Since the Premier League began in 1992 it has been the most exciting league in the world. There have been twists and turns, dramatic highs for some clubs such as an unbeaten season for Arsenal, falls from grace with the likes of Leeds United falling away from the division and any number of surprise packages performing above and beyond what people thought was possible. Through all this however, there has been one constant. That is Manchester United being there or there about every season. Year in, year out they produce the goods and although they haven’t won the title every season, you can bet that they will come back stronger the season after and never seem to drop out of the top two places (Three 3rd place finishes in 19 seasons). This season they appear to be running away with it again and I’m trying to establish what gives them the consistency that other teams don’t have.
I would say that on paper this season Man City started the year with the stronger squad, this is obviously open to debate but I really do. Still though, they find themselves 15 points behind already. Some people think they rely on Van Persie and if they lost him they’d struggle for goals. Ferguson dropped Van Nistelrooy when he was putting away 30 a season and they still scored. People thought they relied on Cantona and Ronaldo, but these players leave and the results remain the same. So why is it that United can continuously put in championship winning seasons where other teams fall away? An example I will use is the double winning Arsenal team of 1998. They were dynamic, played fantastic football and knew how to win games. The next season though, they are blown out the water as Man Utd step up and win the treble. There is no doubt that other teams have had stronger squads, sometimes played the better football than them but don’t walk away with the trophy. I want to know why. I have a few reasons why I think this is the case.
- 1. Sir Alex Ferguson
A lot of people don’t like Ferguson and quite often I feel he has far too much influence on the FA and Premiership governing bodies. I don’t like the way in which he picks and chooses his press obligations and is quick to criticise match officials. However much he may be disliked outside of the Manchester United bubble, he does however command a certain respect. He is the best in the world at what he does and has been for a long time. Without his drive, hunger and winning mentality Man United would not have been anywhere near as successful as they have been. He runs every aspect of the club and demands excellence in every miniscule detail. His authority has never been challenged and where clubs have been held to ransom by players in the past, this wouldn’t happen at Man United. High profile spats with Beckham and Van Nistelrooy are two examples of how no player is bigger than the club and how he is able to demonstrate to the rest of the world that his team don’t need this superstar and will cope with the loss of any player.
- 2. A Freak of Nature
The youth team of 1992 was nothing but a freak of nature. It contained Giggs, Beckham, Butt and G.Neville, the brother of which would come along later with a certain Paul Scholes. It is no secret that United have the pick of youngsters from all over the country, but it is incredibly lucky to have this crop of players coming through around the same time, costing the club nothing in the process. This crop made Alan Hansen utter the famous phrase ‘You win nothing with Kids’ and he couldn’t have been more wrong. The success based around these players has been astounding and it was a freak of nature that wasn’t seen before or since.
- 3. Fergie time and other decisions
This is where it may begin to sound a little bitter. Yes they do spend more time in opponents’ penalty area and as a result they will get more spot kicks. However, I must agree with the likes of Tony Pullis and Sam Allardyce when they suggest that big clubs get more decisions than smaller clubs. It is something that is possibly done unconsciously, but in a decision that could go either way, big clubs, particularly Manchester United get the nod. This is purely speculative but I feel that the domineering influence that Ferguson has had in the English game can sometimes overawe referees and he is given too much respect and authority in decisions that they make.
This aside, I feel that Manchester United must be lauded as an example of how to be continuously successful. They have found a winning formula that has allowed them to bypass setbacks, chalengers to the throne and migrating stars. The determination of the man at the helm breeds a winning mentality throughout the whole club and not just the first team. This mentality Is converted to results on the pitch and is the reason that Manchester United are the most successful club in English History (Sorry Liverpool). I don’t think you can pinpoint this success to any one attribute but those three mentioned have played an enormous part.