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The Manchester United machine and the future of Aston Villa


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by iancharlie

At the end of 1991/92 Manchester United and Aston Villa had both won 7 league titles; we were both one league title short of Sunderland and two short of Everton. Whizz forward to May 2009, the end of the 2008/09 season and Manchester United have won 18 league titles. Villa, Sunderland and Everton all have no more to their name.

How did United do this? Well, Alex Ferguson has done it. One man, one mind. O'Neill is building Villa on familiar turf to how fergie did at United. We must not lose patience. We must continue to believe in O'Neill's vision.

At the end of 1991/92 Manchester United and Aston Villa had both won 7 league titles; we were both one league title short of Sunderland and two short of Everton. Whizz forward to May 2009, the end of the 2008/09 season and Manchester United have won 18 league titles. Villa, Sunderland and Everton all have no more to their name.

How did United do this? Well, Alex Ferguson has done it. One man, one mind. Supported by the boardroom and his backroom staff, having a raft of bright young things coming through the ranks (Giggs, Beckham, the Nevilles, Scholes, O’Shea, Fletcher etc…) and making both shrewd (Schmeichael, Irwin, Keane, Kanchelskis, Solksjear, Ronny Johnsen, Cantona, Vidic, Van der Sar Tevez, ) and high profile (Yorke, Cole, Stam, Ferdinand, Berbatov, Ronaldo, Rooney, Carrick) signings, he has made them succeed. He has shown that a disciplined single vision can win through. O’Neill and Lerner also realise this and O’Neill has that vision.

Ferguson has made United the best team in England, in Europe and in the World following a long period of limited success (obviously BFR two FA Cups should be complimented) and living in the shadows of teams like Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham and even for a while Villa and Ipswich. Now, there was a time when Fergie was close to being shown the door, when it looked liked United would never win the league, when Villa were so close to stopping them (that still gripes with me – we were the most entertaining, exciting and enthralling team that year) but since 92./93 Fergie has never looked back. He has rebuilt, rebuilt and rebuilt. sometimes he has made mistakes and has remedied these quietly and effectively (Veron, Barthez, Taibi spring to mind) and he has shown great faith in those young players coming through the ranks by showing them that they are good enough as no one is safe from Fergie’s criticism like they may have been under other managers (who would have got rid of beckham, Van Nistelrooy and Stam who would have stuck by Cantona, Keane when they were at their lowest ebb?)

Now why am I writing so gloriously about Manchester United? What does their success and their manager have in common with Aston Villa. Well, I think quite a lot. There are many similarities emerging.

When Fergie began building United he had periods of struggle and periods of brilliance and periods where they looked like they were going to emerge and just fizzled out. Now Villa’s last two seasons have shown promise; we are disappointed this year because it could have been so much better but we are still 6th and have improved in many areas.

Villa are building like United did. Young and Milner and Carew. They are our Hughes, Kanchelskis and Giggs. We have young players coming through the ranks who are succeeding much more than previous youngsters (e.g. The Moores, Cooke, Byfield, Carrruthers). We have Agbonlahor, an England international who scares teams, we have Delfounseo, Bannan, Clark, The Gardners, all there or thereabouts.

Most importantly though we have a manager, who like Ferguson is stubborn, bloody minded and wants success. We must trust in him, even now, when we are criticising – we are light years ahead of where we were when D’OL and Taylor and even Gregory were here. We know we can compete, our players are trying to believe it and so are we. Like Fergie, O’Neill has signed well and made some mistakes ut we are getting there. There have been many false dawns, many broken promises but O’Neill has got what it takes to launch us and put us amongst the Uniteds, Liverpools and Arsenals.

Losing Laursen is not easy to take. He was our Vidic. However, Cuellar is bedding in. The defence needs strengthening but is getting better. The attack is exciting; the midfield is slightly under strength to properly challenge but some jiggery-pokery this summer should help (whether Barry stays or goes should not be the key – the emergence of Milner as a central midfielder will be more important) I believe we can build on tis and I still believe the season has been a massive improvement as we have gone further in the FA Cup and also had a half hearted go in Europe and got some distance.

Rome was not built in a day; United’s success wasn’t either and is constantly being maintained. O’Neill and Villa are still lurking in the birth canal waiting to be fully formed, but like United waited, it will be worth it. A better analogy of Villa and their re-formation is probably by the constant development of Petrov. He came from Celtic, gave us debut excitement, drifted, disappointed, enraged and then reformed, rebuilt, found a better role and is now our player of the year – the midfield is different without him but he is still not there yet and as the midfield improves he will improve to – he can be our secret driving force. Under a different manager he may have been sold or just fallen into ruin.

So, lets thank the players for this season, and look to the future, a future bright with anticipation, hope and excitement.

Up the Villa

Also thank you General for continuing to answer everyone’s queries and deal with issues whether they be big or small!

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The big problem though these days are one you don't get time to build like united did, two the top four never existed then, there was not as much money in it back then as there is now. Three if you don't get champions league you star players will leave and go to a top four side if they wnat them so its like one step forward three back.

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Thank you for the positive article. It is a breath of fresh air! In a world of media hysteria one shouldn't be surprised at the negativity that can surround a club about to finish in the top six in consecutive seasons for only the second time since the second World War. But we have to hope the people at the top retain some proper perspective.

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Ferguson built pretty quickly at Man Utd. He took over a team which included players like Whiteside, Robson and McGrath. he spent his first season knocking them into shape, then in the second season he shipped in Bruce, Anderson, McClair and Hughes. In his third season he broke the transfer record to bring in Pallister and also spent big on Ince and Webb. By the end of that third season, they'd won the FA Cup and by the end of his fourth season they'd won the European Cup Winners Cup and reached the league Cup Final. That's pretty fast.

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Good read, though there are as many differences as similarities, to my mind. James Milner will never be a central midfielder, but that's a minor point.

In Ferguson, like with Wenger at Arsenal, you're spot on, the personality and vision and control one man has over a club has totally been the driving force for success, and in both cases those men deserve the success they have achieved.

What both Arsenal and Man U have had is managerial stability and boards that have allowed the manager to have pretty much total control, and they have expanded as clubs on the back of the achievements brought about by the football team being successful.

It's where Villa failed, multiple times, under the previous owner, who was incapable of taking a back seat, to put it politely.

Now we do have an owner who understands that Aston Villa is not about him, it's about the football Club being put first, second and third. That change of ownership gives us the chance to progress, and already we have progressed a great deal.

The biggest difference between then and now is the existence of the Champions league, which has led directly to a top 4 which is pretty much set in stone. - the same 4 clubs winning the league and the FA cup year after year after year and milking the financial rewards, allowing them to cement their positions.

Back then there was really no comparable hierarchy, no glass ceiling.

However, things do change over time, and there are signs that cracks may appear. Arsenal could as easily fall back as build another glorious side, Liverpool have money troubles and eventually Fergie will go. Chelsea are built entirely on the goodwill and funds from one man, and would implode without him.

So Villa, along with the Likes of Everton, Man City, Spurs and perhaps a couple of others are best placed to be there, ready, to take any opportunity to muscle in on the closed shop. Villa was a chasm away from being in this position just 3 years ago.

It's perhaps true that we had a sniff of a chance this season, but have fallen a way short. Nevertheless, the club won't give up after one "failure". The Club is not likely to think "Mmm, top 6 two years in a row, no need to do anything to change for the better" as has happened in past times. If we do that, we'll immediately fall back. That's another lesson form what Fergie has done at Man U - there has never been a hint that they have been satisifed just to remain the same, they always look to be better the next year.

The other difference is the make up of the support. People, perhaps understandably given how much it costs to go to games, are less forgiving of what they percieve as failure.

Villa's end of season record, this season is going to be almost the same as last year's. At the end of last season people were pretty much unanimously happy. At the end of this season, there will be a lot more people who will decide that "it's not good enough".

These people will have paid about the same amount to watch the team, will have had a taste of Europe, will have experienced more coverage of the club on TV and in the media and will have seen the board continue to support the manager and deal well with supporters. But some will still feel somehow that they have been "let down". There's no logic to it.

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In a world of media hysteria one shouldn't be surprised at the negativity that can surround a club about to finish in the top six in consecutive seasons for only the second time since the second World War.

I don't think that's the first time you've posted that untruth. Both Little and Gregory managed it in the 90s, as well as doing better in the cups. And having to work with Ellis.

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In a world of media hysteria one shouldn't be surprised at the negativity that can surround a club about to finish in the top six in consecutive seasons for only the second time since the second World War.

I don't think that's the first time you've posted that untruth. Both Little and Gregory managed it in the 90s, as well as doing better in the cups. And having to work with Ellis.

In fact we were only outside the Top 6 once for fives seasons from 96-00 and that year was 7th!

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Both Little and Gregory managed it in the 90s

Indeed. We had a run of 4th, 6th (both BL), 7th (BL/JG), 6th, 6th, 8th (JG) between 95/96 and 2000/2001 that came between low finishes.

The thing with that run is that for one reason and another it felt to me at least that neither manager was going to be around for long. Ellis and Brian Little was perhaps the best combination, because they trusted each other - something seemingly very, very, rare with Ellis.

It's often said, but the relationship between manager and Chairman is the most important one in a Club. JG and Ellis clearly didn't get on, let alone trust each other by the end. We have a situation now where as far as anyone can tell, MO'N and Randy also get on and have that mutual trust. That gives us a chance.

Other periods of fleeting achievement were also undermined by manager and Ellis not trusting each other - GT and BFR spring to mind.

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I agree with a lot of what you say and its nice to see light at the end of the tunnel but the game has changed a lot since then, impatience, money, unrealistic playboy millionaire chairman that want to succeed yesterday and so on, young players becoming filthy rich practically over night, basically what I'm trying to say is that the whole psychology of the game has changed from the ambitions of these billionaire owners to what "really" motivates these young players, honours or wealth..... Play for Spurs and earn big wages and if I don't win anything who cares, I'm rich type of attitude......

I hope You're right though, I really do..... As it goes Proud History, Bright Future....

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Nice Article. The fly in ointment for me - is that MON seems to have lost the ability to motivate his players - this was always his strength. Fergie and the others mave dropped clangers, but were / are always putting bits of sliverware on the shelf - even in the form of League and FA cups - MON hasn't even come close to an interim trophy.

Because MON is MON - people blindy have faith that in the long term he will put things right - unfortunately I believe he doesn't have that time - Unless we are regulary winning home matches by Christmas, Randy will surprise people and show him the door

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It's true that the game has moved on since those early days for Fergie's Old Trafford reign. Mainly, the advent of the Champions League has created an elite that, due to the money and 'glamour' involved, has become self-perpetuating and extemely difficult to break into. You need to match them to compete, but with the size and quality of their squads you need CL football to get a) genuine top quality players and B) keep a large squad happy. It's really a catch 22 situation for a club like Villa at the moment.

However, that doesn't mean that MON isn't going about things in the right way and that, longterm and ignoring the present slide, it is the correct way to go about things. I think the issue really is that MON has a MUCH harder job on his hands now than Fergie did 15-20 years ago!!

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