There are few in the world of football more deserving of respect than former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who guided the club to 49 trophies during his glorious reign. He was more than the club's manager, he was the spine of Manchester United.
Players idolised him, and fans sang his praises with every breath. His adeptness at building a formidable and fearless team with even average players was a major recipe for the club's dominance in English football and its unrivalled success in Europe.
He was the kind of manager that would bring out the best in a player, instil confidence in him but could also mete out the famous 'hair-dryer' treatment the moment that player becomes unrepentantly woeful or egotistical, whichever the case may be (just ask David Beckham and Roy Keane). Owing to this no-nonsense principle, there was an attitude of resilience, a culture of never-say-die, and a winning mentality in every player that played in Old Trafford.
Every team that played under Sir Alex Ferguson had these common characteristics inherent in them and these traits transfigured into a streak of invincibility, and the imperciptible fear factor. When teams played against Manchester United, they didn't just play against eleven players, they played against Ferguson's intimidating legacy and status. Opposing teams trembled and were defeated before stepping onto the pitch. League rivals who wrote them off or underestimated them did so to their own detriment.
Even bookmakers were well aware of the solidity in the Red Devils' defence, the discipline and tenacity in the midfield, and ferocity in the attack, so they dared not bet against Manchester United without their hearts in the mouths. A Manchester United team could come back from three goals down with just 10 minutes to the end of a match and spectators would be left wondering how that magic happened without the presence of Houdini on the field. It was Ferguson's fear factor that drew the best from his team.
Unfortunately, the Scottish tactician had to draw the curtains on his career at the end of 2012/2013 English Premiership season and it seems he didn't leave Old Trafford all by himself. That fear factor also packed its bags and retired with him.
David Moyes, Ferguson's successor, might be a good manager with the potentials of being a great one, he lacks the ability to inject the same type of fear factor into his team. The present Manchester United team that Moyes now manages is no different from the one that Sir Alex had. In fact, they are still the same set of players that played all through last season and won the league title comfortably.
However, it seems something is now missing and consequently, the hearts of opponents no longer palpitate when they play Man United. That thing that made small teams pray to their gods and big teams defecate in their shorts at the sight of eleven men in red jerseys is nowhere to be found. The Moyes' team now looks ordinary and beatable to even West Brom, and their current league position proves my point.
Although it might be too early to assert that Manchester United won't perform very well this season since they have only played ten games in the league and a few in Europe, I still believe the team has lost its panache and it will take time before Moyes restores it (that's if he does).
However, they will be slugging it out with Arsenal (the most in-form team in the league for now) at Old Trafford later today and the absence of this fear factor that once made the Gunners suffer an 8-2 demolition in their hands, might be a major impediment in their quest for a victory in that match or even a shot at the Premiership title this season. I can imagine how much they will miss having it (the fear factor) when Arsenal players strut around the pitch with their tiki-taka style in an attempt to wreak havoc on the Manchester team.
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