A Generation Lost: Manchester United’s Failed Youth Policy

Sir Alex Ferguson was a firm believer in youth and investing in academy talent. His all-conquering Manchester United team of the 1990s was based on this, but towards the end of his reign, his focus seemed to change and he let players slip through the net.

Paul Pogba has been the most high-profile example of this, but United’s recent pursuits of their academy graduate and Burnley centre-back Michael Keane, show that he was not the only one.

With Pogba back at Old Trafford, Keane supposedly being courted too, and with Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford breaking into the first team, have United now learnt their lesson? And if so, at what cost?

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Assad’s Propaganda: Summer, Palmyra, and Mourinho

What do Jose Mourinho, ancient artefacts, and tourism have in common?

At first glance, not much, but on investigation we find that they all play a role in the continuous, if somewhat confused, campaign of propaganda by the Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad.

A story that emerged recently, that immediately jumped out at me as somewhat strange, was the news that Jose Mourinho – of Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid fame – had been targeted as the next manager for the Syrian football team.

Not one to shy away from controversy, Mourinho was said to be “honoured” at the approach, but ultimately rejected the job offer.

And whilst the audacious bid to land the “special one” came as a shock, in reality, we should not be too surprised when we see this move in the wider context of Assad’s propaganda machine.

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The Need for an Advanced Defensive Midfielder

If Jonathan Wilson’s bible of football, Inverting the Pyramid, taught me anything, it is that football tactics are a matter of action and reaction. A constantly changing and ever-evolving realm of innovation and countering. When one method of play appears to have taken over the world, defeating all that come before it, a coach will discover the tactic that nullifies the seemingly perfect system.

Since Jose Mourinho tore up the rulebook on the stereotypical English 4-4-2 by employing Claude Makelele as a defensive midfielder, sat in front of his centre backs, it seems that no team can be without one. Whilst other Premier League teams had defensive players in their midfield, none were as single-minded and as specialised as Makelele. His sole purpose in the team was to sit, break up attacks, and play simple passes to those in front of him. His inclusion in the team gave the more creative and attacking players the freedom they needed, and was the catalyst for the shift from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3.

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Coping In The Dugout – Part Three

And so we head in to extra time. Following on from part one and part two, we now turn our attention towards development, recruitment and a vital skill that all great managers possess. The 90-Minute Manager has provided me with the spine of these articles, and as ever, all quotes are from that publication unless otherwise stated.

STRUCTURE AND FOUNDATION
In order for any project to be successful, the groundwork has to be laid first. The foundations must be solid, and if they are not, success will either be extremely short lived or very difficult to achieve. If a club is solely reliant on a billionaire owner then what happens when that owner decides to leave, or the money dries up? The club goes into free fall. Look at Portsmouth languishing down the bottom of League Two. Just five seasons ago Portsmouth were playing against the Likes of AC Milan in European competitions. How times change.

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Coping In The Dugout – Part Two

Welcome back, and welcome to part two. In part one we looked at the culture of a club, the treatment of its staff and the ambition and hunger of the manager. As was the case in part one, any quotes, unless otherwise noted, come from The 90-Minute Manager. The clock is ticking, let’s get back to the action.

FOCUS ON STRENGTHS
Unless you are at a very talented club, or have hundreds of millions of pounds in the transfer kitty, it is very unlikely that you will have world class talent covering every position on the pitch. The best managers are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their team and they set up the team to maximise the strengths and minimize its weakness.

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