Manchester United: 6 Ways the Reds Remain Stronger Than Manchester City

Terry CarrollContributor IIIMay 21, 2012

Manchester United: 6 Ways the Reds Remain Stronger Than Manchester City

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    Right now any article suggesting Manchester United are better than Manchester City in any way is going to look like clutching at straws. But a week is a long time in football.

    When United had an eight-point lead, most pundits agreed they had the title sown up. Now, we're reading articles about City dominating for a decade or more.

    But that's for you...

    Forty-four years of failure can't be wiped away in one season, but the hurt has been relieved.

    By the same token, United have been here before, and they've knocked Liverpool off their perch and recovered from the surges of Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal and Chelsea. Why shouldn't it be the same with City?

    Remember, United came second with the highest points total ever. One mistake against Vincent Kompany (who, by the way, has been outstanding) or a seven-minute collapse against Everton was all the difference.


    Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

    Roberto Mancini was a fine player with 733 appearances for Bologna, Sampdoria and Lazio. He is also a fine manager—one of the best in the world. He took Inter to three consecutive Serie A titles and was their most successful manager in 30 years.

    He has made a good start at City, but never before has he had so much money to spend. Money and success are everything at City. What are the ethics of suspending a player, affirming, with the owner's support, that he will never play for the club again and then recalling him to save the season?

    City supporters don't care; the end justifies the means, apparently. 

    Mancini is supposed to be a strict disciplinarian, but broke his principles when he was desperate. 

    Sir Alex is not like that. In this and a number of ways, he and Manchester United will always be better than City unless City change.

    City have hired mercenary players and continued to employ two players that may delight their supporters, but are figures of ridicule elsewhere.

    After Tevez refused to play for City, supporters were saying he should never play for them again. That was conveniently all forgotten when he won them the title.

    That is fundamental to the differences between United and City. United don't have double standards. Money isn't everything. They have traditions that supporters have cherished from one generation to another.

    In the desperate, 44-year search for success, City have embraced mammon—anything goes, and nothing matters when you're desperate.

    I have a genuine fear that we are on the edge of a precipice into which scores of clubs across Europe may fall. Why? Because some clubs appear to have adopted a "money is no object" approach.

    Football may be distilled into a global Fantasy Football League of a dozen or so clubs if this goes on, each the plaything of a multi-billionaire.

    There is no sour grapes here. Clubs are on the verge of bankruptcy across Britain, kept alive only by misguided men with more money than sense, their bankers or their creditors—including you and me through the Inland Revenue.

    If City pay £40 million for the services of Eden Hazard, Lille will be able to survive for a few seasons. Nick Powell's £4 million sale to Manchester United could do the same for Crewe. When Leeds United got sucked onto the financial merry-go-round, they perished.

    Be in no doubt whatsoever (because Michel Platini isn't either), if Sheikh Mansour walked away from City or Roman Abramovich from Chelsea, they could fail within weeks. 

    Look what has happened to one of the two Scottish giants, and they didn't even have a "sugar daddy."

    Some sanity needs to return to football. The old values need to be re-established. We hate diving and cheating. We resent the unfair advantage that billionaire money confers. We long for the days when the fans were king and when football Chairmen were benevolent.

    Many of those values will always remain at Manchester United, where they always were. There are several ways in which they remain better than City. Some of them are proposed here.

Sir Alex Ferguson: The Best Manager Ever

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    What more can you say about Sir Alex Ferguson?

    In 1998, he offered to resign twice, as he lost his way. Luckily, he stayed and took United to a unique treble.

    In 2001, he pre-announced his retirement for the end of the season after his 60th birthday. United fell into a terrible run of form, which could easily be blamed on his announcement. Sir Alex had a close friendship with Sir Bobby Robson, who guided Newcastle to fourth place in the Premier League in the same season, aged 68.

    Encouraged by his wife Cathy, Sir Alex reconsidered and in February 2002, signed a new three-year contract. He signed Rio Ferdinand that summer and appointed Carlos Queiroz as No. 2. United won yet another title, having been eight points behind Arsenal.

    Since his decision to reconsider, he has won a further 16 major trophies, making 37 in all, and five more of his 12 Premier League titles.

    It is a fair bet that he might have retired this season if he had pulled off another title win despite a mountain of injuries. We may not find out until he actually does retire.

    Those in the know suggest that he has been reinvigorated by the devastating disappointment of getting 89 points and losing on goal difference.

    What more does he have to achieve in the game? 

    He is in the process of building yet another dynasty and loves to nurture young talent. Nick Powell has just been added, and we may expect up to three major signings this summer.

    He will then set about moulding experience and youth into a Premiership and Champions League-winning combination.

    There are some who think that his tactics will have to change in order to do so. Neither Sir Alex nor his successor will change United's attacking tradition. But Ferguson's preferred 4-5-1 formation away in Europe and in the big Premiership games hasn't worked.

    I am among those who believe his seat is being kept warm for Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho...or even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after he has turned round Aston Villa?

    Roberto Mancini is one of the best managers in the world and has managed to out-psyche Sir Alex a time or two towards the end of the season.

    But Sir Alex will want to knock City off their perch too. Living and working where he does, the blue success will stick in his throat.

    He still has pulling power for top players and the respect of younger players coming through. But the "hair dryer" approach is an anachronism, and he will need to be more subtle.

    We shall know how much he's still "up for it" in the preseason tour, where he will be without many of his top players.

    For the time being, having just won the accolade of greatest Premier League manager ever, who is to deny that he is the best in the world, and probably the best ever.

    When Sir Matt Busby retired, he stayed on and mentored the young Ferguson. Sir Alex will be around for his successor if required and almost certainly on the Board of United.

    Apart from Burnley, he is the only manager to have a stand named after him. His legacy will last for decades to come.

Team Spirit

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    How many world-class players do Manchester United have? Possibly two: Wayne Rooney; and Nemanja Vidic. City have probably six: Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez.

    And yet United lost the title on goal difference with the highest second-place points ever, nine points more than last season.

    They also finished 19 points ahead of Arsenal, 25 ahead of Chelsea and 37 in front of Liverpool.

    What made this achievement extraordinary was the appalling injury crisis that saw United without 10 or 11 of their players for weeks, while City were largely injury-free.

    There is no denying the team spirit that was there at the Etihad after City scored their third goal against QPR—or was it relief? But where was it while QPR were scoring two goals with 10 men?

    There is no smoke without fire, and although team spirit at City has clearly improved, as they have progressed to their first title in 44 years, it has been notable by its absence on far too many occasions. Is it any surprise when you try to build a dynasty based on obscene amounts of money?

    How can you have great team spirit when you have a loose cannon like Balotelli around the place?

    And what about a player who refuses to come on as substitute, then disappears to Argentina without permission? Or who says he hates Manchester and has clashed more than once with his manager. First in late 2010 and then again in April 2011 and of course with the Bayern debacle, and who knows how many other occasions? 

    Now, Mancini can play down these episodes and say he likes players with passion as much as he wants, but he is notably greyer since he took the City job. And it doesn't matter how these incidents are handled; other players are unsettled or upset and it doesn't help team spirit.

    Meanwhile, Sir Alex has regularly praised United's team spirit, and why shouldn't he? Player after player talks of the feeling of a "family" at Old Trafford. Michael Owen, for example, felt welcomed and at home straight away despite being a former Liverpool player—United's greatest adversaries in history.

    With so few world-class players and so much disruption through injuries, something must have carried United through:

    When they beat QPR; and

    It has carried United through before

    And on other big occasions in the past.

    It's something he has created both at United and at Aberdeen before that. He has also shed players who could disrupt it, like Roy Keane's criticism of his teammates that ultimately contributed to his demise.

    Whether it is to do with discipline or creating a team spirit across the club and the business, two men are at the heart of that, with strong traditional values that have characterised United for decades.


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    Manchester City have nobody like Sir Bobby Charlton. OK, there's Mike Summerbee...

    Nor do they have someone like Denis Law, even though Denis played for City in two spells and before he joined United. Denis is also a legend at Old Trafford and regularly features on MUTV and in official events.

    City have never had anyone to touch Sir Matt Busby or Sir Alex Ferguson. Between the three knights of the realm, there is a rich vein of tradition that spans 60 years or more.

    You could be time transported from the 1950s and, apart from the muddy pitches and leather balls, still see the style of football that has characterised Manchester United for at least three generations.

    City played football like that in the 1960s and 1970s and won something. This year, under Mancini, having won a trophy last year and qualified for Europe, the shackles have been off most of the time; they have scored loads of goals and entertained.

    But Rome wasn't built in a day.

    United go out to win every match.

    Their tradition is also helped by playing in the same stadium for over 100 years. The Board have given a commitment that the naming rights will never be sold like City's. Mind you, United had to pay for their own ground. City were "given" theirs.

    When I go to Old Trafford, I walk down Sir Matt Busby Way; I pass the statues of Sir Matt, Denis, Georgie and Bobby. I sit in the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand and I can recall United experiences over 56 years, during which my expectations have never changed and hardly disappointed except for a barren period in the 1980s.

    United have great traditions, and they have sustained the strong traditional values that much of football and indeed English society have lost. Honesty, decency, fairness, sportsmanship, good grace (like Sir Alex's congratulations to Mancini; a guard of honour for title-winning opposition; Patrice Evra's offered hand to Luis Suarez).

    And then there are the supporters...

Global Support

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    This is what you expect if you join Manchester United.

    And in Korea or Japan (Shinji Kagawa are you reading this?)

    In South Africa

    Or when you win the World Club Championship thousands of miles from home.

    One of the most common and tedious moans about United is the number of supporters that don't come from Manchester. 

    When you think about it, it's both pathetic and unsurprising. Just consider...

    United have 333 million supporters worldwide

    They have over 25 million followers on the official Facebook page alone.

    Old Trafford holds about 76,000 people (the Etihad holds 48,000, the Emirates 60,000, Stamford Bridge 42,000 and Anfield 45,000).

    Every time I go to Old Trafford (every match that is), there are hundreds and hundreds of visitors from overseas wanting their pictures taken against the Stadium and the pitch.

    The constant carping about United not really being a Manchester club is ridiculous. The two stadiums are almost equidistant from Manchester City Centre; in fact, it is more than a mile further by car to the Etihad.

    Old Trafford simply cannot accommodate the millions of fans that want to watch the team play. In the next few years, as City develop their global brand, are any of the new supporters going to come from Manchester?

    Manchester United is the most valuable club and brand in global sport. Who put it there? Manchester United fans, of course.

    Yes, the stadium can be quiet on match-days sometimes, but I can tell you personally that the main reason has little to do with the "prawn sandwich brigade," as Roy Keane calls them. It comes from us having so much success and winning virtually every match for over a decade that at the start of every match we fear defeat. If we don't score early, we fear defeat.

    A goal is treated with relief and then we're off...noise, noise, noise. It's tough being so successful because your expectations are so high.

Developing Players

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    Hands up those who knew this face before he joined Manchester United.

    Or for that matter, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Chicharito, Cristiano Ronaldo, etc. when they first arrived.

    Whatever their age, United have a stellar record of developing players. Yes, I know Southampton developed Shearer, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Bale, but its also taken them seven years to get back, going through administration and Division One in the process.

    And Crewe. Dario Gradi is a legend for developing players over a period of 28 years, but they've never played in the top tier.

    Over the 25 years that Sir Alex has been manager, United have been mainly in the top four and have won 12 titles and loads of other trophies while continuing to bring in and bring forward younger players.

    Sir Matt Busby established the concept of the Academy at Old Trafford. "Busby's Babes" would undoubtedly have gone on to conquer Europe had half of them not been killed in Munich.

    After that tragedy, he rebuilt the team with a few outside signings and younger players. They won the European Cup in 1968.

    Sir Alex repeated the feat with "'Fergie's Kids." Alan Hansen predicted they would win nothing in 1995, but by 1999, they had won the elusive treble, becoming the most successful United side ever.

    We could debate endlessly with City fans about respective Academies. Sheikh Mansour has spent £150 million on theirs, but not one City grown player appeared on the last day of the season against QPR and only Micah Richards missed out.

    Meanwhile, three City rejects, who left in dismay, turned out for QPR.

    I've heard it suggested that City had to buy players until the younger ones were established, but signings were being made over the heads of young players when Sven-Goran Eriksson and Mark Hughes were manager.

    How long are the current EDS and Academy crop going to wait when none of them has emerged this season to claim a place and 14 of their top players are 27 or under?

    Indeed, they may feel even more dismal when they read headlines like this, where Mancini is trying to build a transfer pot to buy more players.

    The two clubs have a different policy when it comes to the development of their Academy graduates. While Manchester United declined the invitation, City participated in the NextGen series, where they lost all six matches including twice to Celtic.

    Now, City die-hards (or blowhards?) will tell you that this squad had younger players in it too, but 12 of the EDS squad were signed after their 16th birthday, and at least five are 20 or over.

    Why did Daniel Sturridge leave City, unless he thought he wouldn't get a fair crack of the whip? And look what that has done to his England chances. Meanwhile, his England U19 and U21 contemporary, Danny Welbeck, looks likely to form a first-choice strike partnership with Wayne Rooney for United and England for years to come.

    Oh, and before Joe Hart gets a mention, he joined from Shrewsbury at the age of 19.

    I'm not trying to say that City won't produce talented young players in future years, but will the likes of Rekik and Guidetti get a fair chance, when so much money is riding on City having to win big year after year?

    The Academy investment may pay off eventually—it has to; otherwise, City will be in big trouble with FFP. But "Rome wasn't built in a day..."

    Several City players were mentioned in the article about the United Reserves triumph over City. And maybe as many as 15 of the young United players in the Reserves or currently on loan will have the chance to break through into the new dynasty Sir Alex is building over the next couple of years.

    But even among older players, United are good at developing from potential. Wayne Rooney at 18 and Cristiano Ronaldo at 17 became world-class at Old Trafford. Nick Powell will no doubt get the same chance.

    Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Chicharito, Jonny Evans, the Da Silva twins, Welbeck, Valencia and De Gea have all improved this season.

    So there is a culture of scouting, signing and developing young talent, as well as the lads who come up from eight or nine. 

    It doesn't take much scouting to recognise the talent of Aguero, Silva, Nasri, Balotelli or Dzeko; just unlimited cash to pay inflated fees and inflated wages. Dzeko may have been on seven times the salary of Danny Welbeck this season, but who would you have rather had?

    The "Class of 2012" at Old Trafford is likely to get more opportunity than their equivalents at City, as Mancini plans to splash the cash yet again.

    But before he does so, he may have to dump some very expensive signings, none of whom came through the City Academy.

Financial Soundness

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    While some have doubted the financial soundness of the Glazers, none have doubted the wealth and spending power of Sheikh Mansour.

    What many City fans still don't seem to understand, or maybe don't want to understand, is that in the era of Financial Fair Play, its not cash that counts so much as profit.

    For as long as the billionaire continues to fund Manchester City's profligacy, they are not likely to go into administration. But if he ever walked away—even if he wrote off his debt—City could not sustain their financial structure without a similarly well-heeled investor.

    And that is what ought to keep Chelsea supporters awake at night. Both clubs have been built on an economic nonsense. 

    Given that all the top clubs in Europe voted to introduce FFP, there is too much vested interest to let City get away with continuing massive losses. It's less to do with the "unfair advantage" that some claim and much more to do with the consequences for maybe hundreds of smaller and less wealthy clubs across the UK and Europe.

    We've just seen one of Scotland's two most successful ever and richest football clubs fail, and it is by no means certain they will come back in their present incarnation. Even if they do, it may be in Division One.

    And yet mere months ago, the debate was restarted about whether Celtic and Rangers would move to the Premier League.

    Unless this financial stupidity is stopped, global football could be reduced to a "super-league" of teams which are the Fantasy Football playthings of bored billionaires.

    I am tired of the constant bleatings of the anti-Glazer brigade at Manchester United. Mercifully, the green and gold scarves are almost invisible on match days.

    Liverpool, Arsenal and Aston Villa have American owners.

    OK, so the protesters at United resent the debt placed on the football club and fear United going bust, stoked by a skeptical press. 

    It's not going to happen.

    United have a planned float which could value it close to the Forbes estimate of $2.24 billion. But still, you get alarmist articles in the press after the recent third-quarter results

    Let's be clear. Despite the early exit from Europe, United still made a £22m profit. The fourth-quarter earnings should also show that they matched City's TV income at £60m.

    When the Singapore float goes ahead, United's debt (which has fallen £60m in the last year) will be eliminated. They will be debt-free, earning upwards of £100 million profit a year, with a massive transfer fund any year if the manager wants it.

    Meanwhile, in their last set of accounts, City lost almost £200 million and at least one expert on FFP projects a further loss of over £120 million this year.

    Indeed, the detailed information on that last website makes scary reading for most football lovers. It also makes clear that unless something dramatic happens, City won't be eligible for Europe in 2013/14. That could be catastrophic.

    During the time that the Glazers have owned Manchester United, the team has experienced their most successful period ever. The management of the football club and the team have been stable. United run at a profit. Commercial income has soared (without the need for artificially inflated deals like Etihad at City) and now exceeds gate income.

    No doubt City fans will be hysterical about more than just this aspect of the article. It's hard to keep a clear perspective when you've just won your first title in 44 years, beating your neighbours in the process.

    This season has been great for the City of Manchester, which is now the most successful footballing City in the world.

    But while the "new kids on the block" revel in their euphoria and bask in the shade of almost £1 billion of "investment," if this was a public company, the shareholders would think the Board had lost the plot.

    Manchester City is built on the love, blood, sweat and tears of generations of supporters who have been through the wringer for four decades or more.

    I am genuinely pleased for you because no one has been more loyal. But cherish the moment, because United are built on 60 years of tradition, strong footballing values, an Academy system that works, 19 league titles in their history, 37 trophies in the era of the greatest football manager that ever lived and sound financial management.

    City, meanwhile, may be built on shifting sands....