. I would have loved to see him at a top club one more time before retirement. Happy retirement Louis.
Edna, Ohafia, Nigeria. ( “Only in sex masochism… then it is allowed.”)


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
A retort to this morning’s Mailbox on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

I have to say that I disagree with the negative influence of Sir Alex. Some valid points where made about how no one is bigger than the club and how Wenger has stepped away completely and United should look to do the same.

The thing is that we have tried that approach with Moyes, van Gaal and Mourinho and it didn’t work. Louis van Gaal and Mourinho brought some success in the form of trophies (and Moyes won the coveted Community Shield!), but no one could argue that their dismissal was unjustified (the timing of van Gaal’s did leave a lot to be desired).

No one could have foreseen the impact that Solskjaer has had, but what all United fans did see coming was that the feel good factor would return and at the very least watching United would become enjoyable again. Mourinho brought an air of indifference to watching United games.

One of the main sticks used to beat Moyes with was that he made a huge mistake in moving Mick Phelan and Rene Meulensteen on immediately, robbing him of invaluable experience and know how of how this giant football club actually works.

It is nonsensical to criticise Ole for tapping into the mind of one of the greatest managers that has ever lived.

Also the “United way” that has been talked about so much has been around long before Sir Alex. Going all the way back to the Busby Babes, there has been a commitment to playing football the right way, bringing through young players and winning. As F365 said a while back, if you bring the first two, United will give you time to achieve the third.

Finally, I have to take issue with Ole being “lucky”. He certainly did land on his feet with the caretaker job, but as I’ve mentioned, the outsiders haven’t worked, so what’s wrong with going with a club man? And welcoming back Mick Phelan who knows the place inside out? And actually listening to Michael Carrick!

No successful manager in history hasn’t had a slice of luck along the way. Guardiola, Klopp, Sir Alex, Mourinho. Everyone.

Granted, I agree the PSG penalty shouldn’t have been given (I’m delighted it was!), but equally Arsenal’s penalty on Sunday was beyond harsh, so as the saying goes these things even themselves.

Anyone who thinks the winner in ’99 was lucky only needs to see how many late winners Fergie’s teams got. After a while it has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with desire, commitment and an unrelenting need to win.

As for his favourable treatment by the media, maybe, just maybe, it is a response to someone actually enjoying his press conferences, not looking like a man on his way to the gallows and making his media appearances enjoyable for the journalists as well?

Whatever way you look at it, it’s a good news story, so it only makes sense to report it in this way.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not the best tactical mind in the league. He is not the second coming of Sir Alex Ferguson. He won’t win the quadruple next season.

But he might just be the right man in the right place at the right time.
James (Can’t think of anything smart), MUFC


Zizou is back
So Zidane is back, and if the stories are true about him being denied permission to execute the squad overhaul he believed necessary, before Perez had to go back to him with his tail between his legs, then it’s a masterstroke from Zizou.

I don’t buy into the narrative that all he had to do was clap his hands at an already outstanding squad in order to get them to achieve greatness, as there too many examples of situations where the manager ruins a previously perfectly fine team (and vice versa, eh Olé).  But if he manages to clear out the deadwood, sign replacements, and get Real firing again, there will surely be nobody contesting that he belongs alongside Pep as en elite manager of his time.

On a related point, as Mbappe is reportedly a target, how much do you reckon he’s worth in transfer value?  Given that the world record 80m United fetched for Ronaldo now looks paltry considering what they received in return, what value could you possibly put on Mbappe at this stage?
Ryan, Coillte


Day out at Bloomfield Road
I would like to echo and add to the points made by Mark, MCFC and Seamus in the last couple of mailboxes. I went to Bloomfield Road this weekend with my wife and her family and I have to say that it was thoroughly depressing. It shouldn’t have been, after all, it was supposed to be the triumphant return of the boycotting fans, finally able to just watch their team again. What actually happened was a pretty conclusive demonstration that it was probably better without the fans.

The day started off happily enough with a cavalcade of terrace songs celebrating Blackpool FC were blasted out at top note by all in attendance. The ground was almost completely full and, in the old wooden stand, it was quite literally bouncing. As the game went on, however, more and more of the unfortunate accoutrements of football slowly began to creep back in. Chants like “your support is f*cking shit” (it wasn’t, the couple of coach-loads of Southend fans were in good voice and, to their credit, were applauding and joining in many of the nicer Blackpool songs) and “we forgot that you were here” were the start of it. Then we had a pitch-invader when Blackpool scored; granted, he was celebrating with his team not antagonising anyone, and you can almost understand why given the emotion of the situation, but it’s still completely unacceptable (also, why do something you know is going to get you both kicked out and arrested, just 20 minutes into a game you’ve been waiting 3 years to see?). And of course no British football hooligan would be without their flares/smoke bombs, several of which were let off during the game, which was deeply unpleasant for everyone. Then there was the typical antagonism of the away fans, with a disturbing number of fans swearing at and goading their Southend supporting counterparts – I witnessed more than a couple of Blackpool fans discussing how they were going to look for some Southend supporters after the game to “have a do” at.

The absolute worst part of it was, following Blackpool’s literal last minute equaliser hordes of fans ran onto the pitch. It wasn’t even to celebrate really. Maybe the first couple were, but the vast majority of them were men and boys, aged between 15 and 40, most of whom were more intent on recording themselves running away from stewards and swearing at the away fans than they were about hugging a Blackpool player (not that that would have been acceptable either). And this is where the problem really lies: mob mentality. Gather a big enough group of males (and it is almost exclusively male issue) and fuel them with a little alcohol and/or a sense of injustice and you’re going to get this same behaviour every single time. It’s part of the reason that the London riots a few years ago all kicked off: one or two idiots start it off, then any nearby impressionable morons join in, and all of a sudden a small situation has gotten way, way out of control.

This oi-oi, lads-lads-lads, banter behaviour is just deplorable and football seems to not only facilitate it but actively encourage it. Maybe not the clubs or the FA directly, but certainly the controls and punishments for these transgressions are in no way severe enough. Clubs who routinely allow their players, staff, and fans to be put in either unsafe or intimidating situations like we’ve seen this weekend should be punished with unwavering severity, no matter who it is. Fans assaulting players? That’s a 12 point deduction and a huge (relative to their income) fine. Anti-semitic/racist/sexist/homophobic singing? Next five games behind closed doors, all ticket holding fans to be refunded. Fans running onto the pitch? 6 point deduction and next three games behind closed doors. It simply has to stop, so make it utterly unthinkable for it to happen – the clubs would soon wise up to it then and, after all, it is their duty of care to provide a safe environment for anyone entering their stadiums on match day.

This weekend, Bloomfield Road was no place for families with young children, or adults who don’t want to hear disgusting language, see aggressive and intimidating behaviour, or have to worry about getting caught by one of these incendiary devices. It was a cauldron of hate speech, aggression and completely pathetic behaviour. None of my family want to go back again this season because of it, which is a real shame. It’s football for goodness sake, why can’t normal people just watch it in peace?
Ted, Manchester


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