Manchester United's Footballing Fundamentals Making Rivals Look Average

illya mclellan@illya mclellan @illbehaviorNZSenior Analyst IJanuary 17, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16:  Goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar of Manchester United gathers the balls as Gareth Bale of Spurs fails to get on the end of a cross during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on January 16, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

There has been much written and spoken about how the current Manchester United side are not up to the quality of the stellar groups of players that have preceded them. They are apparently lacking in several areas and do not play to the style of football that has made them so famous over the years. 

They have been labelled as the best of a bad bunch, the solitary group of bubbles in a flat glass of fizzy, creeping indefatigably to the top of the glass. On several occasions they have seized defeat from the jaws of victory, giving points away much like a disillusioned fan hawking his tickets for a cup final because his team have just sacked the manager who got them there. 

Their "struggles" on the road have been documented enough all over the web. However, to be frank, to draw away from home has not, in the history of the game, necessarily been a bad thing. As long as you win your home games, which United have invariably done.

Manchester United this season have reached the strong position they are in through old fashioned dedication and adherence to fundamental tenets of league championship play.

Home Ground Fortress

Old Trafford has been the rock on which they have based the solid foundation for this seasons title challenge. They have looked every bit the United team of old on occasion, merciless in the clinical manner in which they have dissected certain teams. With an old surgeon like Sir Alex Ferguson on the sideline, they have certainly got the brains and determination to see things through to a conclusion. 

Manchester United have managed their home form to an excellent standard. In 11 games at home, they have picked up 31 points, the only slip-up being the match against West Bromwich when they squandered a two-goal lead to end up with a share of the points.   

They are certainly the one side in the league who have really still got an aura of invincibility about them on their home ground. This is a fundamental in league-based football, or any football for that matter: you win your home games, or at worst you draw. You do not lose on your home ground.

Play the full ninety minutes

United are notorious for popping up in the dying minutes and stealing the match. They most notably did this with the away win at Stoke, when Javier Hernandez scored as the match seemed to be fading to a stale conclusion. This has been a hallmark of the United side for many years now.

While sometimes they resemble a young and energized boxer tearing off the ropes and belting an opponent into submission, they sometimes can appear to be the exact opposite, the gnarled veteran who just does not stop getting up off the canvas, coming back again and again. 

Another fundamental in league based football is the ability to maintain mental sharpness over the full duration of the match. United are probably a side that are most easily identified as being capable of this, under the dedicated and determined tutelage of the wily old Scot, Alex Ferguson. 

Away from home a point is better than nothing

Seems simple doesn't it. When you play away, do not lose if you can help it. United this season have gone undefeated so far, as everyone knows. This form is ridiculously impressive considering the terrible manner in which their rivals have let points go on their travels.

Mind you, their immediate rivals have actually struggled to guarantee points on their home ground save perhaps Chelsea. Chelsea are also an excellent example of a side that has gone to pieces on the road, perhaps a little like a tea set smashing against a changing room wall. 

If United have not triumphed away, they have proved to be unbeatable, something that any side aspires to when it leaves the comfort of its home ground. 

Another fundamental part of good league form is the ability to make yourself hard to beat, which United have done so far this season.


These three things are fundamental to any sides ongoing success. Continuity is gained through having a plan and following through with it. United at this stage are definitely the team most likely to go on and win the league, particularly as you can see them being extraordinarily difficult to take points from.

Ferguson has presided over this group of players for some time now and has nurtured talent through, as well as still being able to pick a player who can make an immediate impact. Javier Hernandez has impressed and his youth and improvisational skillfulness make him an enduring prospect in United's future.

Luis Nani has delivered on his manager's faith. The player was on the verge of being hounded out of Old Trafford only a few months ago, as many United fans lamented his lack of composure and that he was "just not a United player." It seems that once again, the manager, rather than the fans, is the one who knows what is actually going on. Funny that.

Another stand out has been the Serbian, Nemanja Vidic. Vidic could quite possibly be the best center back in the world today. For those who do not understand the game well enough, it is a position that seems a bit of a nothing.

When you gain the slightest understanding of positional play and the importance of a solid, mobile and intelligent back line, you begin to realize how important a player like Vidic is to a championship challenging team's chances. He's a player United could not really do without. 

Overall, Manchester United have just shown that to be in the position they are takes guile, brawn and a bit of luck. The more you adhere to fundamental ideas in what you do, the more likely you are to get the slices of fortune that go with a team on a consistent run.

Many have bemoaned the lack of quality in the EPL this season, saying the standard has ebbed away as the top sides have struggled. This of course is countered with the argument that the other sides in the league have merely upped their game and improved their organizations and squads.

This writer prefers the latter, it does seem that the games now are played at a faster and more skillful pace than ever before. Also that on their day, most teams in the league are capable of putting together enough quality football to foot it with the cream of Europe.

The major thing that the EPL does have over its major rival competition, the Spanish La Liga, is that it is not a two-horse race. In fact at present, there are four, or at a fanciful stretch of the imagination maybe five, horses coming down the straight toward the finish.

United have stuck to the fundamentals, Ferguson has ensured that it is so. It remains to be seen if this squad can see it through. On the basis of the season so far, it is exceedingly difficult to say who will win the league, though Manchester United have given themselves a very firm chance.


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