At the beginning of this week David Moyes, the Manchester United manager, was quoted as saying that his team needed their luck to change to turn their season around.
This has been the worst start to a season for United for many a year, they have lost eight times this season in the league, as well as having been knocked out of the FA Cup and the League Cup and are over 20 points behind where they were at the same point last season with largely the same squad of players.
Sir Alex Ferguson occasionally talked about getting a little bit of luck in a season and often complained about incidents in a similar vein. However, they were likely to be individual incidents that he saw as being outside of his and his teams’ control, like the sending off of Nani in last seasons Champions League quarter final, that was clearly a game changer. Once it was done he, and the team, moved on.
In contrast Moyes would seem to be scrambling for excuses in his plight. After all sport is a game of luck, as Ben Hogan famously said: “golf is a game of luck, the more I practice the luckier I get”. In football terms its clear that at United under Ferguson there was both a phenomenal work ethic and a never say die attitude. While the former may still be true under Moyes, the urgency that Ferguson instilled in his team when they were behind, or drawing and needed a win was legendary. Last season there were numerous occasions that they scored in the latter stages of a game. In sharp contrast United have conceded in the last five minutes five times this season to drop points, as follows:
· October – Southampton equalized in the 89th minute
· November – Cardiff equalized in the 90th minute
· December – Everton scored the winner in the 86th minute
· January – Swansea scored the winner in the 90th minute
· February – Fulham equalized in the 90th minute
These were all games that United would have considered they should have won. Under Ferguson the occasional blip occurred but there was always a reaction, this has not happened under Moyes and the philosophy of throwing everything at opponents in the last 15-20 minutes seems to have gone out of the window. There is undoubtedly a lower level of confidence in the team but are Moyes’ recent comments likely to anything to change that?
The urgency that Ferguson instilled meant that these types of events were rare and in moving on he focused on the things that he and his players could control. Sure there are things that we can’t control that may trip us up but it’s the way we react to those that determines how we perform going forward. For Ferguson they were put behind him and he and his team moved on. Moyes’ focus seems to be dwelling on things that are outside his control – which is unhelpful for both him and his players.
There are things that we can and can’t control that affect us all, it is pointless dwelling on those that we can’t control, as these are likely to sap our energy.