Analysis Opinion Insight

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sir Alex's biggest influence

The rapid decline in fortunes suffered by Manchester United this season has got many pundits, fans and hopefully the players wondering where it has all gone wrong. Multiple factors have been analysed by fans and ABUs alike, with many holding Mr Moyes solely responsible for the poor results and lack luster performances. The attitude and performance of the players has been scrutinized, the transfer dealings during the European summer and MrWoodward's part in them, the pre-game and in-game tactics and strategies employed by Mr Moyes  and his decision to replace the coaching staff with those of his own choosing, have all been found to be lacking in comparison to the expected quality.

Obviously the poor results and performances are a result of all the above factors as well as the simple fact that between the injuries, and the general decline in pace and acceleration that comes with age, the players we relied upon to win the league last season are no longer up to that herculean a task. No doubt, there are some things Mr Moyes has not got right. At times, his natural tactical instinct runs in contrast to what is expected of his United side by fans, as most fans would rather win 4-2 than 1-0, and his predilection for using wingers and playing through the flanks, though very much a United tradition, is seen by many to be a fruitless exercise as the wingers currently employed by the club are not performing as expected.

Although there are some tactical errors being made by the manager, I think the players have got to take more responsibility for their performances and the collective output that has led to the results.

Comments like these only scratch the surface on what I believe is the problem.

I think the problem is more mental than tactical, especially in terms of winning attitude and spirit.

Coaches like Sir Alex and Jose Mourinho get their players to play "for them", and manage to replace the internal determination and drive for success with a yearning for approval from "the boss". For so long, our squad of players have been mentally conditioned to perform for the boss, and I believe that such a drive is based on a fear of failure and punishment, rather than an urge to please or satisfy. (call it pop psychology, but i think it might be at play in this situation). Just as Jose Mourinho's old sides always seem to take time to re-build, i think Sir Alex has had an even greater effect on the mental fortitude of his players. England's failure to perform in the last few tournaments can also be partially attributed to the influence Ferguson and Mourinho have had on England's leading players, with Rooney, Lampard, Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Cleverley, Carrick, Jones, Cahill, Smalling and Welbeck all performing well but never to the level their club fans have enjoyed.

Changing the manager relatively abruptly, without a corresponding change in the playing squad, has left Moyes with a bunch of players who seem to be playing without a purpose. On the other side of the touch-line, Moyes also looks like he doesn't know what to do or say to motivate his players to play to their previously showcased capabilities.  At Everton Moyes had only ever worked with what football journalists love to call the "honest pro", professionals who get the job done for the sake of the work, who are playing to extend their contracts and work towards personal goals, like getting a pay raise, earning an international cap or a move to a bigger club. It's therefore not hard to motivate players in these frames of mind.  But motivating players to perform at their peak when they have either won everything there is to win in the game, or think they've "made it" in football isn't the easiest of jobs. Doing what Sir Alex has done, for so long, is a truly remarkable feat, but if Moyes is to be a success, he to must learn that art.

If Moyes is to become such a mentally influential manager, and personally I think he must firstly get rid of the players who are no longer good enough for Manchester United's lofty ambitions. For me, this includes Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Giggs and potentially RvP, whose on field attitude since the managerial change doesn't merit his high salary and position as 1st choice striker.

Making his own mark on the squad as soon as he can will increase his power over the club, which will only improve his influence over the players on-field performance. I think it's the first step that he needs to take to get the United empire back to its position of power.

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