By Matt Tasker
There are certain styles you associate with different teams. Some clubs hold on to their tactics for decades, wearing them as a badge of honour. Others’ styles come and go as their managers are tossed overboard.
For instance, when Jose Mourinho left Chelsea, he took his pragmatic yet efficient style of play with him. The Blues have had a succession of managers and therefore playing styles since then, but are yet to move on and create a new identity that breeds the kind of success that Jose brought to Stamford Bridge.
Recently Andre Villas-Boas parted company with Chelsea after the former Porto boss failed to navigate the choppy seas of the Barclay’s Premier League, while attempting to phase out his old seadogs and replace them with a new, younger crew.
This is where Manchester United have benefited from having Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm for 25 years. Despite constantly evolving his side to tailor to the needs of the modern English game, Sir Alex dropped anchor at the top of the Barclay’s Premier League and has scarcely been budged.
Villas-Boas had to pick up the pieces left by Carlo Ancelotti and had a summer to do so, whereas Sir Alex is in charge before, during and after each of Manchester United’s transitional periods. He has spoken before of great teams going in three-year cycles, so no doubt he will know when each peak and trough is set to occur.
It’s this wealth of knowledge and experience that keeps United on top, year after year. Indeed, it seems every year United win the league, Sir Alex gets asked “Was this your biggest challenge with X being as strong as they were?” That question has been asked about Newcastle, Arsenal, Chelsea and now Manchester City but always to the manager of Manchester United.
Many had touted this season as another “transitional year” for United, with the main bulk of the squad yet to reach footballing maturity. These fears seemed justified when upon setting sail for Europe, United ventured off course prematurely.
But the current Champions are top of the league and unless they toss City a life ring, are on course to retain their title, ensuring 2012 is another vintage year. More so when you consider it will deny their city rival’s Captain from getting his hands on their treasure.
If it’s the red half of Manchester celebrating May, you can be sure Sheikh Mansour will consider aiming his cannon at Roberto Mancini, and Roman will be pondering Chelsea managerial targets from the comfort of his yacht. But sink or swim, there will be no mutiny at Manchester United.