The season 2010-11 is over. What follows is two and a half months of dormancy in the world of football, at least in terms of action on the football pitch. Man United and Sir Alex have achieved what they had yearned for years (decades, to be honest) – the tag of being regarded as the most successful club in English football. The crowning of the elusive 19th league title was a sight for sour eyes, and yet something seemed missing at the end of the showdown at Wembley. Barcelona once again defeated the Red Devils, and the season ended in a bitter sense of disappointment.
However one should not lose sight of the facts. It was a glorious campaign, culminating in the achievement of a season long pursuit of the premiership, and the championship returned home to the place it belongs. Just as United fans had begun basking in the glory of their accomplishment, Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut steamrolled over Ferguson’s army. ‘Oh Piss on their parade’, as some might call it.
For a second time in three years, Man United finished a distant second in a two-horse race. If it was a Formula 1 Grand prix, they were lapped; had it been a boxing game, United were KO’ed. It’s fair to say the defeat hurt badly, and mind you it will haunt the fans and players alike for years.
Beat Thy Barca
The manner of defeat hasn’t gone down well in United circles, and there seems a sudden obsession – Come what may, Barcelona have to be stopped, and now. Fans now demand an answer to the questions posed by Barca; being second best doesn’t seem to be an option for some. To be fair, the players have spoilt the supporters with their continued brilliance on the domestic front, and as the chant goes – “We are Man United, we’ll do what we want” borders on arrogance.
Ferguson and Man United have never been strangers to wild expectations, and most often than not handled them with untold maturity. Next on the wish list is taming a ferocious Catalan tiger; “Liverpool down, Barca next” is the voice of the supporters.
Amidst all this, the league campaign success seems to have been forgotten. The players and the management did the club proud, but fans apparently want more. Inevitably the calls for new signings during the close season have begun, and as some of the stalwarts have hung up their boots, there are places up for grabs. Nevertheless, the craving seems to be for a world renowned star, as matching and eventually beating the all-conquering club from Spain is the call of the hour.
Consequently, with each name being linked in the rumor mills, the fans now weigh them up with their Catalan counterparts. Well it doesn’t really work like that, does it? Real Madrid have bought every player under the sun who seemed the real deal – from established stars to the next big things of the footballing world – but have they usurped Barca from their throne?
The success of Barcelona on the continent is based on a team ethic that has taken years to perfect, no amount of dough would ever make things work so brilliantly. Also, one cant ever forget the little Argentine, who is probably the player of his generation and even eras gone by. The Catalan club has all its stars aligned in the right place, for now.
The La Masia and the roadblocks in replicating it in England
Although Barca have spent quite a bit in the transfer window, their real strength is undoubtedly the famous “La Masia”- the football factory par excellence. La Masia went where none had gone before, becoming the first youth academy to have all three finalists for the Ballon D’Or in one same year- Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernández all won nominations. Barcelona have shown what a well-knit team that understands each other’s strengths and weakness can achieve. Make no mistakes, they are individually great players too, but together they perform at levels beyond the zenith, making team Barca more than the sum of its parts.
Since its inception, more than 500 youngsters have left their homes and families to stay at the academy. Only half of them are from Catalonia though, and therein lies the difference from the British Isles. The rather absurd and much maligned 90 Minute rule that prevents clubs in England from working with youngsters aged 16 and under for any longer than 90 minutes a day. Now surely one does understand the reasoning behind such a rule; it’s thought to be giving protection to the youngsters, but the gap between the levels of coaching received by their Spanish counterparts is alarmingly enormous.
“People have to understand the mechanics of the industry we are working in,We are only allowed to coach youngsters for an hour and a half, they [Barcelona] can coach every hour of the day if they want to. That’s the great advantage they have got. It is a fantastic philosophy. We hope that in years to come our coaches will be able to spend more time with young kids, to teach them the basics, the technical abilities and the confidence to keep the ball all the time.” – Sir Alex
The United Way
Things are not really that depressing on the home front; United’s academy is one of the best in the country, rivaled only by the likes of Aston Villa and Liverpool. The Youth team performed admirably during the last campaign, winning the prestigious F.A. Youth Cup and beating Chelsea and the rivals from Merseyside in the process. The young brigade includes some of the most promising youngsters- Ravel Morrison, Paul Pogba, Joshua King and Ryan Tunicliffe, all of whom seem poised to make an impact at the Theatre of Dreams.
The likes of Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Edwin Van Der Sar have all called it a day, and Ferguson’s already made his moves in the transfer market. The replacements will strengthen the squad, and United will challenge once again on all fronts despite misguided fears of fans at the prospect of a big name signing not materializing. The United way has always been to mix youth with experience while still challenging for major honors, and that shall continue under the watchful eyes of the master. There isn’t a more astute manager out there who knows the art of reinvigorating teams like the Scot knows; he has done it before, and don’t bet against him doing it all over again.
Let’s back our players who displayed immense character, unparalleled grit and dedication to conquer the domestic front. Europe eludes for now, but the club will try its absolute best to bridge the gap. Ferguson’s ready for yet another challenge, and this disappointment will only make the team stronger and hungrier. However, there is absolutely no reason to criticize the players for the failings and lose faith in them. Manchester United is in safe hands, for the gaffer will make the changes required to drive the club forward. While some would agree to those changes, others might differ, but the club will do just fine. This is a golden era in the club’s illustrious history. If this scares the Devils, do you remember the summer of ’06? No? Well, we sure will remind you…
Flashback 2006 …….coming soon.