I am not a Manchester United fan.
No, far from it. Growing up in the late eighties and throughout the nineties (some would stay still growing up now…), I witnessed first hand Man Utd’s rise to dominance as it coincided with the explosion of the EPL and like any jealous football fan I have on occasion resented their huge success.
Manchester United were fortunate enough to be in the prime position to exploit the sudden growth of the EPL and the massive riches it brought. Combined with the self perpetuating ‘success’ of securing Champions League football year after year and the barrow loads of cash that brought, United seemingly could not but help continually find themselves at the top of the footballing tree.
However, they weren’t the only club at that time in a prime position to take advantage of the situation. Weren’t Liverpool and Everton both entering the 90’s with title winning squads? How about Leeds United winning the last ever First Division title? Yet these teams have consistently fallen short in the years since so why is that?
There are of course many reasons for this, including a lot of self destruction by other clubs, but I feel as I’m sure many others do, that one reason above the many stands out clear from the crowd – Sir Alex Ferguson.
26 years ago this week Manchester United made their best decision since the appointment of Busby in giving the reins of the Red Devils into the iron grip of Ferguson. His single minded pursuit of glory, his determination to knock Liverpool off “their fucking perch”, his unflappable self belief and overall his ability to adapt and change to the shifting sands of the football world around him have more than anything in my opinion led Manchester United to unrivalled dominance of the Premier League since its inception.
Yes pretenders have come and gone. Leeds, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Newcastle were swiftly seen off. Blackburn had a brief moment of sunshine and Arsenal have been a thorn in Fergie’s side until recent years. Only the gargantuan influx of oil money at Chelsea and Manchester City have been able to offer a serious threat in the last few seasons. But one consistent in all the time of the EPL has been the presence of the Old Trafford club. Even if one season is a little off, next season they often come roaring back strong.
Clearly not every decision tactically nor in the transfer market has come off perfectly. It took too long for United to adapt tactically to the alien environment of European football. Some players such as Jaap Stam were allowed to leave too easily. Some players kept too long. Other players should never have been allowed to wear the red shirt in the first place (Veron, Kleberson, Bebe etc). But whereas such failures have cost other teams dearly – see Liverpool under Houiller finishing second then buying Diouf and Diao amongst others), Man Utd have been able to weather the storm, make readjustments, learn from mistakes and regain their momentum.