Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughExperience sets United apart - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Experience sets United apart - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Experience sets United apart


There always was something of inevitability to the outcome of the game at Ewood Park on Monday night. After all, it was the kind of match that Manchester United have made their trademark down the years.

The trip to a difficult ground to visit a team in decent form with a good home record as the end of season run-in really starts to heat up. The kind of match that most people doubt an aspiring title contender will win and only very rarely are they proven wrong. On the other hand, the type of game that Premier League-era United have made their speciality, particularly in seasons when they have something to prove after a disappointment the year before or a new challenger emerging to their dominance.

The examples are innumerable. Away at Man City in the “you’ll win nothing with kids” season of 1995/96 to continue an (at that point) 11 match unbeaten run that saw them remorselessly rein in the ten point lead of Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle. Away at Newcastle in March of 1999 to maintain the pressure in a season where top three sides lost only ten matches all season (an achievement in those days). A last-minute Ronaldo goal against Fulham in 2006/07 in the middle of a seven-match winning streak that really broke the back of Chelsea’s defence of their title and a Carlos Tevez-inspired defeat of Wigan in the third from last match of the 2008/09 season.

It comes to something when only really last season can you look down the fixture list and not spot a crucial away win that sticks in the memory. This speaking as a non-United fan too.

There have been a fair number of times that United have not won the Premier League, obviously, but they’re reliability to produce consistently competitive teams is what separates them from the rest and to do this even when they have a distinctly average team. This ability to win matches like this when they need to, regardless of the strength of their team, is the defining feature of Ferguson’s United.

Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing and saying the win last night was inevitable is rather easy to say now. But when fans, pundits and journalists (and possibly players and whole teams) think this, that’s probably half the battle won; after all, why battle against the inevitable ending?

So what is it that in the DNA of Manchester United that gives them this ability to so often become masters of the matches that leave so many other title campaigns battered, bruised and ultimately unfulfilled?

Clearly, it comes down to a combination of the manager himself and the experience of the players involved which is itself a continuation of the manager’s will. Of the 18 players on show last night for United, seven (Ferdinand, Evra, Carrick, Scholes, Rooney, Giggs and Park) have been involved in at least two of the season-defining away performances outlined earlier and, ergo, a number of title races.

This experience, coupled with that of the manager, helps guide those around them through tricky trips like Blackburn on a Monday night which becomes a self-perpetuating machine as the younger players pick up this experience and become the leaders later on down in the line. For example, Scholes and Giggs would have been of huge importance to the likes of Ferdinand and Rooney in the mid-2000s when United ended the hegemony of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and the title-winning experience of the likes of Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister will have helped Scholes and Giggs way back in 1995/96.

And this is the nub of the matter. If this is the reason for their consistency in games like last night’s, the mental fortitude garnered by the players and, more importantly the manager, it is encoded not in the club’s DNA but more the current phase of the club i.e. the Ferguson era as he is the sole physical link that stretches from 1992 to the current day.

It is very much old hat to speculate what a post-Ferguson United will look like but one can picture games like last night not having so much a feeling of inevitability surrounding them when the puppet-master no longer pulls the strings and it is just the experience of the senior players left to guide the younger ones.

Daniel Whiteway

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