By Richard Nightingale
This past Saturday afternoon I was at Old Trafford in England to watch Manchester United play their cross town rivals Manchester City. Jose versus Pep on the sideline. City won 2 -1 and was a fair result. On the Friday evening I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary United manager of twenty six years and hear him speak. Then on Sunday morning, tour the clubs training facility at Carrington. Oh and on Saturday night around midnight in the UK, I watched Pittsburgh play Charlotte on YouTube.
What a forty eight hours, and these are my top five takeaways.
5. Fans make the game experience. Old Trafford was rocking with 75,000 souls and the atmosphere was electric in and around the stadium. Rival fans were trading insults, wearing their clubs colors proudly and every fan seemed to go up for every header and contest every tackle. The Fans fueled the game, inspiring the players on the pitch and contributed to a memorable atmosphere and afternoon. We need a lot more passion to permeate Highmark Stadium.
4. Players need to rise to the occasion, be proactive from the first to the last minute. United were absent most of the first half and City deserved to win on the back of two early goals. The away team took the game to the home team and reaped the rewards. Pittsburgh were passengers for most of the night in Charlotte and showed little intent or desire. Mainly going through the motions, resigned to the defeat. No belief. No character.
3. Tactics are important, and adapting during the game with substitutions can affect the outcome of the game when done right. Dave Brandt needs to learn how to utilize his subs more effectively and influence the dynamic of a game. Don’t just plough on with the same system when clearly change and a fresh approach is needed. Jose made key changes, both personnel and positional, at half time with Rashford playing wide left, Herrera holding in midfield and redeploying Rooney wide right.
2. Sir Alex talked about “people management” and that every game-day he spent a good amount of time speaking with players that were left out of the eighteen. Being transparent with players is critical and it’s imperative to ensure they feel valued. As a manager Sir Alex had high expectations but never took anyone for granted.
1. It’s all about investment and details. Carrington, the training facility for Manchester United not only serves the first team but players down to the U9 age group. Turf at the training facility is the same as what you would play on at Old Trafford. United have a profile for the “ideal player” in every position on the team. They have personnel development programs from first team players to U9 players. Fifty scouts throughout the world involved in player identification. State of the art fitness equipment, nutritionists, tutors etc. To be the best you have to invest for success and that goes from the EPL to USL.
So, as of writing Pittsburgh sit bottom of the Eastern Conference. They face Cincinnati twice at home and in between trek to Bethlehem Steel. I personally don’t think Pittsburgh will finish rock bottom but that’s irrelevant. I don’t believe Dave Brandt will be back for a second year and I think that will be his choice. He can’t be enjoying the environment and frankly must know in his heart of hearts that he isn’t suited to the USL. There needs to be a culling of the current squad, and starting pretty much from scratch after finishing in the basement of any league is unenviable from a recruiting standpoint. The only players that I would keep under contract for 2017 are Kerr, Moloto and Hertzog. Just those three. Hertzog leaves, Walsh is not good enough to pick up the scoring mantle.
As for Manchester United, this past Saturday was a benchmark for Pittsburgh. Both have to take a hard look in the mirror. United are set up to succeed going forward and the derby loss was just a blip. Pittsburgh not so.
This off season for The Pittsburgh Riverhounds will be more critical than any that has gone before. Tick tock ….