We really didn’t learn much we didn’t already know from United’s 0-2 home defeat to City. Unphased, The Olegarch offers 3 points for consideration:
1. Ability vs. mentality
If you were to put together a combined XI of City and United players from last night, all 11 would be City players. So would most of the bench. United are lightyears behind City in two major qualitative fields: mentality and ability. It’s really not debatable.
This blog has previously posited that an elite European football club needs upwards of 6 world class players. City may well have 11. They certainly have at least 8. Meanwhile, United’s 2 indisputable world class stars — Pogba and De Gea — are woefully out of form and facing increasingly uncertain futures. There is a yawning chasm between the two squads that puts United at a disadvantage immediately.
United teams of old have overcome deficits in ability by dominating their opponents mentally. United players possessed an unmatched commitment to their squad and to the crest. They’d die for one another without a second thought, and they’d kill you just for the fun of it. Robbie Savage once said that when opposing players lined up in the tunnel for matches against Manchester United, they’d look over at the men in red and mentally, already be 1-0 down.
Funnily enough, it was at 1-0 down that United players showed their lack of mental toughness. They never looked like mounting a fightback and didn’t really look interested in trying. Too many players are out there playing for themselves rather than their teammates, their manager, their fans, or their club. That’s the only explanation for the lack of anger, following last weekend’s utter trousering at Everton. That’s the only explanation for the failure to defend their turf with any kind of intensity against their fierce rivals. That’s the only explanation for why the team went to pieces in the second half. Ferguson would not have allowed this. Don’t expect Ole to tolerate this either, going forward.
2. A team built around Pogba
Paul Pogba is blessed with spectacular ability. He is probably one of the 5 most talented players in the world right now. Unfortunately, he will never conquer the peak of world football. Because to be the best player in the world, you need to have a supernatural mentality. Paul Pogba’s mental resilience is very, very ordinary.
Pogba is the personification of every negative stereotype of the millennial generation. He’s more interested in personal gain than team success. He’s talented, but very impatient. He loves the glamour but hates the grit. He is at the mercy of his emotions and moods. And he is yet to display any form of resilience or toughness.
Paul Pogba is a generationally talented footballer. What’s more, he is blessed with an infectious personality that draws in all those around him. He would be a fantastic leader. But he cannot handle the responsibility that comes with carrying a team. Remember how much better — and happier — Pogba was when he had Zlatan around him, to be the dressing room alpha. Building a team around him is untenable too. Pogba demands centre stage but lacks the mental toughness to deal with the boos and the brickbats. He can be the best player on a world class team but he cannot be the most important. At United currently, he is the biggest influence on the squad, which has immediately adopted his worst excesses. How that has borne out is clear for all to see.
3. Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Ed Wankstain is not a football guy. He is responsible for driving the club into the ground. He’s been indecisive, desperate, and naive. He created a club culture centred around money, ignoring the fact that when you’re built around money, you get mercenaries, not warriors.
Manchester City got their house in order before Pep even graced their stadium. They hired Txiki Begiristain to oversee transfers, upgraded their training ground and spent big on nonplaying staff. Manchester City spent wisely under Txiki’s keen eye, and they protected their investments. There is a clear and consistent structure, which lends itself to a cohesive culture. Pep walked into a club with conditions that were ripe for his specific brand of professional elevation.
Ed Wankstain is reportedly seriously considering moving Mike Phelan upstairs to be the new director of football. I love Mick to bits. But he’s a coach. Phelan’s only past experience as a DoF was at Central Coast Mariners. Yeah, I didn’t know that either. This is unacceptable. I am all in on Ole. But for Ole to succeed, he needs competent, experienced people all around him. Moving Phelan from assistant manager to director of football deprives Ole of a world class assistant manager and encumbers him with a novice (and with all due respect, older) director of football. Like I said —unacceptable. In many ways, appointing Mike Director of Football would be like making Ed Wankstain CEO of a football club — it would be a woeful misuse of his skillset, and his inadequacies are going to be exposed. Be a Goodward, or die a Wankstain, Ed.