Blogs

Jack: United's biggest test is how they respond to failure

Kristian Jack, TSN.ca
1/22/2014 10:13:37 PM
Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size
Text Size

In the Premier League era, which is now 21-and-a-half seasons old, Manchester United have ended a season without a trophy only five times.

1994-95, 1997-98, 2001-02, 2004-05 and 2011-12.

And by a trophy I mean one you work hard to earn, not a shield you lift in the summer when half of England is still watching cricket.

In four of the five seasons following those droughts, they won the Premier League the very next year.

An instant response to a year of failure.

The only year they didn't win it right away, they won it the year after.

It is easy to stare at the achievements of Manchester United in the last 21-and-a-half seasons and be mesmerized. Recent high profile media items, such as Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography or the excellent 'The Class of 92' documentary, have also shone very bright lights on United's incredible achievements.

However, a look at the barren years also brings light to a relevant point.

Read those five years above once again and you will notice that not once did United have two years within a three year period without a trophy.

Until now.

Wednesday's loss to Sunderland on penalties in the League Cup semi final at Old Trafford virtually ensured the season of 2013/14 will be added to the above list.

Only the Champions League remains for United to win this season and anyone who watched them closely against Sunderland will tell you that they will have a tough time with Olympiakos, their last 16 opponents, let alone even thinking of winning European football's crown jewel.

As the Old Trafford faithful trudged away from the ground on Wednesday evening they did so with the sounds of Sunderland fans singing in their ears.

Already this season that has happened with West Brom fans, Everton fans, Newcastle fans and Swansea fans.

United fans are used to leaving the game happy. They are certainly not used to leaving it angry and upset after playing average teams.

Indeed, these are troubled times for Manchester United and manager David Moyes.

Troubled times on and off the pitch.

On the pitch everyone has an opinion on what United's failures are and many words will continue to be written about that, but what of the issues off it?

Hung in the Stretford End of Old Trafford is a large banner with the face of David Moyes on it saying 'The Chosen One.' The appointment of Moyes came via the approval of Sir Alex Ferguson and that was supposed to be enough for United and their fans. However, no matter how much patience United fans show Moyes it will always come with a caveat; just how good a manager is he?

Having won nothing, it is a legitimate question. Manchester United may well be proven right in not hiring a Jose Mourinho or Guus Hiddink, for example, last summer but had they hired a manager with a track record of success, their current failures would have solely been attributed to the players.

It is one thing for the media and fans to say Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young, for example, are not good enough for Manchester United but inside such analysis comes a question they cannot truly answer; would these players do better under a more established manager?

And that is where many people now stand with United; turning around at a fork in the road, looking at the journey they have travelled this season and wondering how many failures happened on Moyes's Motorway and how many took place on the Player's Path.

The easy answer is to say both.

But what if you are Moyes? You spent 11 relatively successful years at Everton and got hired by one of the world's greatest clubs on a fantastic contract. Five months into your first season do you think you are to blame for the mess? Of course you do not.

And that is the silver lining for United fans. This club has backed Moyes with a six-year contract and now they have to back him when he believes his players are the reason for their poor results.

The line between the barren seasons of 2011/12 and 2013/14 will be the shortest failure line in over two decade (the only common denominators between the two are players not called Robin van Persie) and it is absolutely vital that Manchester United Football Club address everything right now to ensure that doesn't happen again.

Two seasons ago, United were very average for their high standards, yet came within a minute of winning the Premier League.

That season United were stunned by a Champions League, where Benfica and Basel ran through their midfield and scored eight goals between them in four matches. United were sent into the Europa League and would go on to again be exposed in similar fashion, losing back-to-back home games to technically superior teams, Ajax and Athletic Bilbao.

Their response? Buy Robin van Persie. An outstanding player who they needed, but it was a short-term fix papering over a long-term problem.

Sir Alex Ferguson always believed in himself to make the players better and wanted players he could control. Except, when he was spending 60 million pounds on Young, Smalling, Phil Jones and Wilfried Zaha, the 'noisy neighbours' across the city spent just 10 million more on Sergio Aguero, Matija Nastasic and Jesus Navas.

United do not need to buy six or seven world class stars to become a force again. Three or four of the right signings in 2014 will be enough.

What they do need is an overhaul in their approach; a change in the way they find players and a change in the way they set-up to play.

Without that, they may never find out the answer to the one question they need to solve quickly. Is Moyes indeed the manager to make them legitimate contenders for trophies every season?

Only this time next year will we have a true idea of that as the manager himself explained.

"While we are actively scouting players all the time, a lot of the work we are doing now is preparation for the summer," Moyes wrote in his programme notes for the Sunderland game.

"If we can do any business now then we will certainly try to do it, but I will not compromise the standards required for a player that can come into this club and help improve it."

Manchester United fans are fortunate they have the funds available to get players like Juan Mata who ticks both boxes when it comes to a change of philosophy on the pitch and in the transfer market.

The Spaniard, expected to arrive at Old Trafford this week, is exactly the standard United should be buying. He is also exactly the kind of player that will put to test the credentials of Moyes and his so-far rigid, uninspiring attack.

Should Mata sign, he, along with those brought in this summer, suddenly become the face of a new look United. A United belonging solely to Moyes.

Only then will the jury have reached its verdict on the manager.

United's response to failure in the past has always resulted in a trophy. This time the reputation of their manager depends on it.



Cabbie on TSN.ca

Check out Cabbie's unique take on sports broadcasting and interviewing, poking fun at sports headlines, high-profile athletes and sports personalities. More...


Brendan Shanahan's niece Brenna is an 18-year-old lacrosse player from Mimico, Ontario, who has earned a scholarship to Division 1 Canisius College. More...

Podcasts

TSN 1050: TSN Drive with Dave Naylor: August 22 - Hour 3

Bill and Steve are joined by TSN 1050 Jays Reporter Scott MacArthur, and CEO of Golf Canada Scott Simmons.

TSN 1050: TSN Drive with Dave Naylor: August 22 - Scott Simmons

The CEO of Golf Canada Scott Simmons joins the Friday edition of the TSN Drive with Bill Hayes and Steve Simmons this hour.

TSN 690: Life After the Game with Darcy Lynch - Sean O'Donnell

21 year NHL veteran Sean O'Donnell joined Darcy Lynch to talk about his "Life After The Game"


More Podcasts

© 2014
All rights reserved.
Bell Media Television