The identity of a football club is something many fans and historians hold close to their hearts.
The best example of this would be at Barcelona where they believe they are “Més que un club” (More than a club). A bond between the club and the Catalan people was fortified during the Spanish civil war and in later years a style of play was introduced which became symbolic of the ‘Barcelona Way’.
With Barcelona, it’s about playing well and then if you manage to win, even better. The club and its supporters want to see “beautiful football”.
Barcelona always try to direct the game, they don’t wait for the opposition. They are always on the attack. That’s the way it has to be, that’s what their fans expect.
The identity of Barcelona’s long-time rival, Real Madrid, is unique in its own way. Although the club’s footballing philosophy has morphed in recent years, the club’s identity is still that of the “Galácticos”. This was a term born from a policy pursued by former Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez where during his early tenure he would try to sign at least one world class playereach summer.
His efforts were made in order to ensure the club returned to European glory year after year.
Real Madrid has one of the most talent-laden squads in all of Europe and is one of the richest, most popular clubs in the world while also accumulating nine European Cups/Champions League titles. But despite this wealth of on-the-field talent, the club has not won the competition since 2001-2002.
It could be argued that Real Madrid’s philosophy has led to the players becoming more important and powerful than the manager. The identity of the club has become that of its star players.
Manchester United’s identity was built on the set of beliefs laid down by Sir Matt Busby and was later enhanced by Sir Alex Ferguson. The foundation of the philosophy was simple: “The hard-working people of Manchester toiled all week in anticipation of watching football and they deserved to be entertained.”
What Busby, and later Ferguson, demanded from the players was to play entertaining, attacking football; while the manager made a commitment to self-producing new talent and allowing brilliant footballers to express themselves fully.
That is the ‘United Way’.
But too many times this season, Manchester United has shown a lack of desire to win. Whether it’s because of the players disagreeing with the manager’s training routine, poor tactics, a lack of talent or players just hitting the downside of their career. The bottom line is Manchester United is failing to live up to the values set forth by previous teams.