Manchester United’s second half Swedish revival explained

Manchester United’s second half Swedish revival explained
Jul 31, 2016

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For those lucky enough to have a subscription to MUTV, or an internet connection better than anything TalkTalk can offer, Manchester Utd’s 5-2 win over Galatasaray was nothing short of confusing. José Mourinho’s first half team selection would have any neutral glowing, and especially after Zlatan Ibrahimović’s spectacular opener, the plaudits seemed likely to be only heading one direction. United then began to fade, and saw their Swedish superstar’s opener cancelled out by two Galatasaray goals as a result of some stylish possessional play by the financially lackluster Turkish side. The second half whistled an alternative tune however, with United emerging from the tunnel of the Ullevi stadium looking more confident, sharp, and polished. Rooney, Fellaini, and Mata were soon able to add to their first half tally of 1, as United coasted past a dazed Turkish outfit. The end is seemingly near for the ex-champions of Turkey, but that is a story for another day.

One clear reason as to why United came out stronger has to be the half time substitutions. Fellaini, Carrick, Lingard, Young, Rashford came on for Herrera, Schneiderlin, Mkhitaryan, Martial, and Ibra. On paper though, you look at these names and instantly look back to the Van Gaal era, and what wasn’t instead of what could possibly be. Watching these changes during the game was completely underwhelming, as we were short of that world class player that could turn the game on its’ head. Yet, as the second half progressed the collectivism of such players became increasingly apparent. These are players who have spent at least 3 years playing with each other, getting to know each individual talent, as well as merging to create a team. Lingard and Rashford quite clearly have a friendship that you don’t always see in the top European teams. Whilst the point of pre season is to create this chemistry, the point still stands that United would fare better playing the second half team against a Bournemouth side on the opening day. I don’t see Mourinho doing this, which is why we could struggle early on in the season.

This collectivist culture, a squad togetherness, a squad chemistry is needed in modern football and is a common problem in many of Europe’s failing football sides that is seemingly only able to be rectified by managers deemed lower in quality, than that of the finest managers around. Coleman (Wales), Ranieri (Leciester), Clough (Burton), have all latched onto one of football’s most simple, yet commonly forgotten strategies, as team collectivism dominated the English leagues and international competitions in the 2015-16 season. Such managers, who were all doubted at the beginning of their respective campaigns, have all managed to fill the voids left behind by a lack of talent with a team culture, ethos, and an emphasis on mentality and concentration. This brings the idea of man management into play, which is one reason why I think the Allardyce/England partnership could prove to be a successful one. Terms such as ‘passion’, ‘spirit’ ‘determination’ have all been tagged to the sides with greater success than household names you’d expect to be in their place. Whilst United certainly aren’t short of talent, they just don’t seem to have the chemistry in their best eleven. The underlying rules of football have thus been tweaked by managers who allow players to flourish in a less pressurized and supportive system. Every player works for each other, featuring undertones of Tiki Taka, but without the gloss of Spanish football, and featuring a more aggressive unpredictability that English football brings. A prime example is that of Hal Robson-Kanu, a man who seemed destined for the lower tiers in England prior to the Euros, yet is now being linked with a shock move to Atlético Madrid. This type of mentality needs to be picked up on, if managers want to get the best out of the team.

The system falls under the umbrella of team chemistry, a togetherness, a want to play with each other, an experience of playing with each other, and whilst Manchester United aren’t short of talent, their best XI is missing what, in my opinion, every team needs. Too often, experienced managers make the mistake of throwing the best players they have into a team, yet, back to my previous point, teams need to be engineered into a side that want to play for themselves, the fans, and for each other. The most talented eleven players in your squad won’t necessarily do that. And that is exactly why United failed to do in the first half what they did in the second. Rashford wants to play for the team, Carrick is a red at heart and wants to play for the team, Fellaini is desperate to prove himself, Juan Mata is Juan Mata, a player who bleeds respect, and Lingard is someone who knows what it means to wear the shirt – as a supporter or fan, and these qualities make up a more free-flowing, supportive United outfit, which is essential for progression.

Mourinho may have managed to rescue the game in a reassuring fashion, yet his capability to evolve as a manager is something I doubt, so hopefully, if he does opt for the best 11 individual players in Bournemouth, he’s had enough time to morph them into the team they should be.

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